Why is mezcal smoky? Fact vs. fiction

Why is mezcal smoky? Fact vs. fiction

If you’re a fan of mezcal, you know it has a distinct smoky flavor that sets it apart from other spirits. But have you ever wondered why mezcal is so damn smoky? Let’s dive in and find out.

Not all mezcal is smoky!

First things first: not all mezcal is smoky. Yep, you read that right. While most people associate mezcal with a smoky flavor, there are many varieties that don’t have any smoke at all. So why do some mezcals taste like a campfire?

It all comes down to the production process. Mezcal is made from agave, and the smoky flavor is created during the cooking process. The piñas (the heart of the agave plant) are slow-roasted in an earthen pit lined with wood and charcoal. As the piñas cook, they absorb the smoky flavors from the wood and charcoal.

How do barrels impact the flavor?

But not all mezcals are created equal. The type of wood used in the pit, the length of time the piñas are cooked, and the method of production can all affect the level of smokiness in the final product. Some mezcals, like Del Maguey and Ilegal, are known for their smoky flavor. Others, like El Silencio and Mezcal Vago, are less smoky and have a more subtle flavor.

Just like other spirits, mezcal can also be aged, which changes its flavor depending on what it is aged in – and for how long. If you’re looking for aged mezcal, try some of the mezcal brands that use oak barrels in their production process. Oak barrels can add even more interesting taste notes to the final product, creating a bold and complex flavor. Brands like Rey Campero and Dos Hombres are known for their oak barrel-aged mezcals.

What about smoke in mezcal cocktails?

Now, let’s talk about mezcal cocktails. The smoky flavor of mezcal can add depth and complexity to cocktails, making it a popular choice for mixologists. Some classic mezcal cocktails include the Mezcal Margarita, the Oaxacan Old Fashioned, and the Mezcal Paloma. When mixing cocktails with mezcal, it’s important to consider the level of smokiness in the mezcal and balance it with other flavors to create a well-rounded drink.

Can tequila be smoky as well?

How does tequila compare to mezcal? While both spirits are made from agave, tequila is made from a specific type of agave (Blue Weber) and is typically produced in a specific region of Mexico (Jalisco). Tequila is also cooked in an oven rather than an earthen pit with charcoal, which gives it a different flavor profile. Tequila can be smoky, but it’s usually much less pronounced than in mezcal.

The type of agave and maguey can have a big impact flavor

Did you know that there are over 200 species of agave, each with their own unique flavor profile? It is the base of every mezcal and heavily impacts it’s flavor. While the espadín maguey has a more neutral, “mezcal typical” taste, the wild tobalá offers more floral and fruity notes for example. Other species, like tequilana (you guessed it, this one is used in tequila production) and salmiana have a more vegetal flavor. However, the smokiness of a mezcal does not depend on the agave or maguey.

Now, let’s talk about artisanal mezcals. Artisanal mezcals are typically produced in small batches and are made using traditional methods, which can include roasting the piñas in an earthen pit. While artisanal mezcals can have a more pronounced smoky flavor than mass-produced mezcals, this isn’t always the case. It all depends on the specific production process used by the mezcal maker.

Which are some of the smokiest mezcals out there?

Finally, let’s talk about the smokiest mezcals available. Some of the smokiest mezcals available include brands like Del Maguey’s Chichicapa, which is known for its smoky, earthy flavor. Another popular smoky mezcal is the Ilegal Mezcal Joven, which has notes of smoke and black pepper. For a mezcal with a more subtle smokiness, try Mezcal Vago’s Elote, which has a sweet corn flavor that balances out the smokiness.

So there you have it – the real story behind why mezcal is so smoky. Whether you prefer your mezcal with a strong smoky flavor or a more subtle taste, there’s a mezcal out there for you. So grab a glass, sip, and enjoy the unique flavors of this delicious spirit. Salud!

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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.