🔥 Is mezcal smoky? And if yes, why?

🔥 Is mezcal smoky? And if yes, why?

Is mezcal smoky? Generally yes. Why is mezcal smoky? The smoke produced by cooking the agave hearts in underground pits infuses them with the signature smoky flavor, eventually ending up in the final product (delicious mezcal).

If you ask what comes to mind when thinking about mezcal, for most people, the word “smoky” will be one of the first answers. It’s a signature characteristic, a dance of fire and earth for the palate.

But is this smokiness a universal trait of all mezcals, or is it a characteristic found in specific types? Let’s answer this question once and for all.

🤔 Is ALL Mezcal Smoky?

Not all mezcals are created equal, and not all carry that signature smoky note.

The flavor profile of mezcal can range widely, influenced by factors such as the type of agave used, the distillation process, and the region where it’s produced.

While many mezcals do boast a smoky flavor, there are others that offer different taste experiences, characterized more by notes of citrus, floral, or even herbal flavors.

💭 Why is Mezcal Smoky?

Where there is smoke, there is fire. The smoky flavor of many mezcals is rooted in the traditional mezcal production process and the cooking of the agave plant. It begins with the harvesting of the “piñas” or gave hearts.

Cooking Pina

These piñas are then roasted within earthen pits filled with hot rocks. They’re covered with a layer of agave leaves (or sometimes canvas), earth, and sand.

This underground roasting can last for several days, allowing the piñas to absorb the earthy, smoky flavors from their subterranean bake. This process gives mezcal its signature smokiness.

ℹ️ As a general rule of thumb: the longer the cooking process, the more time the piñas have to take on smoke, resulting in a higher smokiness.

There are some myths surrounding the smokiness of mezcal, which I want to address here.

  • Some say aging in oak barrels adds to it, that is not true.
  • Some say espadin agave is smokier than other magueys, that is not true. Which agave species is used, doesn’t matter.

🍸 Smoky Mezcal in Cocktails – Yes or No?

The use of smoky mezcal in cocktails is a subject of passionate debate among connoisseurs and mixologists. For some, the smoky notes of mezcal offer a complex, layered base that can transform a cocktail into a  more sensory experience.

It adds a depth and character that can elevate classic cocktails to new heights, as seen in the Mezcal Last Word, Mezcal Old Fashioned, Mezcal Margarita or the Mezcal Negroni for example.

However, others prefer to savor mezcal’s elegant flavor with less smoke to appreciate the taste of the agave plant. For these purists, the flavor intricate agave distilate can be covered by a high smokiness.

Some even say that a high degree of smokiness can be used to cover up the low quality of a mezcal expression.

In the end, whether or not to use a lot of smoky flavor in your mezcal cocktail comes down to personal preference. It’s an invitation to explore, to experiment, and to discover your own perfect balance where the smoky allure of mezcal meets the art of mixology.

🥃 Is Tequila smoky as well?

Tequila, though a close relative to mezcal, is not characterized by the same smoky flavor. The key difference lies – again – in the production process.

While mezcal is made from a variety of agave plants and involves roasting the piñas (the cores of the agave plant) in earthen pits to impart that distinctive smoky flavor, tequila is typically made from blue agave and is produced by roasting the piñas in above-ground ovens, usually using a direct heat method.

This difference in production yields a spirit that has a completely different flavor profile, lacking the smoky notes of mezcal.

👑 Smokiest mezcals: Try these 9 bottles

If you’re looking for very smoky mezcals, these expressions are going to hit the spot for you. Each mezcal brand on this list is a brand you can trust.

Del Maguey Chichicapa
Del Maguey Chichicapa
Maguey Espadin
Type Joven
State Oaxaca
Ilegal Joven
Ilegal Joven
Maguey Espadin
Type Joven
State Oaxaca
Montelobos Espadin
Montelobos Espadin
Maguey Espadin
Type Joven
State Oaxaca
Rey Campero Espadin
Rey Campero Espadin
Maguey Espadin
Type Aged in Glass
State Oaxaca
Bozal Ensamble
Bozal Ensamble
Maguey Barril, Espadin, Mexicano
Type Ensamble
State Oaxaca
Del Maguey VIDA Clásico
Del Maguey VIDA Clásico
Maguey Espadin
Type Joven
State Oaxaca
Alipus San Juan
Alipus San Juan
Maguey Espadin
Type Joven
State Oaxaca
Amaras Espadin
Amaras Espadin
Maguey Espadin
Type Joven
State Oaxaca
Banhez Pechuga de Pavo
Banhez Pechuga de Pavo
Maguey Espadin
Type Pechuga
State Oaxaca
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MezcAlex
Alex
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    Since 2018, Alex keeps coming back to Oaxaca to to enjoy the food and the agave spirits of this wonderful state. Favorite: Tepeztate.