Affordable
Chapter 4

Affordable Mezcal Bottles

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Mezcal Bottle Illustration

As mezcal has gained popularity in recent years, the selection of mezcal has also grown. Naturally, this also applies to mezcals that are not only affordable, but also high-quality. Some of the best affordable mezcals are lower proof, recommended for cocktails. Others are more suitable for neat sipping. With the extraordinary selection of premium mezcal at an affordable price point, the issue now is more about figuring out what you are personally looking for. Regardless of your preferences, there is sure to be an affordable mezcal you will love.

8 Best Affordable Mezcals

Generally, the most affordable mezcals tend to be espadin joven mezcal. The mezcals on this list share several characteristics. They are all 100% made from maguey espadin and the pinas are roasted and cooked before the fermentation process. Being joven mezcals, they are clear and unaged.

Del Maguey Vida

Del Maguey Vida
Smokiness:
Medium
ABV:
42%
Price:
$40

One of the most commonly found mezcals in any bar, the Del Maguey Vida is highly popular for both its flavor and its Del Maguey lineage. The company’s founder, Ron Cooper is known as the person who brought mezcal into the United States in the 1990s. Produced from espadín agave sourced from Oaxaca, Mexico, Vida is smooth with a light smokiness.

This mezcal hits the sweet spot through its balanced notes of earthiness, agave, spice, and smoke. Both sweet and savory, Vida is great for both sipping and mixing into cocktails such as the mezcal paloma [internal link]. It is best served in a slim stemmed glass or traditional copita as it brings forth the flavors of clay and wet stone. One of the lowest priced quality mezcals on the market, there is no excuse not to try this mezcal.

El Silencio Espadin

El Silencio Espadin
Smokiness:
High
ABV:
43%
Price:
$30

A premium mezcal that is handmade in small batches, the El Silencio Espadin is created from 10- to 12-year-old agaves. This mezcal is great for high-end mixology as it has very soft subtle flavors that brings tones of sweet ripe fruits intermingled with spice and smoke. The perfect companion for both cocktails and sipping, it is hearty and earthy, providing a flavor unlike any other.

The El Silencio Espadin has a sharper taste, great for those who love intense agave flavors. Due to its flavor profile, it is perfect for making mezcal margaritas or Bloody Marias as it adds a subtle smoke to any concoction. Featuring a black bottle inspired by Barro Negro pottery, the black glass has matte finish to maintain the feel and look of traditional pottery from the original “black clay” from the Monte Alban period.

Doña Vega Espadin

Dona Vega Espadin
Smokiness:
Subtle
ABV:
43%
Price:
$45

A relatively newcomer to the mezcal market, the Doña Vega espadín launched in 2019. It is produced in Santiago Matatlan, Oaxaca using 100% Maguey Espadin by a family who has passed down the tradition for five generations. What sets Doña Vega apart from other mezcal companies is that it is founded and produced by Mexican women who aim to make mezcal more approachable and accessible.

This mezcal is marketed as remarkably smooth while having light smoke with undertones of fruit and a white pepper finish. Highly versatile, this mezcal has a rich profile with subtle hints of spice and pineapples. Upon tasting, you will find notes of cooked agave that blends well with the smokiness. This Espadin is very enjoyable neat and shines just as bright when mixed in cocktails

Pierde Almas La Puritita Verdá

Pierde Almas La Puritita Verdá
Smokiness:
Subtle / Medium
ABV:
40%
Price:
$44

Pierde Almas is a company backed by time-honored recipes kept alive by the family patriarch of each generation. They are known for their hand printed labels on 100% acid free paper handmade from fibers indigenous to the region. The Wild Agave Reforestation program means that they are actively involved in replenishing wild species of Agave in areas where the population has been depleted. Every rainy season, the brand invites chefs, bartenders, journalists, and restaurateurs to join them for their annual wild Tobalá planting.

La Puritita Verdá is crafted in San Juan del Rio by maestro mezcalero Rodolfo Hernandez. The artisanal nature of the brand’s mezcal means that the ABV of each lot may vary slightly. It has a 40% ABV and although it can be sipped neat, this mezcal is specially crafted for mixology. With a savory smoky flavor with earthy undertones, it is balanced and clean on the palate with floral and citrus notes, making it a great introduction for beginners to mezcal.

Ilegal Mezcal Joven

Ilegal Mezcal Joven
Smokiness:
Medium / High
ABV:
40%
Price:
$40

Ilegal's origin story is famous within the mezcal world, featuring a bar owner in Antigua, Guatemala, smuggling Mezcal from the motherland to his bar. The brand's classic Joven is suitable for both sipping neat and cocktail mixing. A straight forward smokiness and a deep agave flavor characterize this mezcal.

Mezcal Vago

Mezcal Vago is a mezcal producer from Oaxaca, Mexico known for their quality mezcals at affordable prices. This company adheres to authentic artisanal methods and is committed to preservation of the agave plant by maintaining a policy of planting 3 agave plants for each one used. The entire “Essential Expressions” line from Mezcal Vago is affordable and has garnered high praises. They include:

Mezcal Vago Elote (Hijos de Aquilino)

Mezcal Vago Elote (Hijos de Aquilino)
Smokiness:
Medium
ABV:
~50%
Price:
$58

One of the most affordable premium mezcal, the Vago Elote was originally crafted by Aquilino Garcia. It is unique as roasted corn is infused before the third distillation to make a very smooth and flavorful mezcal (elote means corn). It has just the right amount of smoke with sweet notes of oak, green tropical fruit, honeycomb, butter, grapefruit, and clay. This mezcal is often praised for its nice balance of flavors.

Mezcal Vago Espadin (Emigdio Jarquin)

Mezcal Vago Espadin (Emigdio Jarquin)
Smokiness:
Medium
ABV:
50%
Price:
$55

This 100 proof agave spirit is made by maguey Espadin that is crushed by tahona and distilled in a copper refrescadera still. It is deep, rich, sweet, and has a full flavor that brings distinct notes of terroir from the fertile Valley of Miahuatlán, Oaxaca. With a nice balance of smoke, it brings hints of roasted pepper, vanilla, caramel, fruits, and spice.

Mezcal Vago Espadin (Joel Barriga)

Mezcal Vago Espadin (Joel Barriga)
Smokiness:
Subtle / Medium
ABV:
~50%
Price:
$60

With a 50.3 percent ABV, this 100 proof Vago Espadin by Joel Barriga is smooth and a great sipper. Characterized by pleasant fruity flavor with strong notes of mango, this mezcal is highly recommended for beginners to mezcal. The high alcohol content enhances the floral fruity flavors and aromas while adding depth and complexity. Nicely balanced with a smoky finish and a hint of cream corn, it is great for both sipping and cocktails.

Los Danzantes Joven

Los Danzantes Joven
Smokiness:
Medium
ABV:
42% / 47%
Price:
$55

Made in Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca, this mezcal is made by mezcaleros who use techniques and methods passed down by their ancestors. Made with farm grown espadín, the cooked agave is ground using a Chilean tahona pulled by a horse. It is then slowly fermented in pine tubs without the addition of accelerators and double distilled in copper stills. This mezcal is great for sipping as it brings sweet flavors that carry a balance of agave, bacon fat, sage, rust, citrus, and juniper. The smokiness is very light and is recommended for beginners to mezcal.

Fidencio Clasico

Fidencio Clasico
Smokiness:
Medium
ABV:
45%
Price:
$45

One of the most popular affordable mezcals among enthusiasts, Fidencio Clasico is made using biodynamically and organically farmed espadín agave. It is fermented with natural indigenous yeast and distilled twice on a copper Alembic still to proof around 46% ABV. Suitable for sipping neat or announcing itself as the backbone of a cocktail, this mezcal brings complex flavors of delicate wood smoke and green pepper with hints of tobacco, pine, and tar. The earthy and rustic notes of this mezcal is mingled with notes of lime zest, white pepper, black pepper, cinnamon, and papaya.

What Makes Some Mezcals More “Affordable” Than Others?

Mezcal is an agave spirit made from the pina or hearts of agave plants. However, it is definitely an expensive spirit that is often double or even triple the price of premium tequilas. Here are some factors why:

Agave Type

Agave Type

Mezcal tends to be on the more expensive side as the agave plants used in the production of mezcal can take many years to mature before they can be harvested. For example, espadín agave which is the most common type of agave used in the production of mezcal takes around seven to fourteen years before they can be harvested. Meanwhile, other types of agaves such as tepeztate or tobala can take around 17 to 35 years.

For this reason, the hefty price tag often seen with mezcal reflects the time required for agave plants to reach their peak. Some agave varieties except espadin are also only available in the wild. Understandably, mezcal made with agave varieties that take longer to mature are more expensive than their counterparts. Since espadín agave takes the shortest time to mature, mezcal made from this agave variety is often the commonest and most affordable.

Agave Yield

Agave Yield

Besides the duration it takes for agave to mature, different species yield variable amounts of alcohol. While a pina from tobala agave will make half a liter of mezcal, a similarly sized espadín heart yields about seven liters of mezcal. This is another reason why mezcal made from espadín agave is often the most affordable.

Mezcal Production

Mezcal Production

Mezcal is one of the most difficult alcoholic products to make in the world as the final product is influenced by a wide variety of factors such as weather, yeast, the wood used to cook the agave, cooking duration, and more.

The production of mezcal is a backbreaking process, starting with the harvesting of the pina. It may sound easy, but it is an arduous task as the sword-like leaves must be removed by hand. The mezcaleros then dig deep earthen pits to light fires that are left to burn down to embers. Next the pinas are buried in the embers and allowed to cook, a process that can take up to four days to caramelize the sugars and proteins, so it becomes a fermentable product.

Once cooked, the hearts are unearthed and pulverized into a mash that is left to ferment. Next, the fermented mash is distilled in stills that are often made by hand. Mezcal is aged in oak barrels and can be grouped based on their aging process. Mezcal joven is aged for 0 to 2 months, mezcal reposado for 2 to 12 months, and mezcal anejo for at least a year.

The production of mezcal is regulated by the Consejo Regulador de Mezcal (CRM). They classify the type of mezcal based on the equipment and process to allow mezcaleros who use complex processes to price their spirits higher.

If the mezcal is not labeled as “Artesanal” or “Ancestral”, it is most likely produced by a large distillery using advanced equipment that allows mezcal to be produced in large quantities. Mezcal Artisanal is produced using less advanced processes such as using clay ovens or open pits to cook the agave, a tahona or large stone wheel to crush the roasted pinas, and copper or clay pots that sit on fire for the distillation process. Mezcal Ancestral requires the use of the most traditional equipment and methods, a process that is highly complex and time consuming

For this reason, the most affordable mezcals are often mezcal joven that is minimally aged and produced by large distilleries.

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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.