Distilled from the agave plant, artisanal mezcal has been made in Oaxaca for centuries. From harvest through distillation, each step is guided by hand and the ensuing spirit celebrates the distinctive flavor of agave and the artistry and expertise of each maestro mezcalero (master distiller).
Agave, or maguey in Spanish, is a succulent plant native to the diverse, desert climates of the Americas. The species boasts hundreds of varieties and has been used by people as a sustaining source of food, clothing, medicine and materials for thousands of years.
An agave's growing environment - soil type, elevation, exposure, rainfall, and surrounding vegetation - in concert with its variety, contribute to the taste of the resulting mezcal. Many different varieties of agave have been identified in the production of mezcal and each one is unique in its growth cycle, habitat, and subsequent expression of the spirit.
The agave Espadín is the most widely cultivated species, due to its large size, high sugar content, and durability in harsh growing conditions. It takes 7-10 years to mature before it can be harvested, which is a very long period, but not when compared to wild varieties of agave that take 10-30 years to mature. Unlike many of the agave varieties that are unique to Oaxaca, Espadín also grows in many other regions of Mexico.
Wild agave species and sub-species, such as Tobalá, Barríl, Tepeztate, Mexicano, and Jabalí, are normally found in the more mountainous, wild regions of Oaxaca, often very difficult to access for humans, growing in symbiosis with a specific geography and vegetation. Wild agave species, however, are also being cultivated at a much higher rate, due to the efforts of responsible mezcal producers and agave farmers to sustain agave populations despite increasing mezcal production.