Speaking the Language of Agave: A Few Key Terms

100% Agave: an agave spirit made from all agave and no other spirits. Term is often used to distinguish 100% agave tequilas versus mixto. Separately, mezcal must be 100% agave in order to be certified as mezcal

Añejo: tequila or mezcal that has been aged in wood barrels for at least one year

Bacanora: distilled from the wild agave pacifica, which is only found in the mountain ranges of Sonora. The hot days and cold nights in Sonora’s dry, arid climate manifest in a dry, complex, and peppery spirit, with an earthy finish that’s often enhanced with pine nuts or almonds in the early stages of distillation

Blanco: unaged tequila or mezcal

Extra Añejo: tequila or mezcal that has been aged in wood barrels for at least three years

Gold: a commonly used term in reference to mixto tequila that refers to the tequila’s color that was either reached by slight aging in barrels or, more often, caramel or coloring was added to give it the gold hue

Hijuelos: baby agave shoots, or “pups” that grow into new plants and are found at the base of the mother plant

Horno: oven used to cook the agave prior to extraction

Joven: translates to ‘young’ and is used to identify agave spirits, especially mezcal, that have not been aged more than two months

Jimadores: the agave farmers who harvest the piñas

Maestro de mezcalero: a traditional craft distiller of mezcal

Mezcal: protected by an appellation of origin status and can only be produced in these states of Mexico: Oaxaca, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Puebla, Michoacan and Tamaulipas. Mezcal can be made from any species of agave, which take on the terroir of the microclimates in which they grow, and impart flavors ranging from herbal and citrus, to spicy and floral. There are three certified types of mezcal – Mezcal, Artisanal Mezcal, Ancestral Mezcal

Mixto: tequilas that are at least 51% agave and contain other neutral spirits and sugars

Molino: the term commonly used in making mezcal that refers to the stone wheels used to crush the agave – similar to a tahona

Palenque: a mezcal distillery

Pechuga: a traditional mezcal that undergoes a third distillation, where fruits are added to the liquid and raw chicken, turkey, or rabbit is suspended in the air of the still

Piña: the heart of the agave. Varying in size, some have been known to weigh as much as 1000 pounds. As the plant ages, the piña accumulates sugar and starch. Steamed, roasted or smoked, the piña is the key ingredient of agave spirits

Pulque: made from the fermented sap of the agave plant, pulque is traditional to central Mexico, where it has been produced for millennia. It has the color of milk, a somewhat viscous consistency and a sour, yeast-like taste

Quiote: the agave stalk that grows straight up from the heart of the agave and can weigh several pounds. Their size ranges depending on species. Stalks are the source of aguamiel, or honey water, which is used like sugarcane

Raicilla: produced only in Jalisco, specifically near and around the Pacific coast town of Puerto Vallarta, raicilla was only legalized for import in the United States in 2014. Made from wild agave varietals like chico agar and maximilana, raicilla has a sweeter, tropical fruit-forward flavor

Reposado: tequila or mezcal that has been aged in wood barrels for at least two months

Sotol: a distilled spirit made from Dasylirion wheeleri, commonly known as Desert Spoon or, in Spanish, sotol. The plant grows in northern Mexico, New Mexico, west Texas, and the Texas Hill Country. It is known as the state drink of Chihuahua, Durango and Coahuila. It is produced in a manner similar to the more common artisanal mezcals of central Mexico

Tahona: a large stone wheel for crushing agave in a pit- one of the oldest, most labor-intensive ways to make tequila or any agave spirit

Tequila: protected by an appellation of origin status and can only be produced in the state of Jalisco and some municipalities in Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. The red volcanic soil in the Jalisco highlands yields sweet blue agaves, while blue agaves grown in the lowlands have a more herbal aroma and flavor