Just like the grape varietals used for wine, agave spirits can be classified by the species of plant from which they are distilled. Different regions around the world are home to different species of agave and distillation methods. These differences yield spirits and flavors that are unique to each region.
An agave spirit can be classified as a distillate produced by the cooking, crushing, fermenting and distilling of agaves. There are hundreds of agave species which can be used to produce an agave spirit and they can be made in almost any region around the world. Both blends and 100% agave spirit brands have emerged in India, the US and South America with more regions on the rise world-wide.
Tequila Tequila is 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.
Mezcal Like tequila, mezcal can only be classified as such if made within specific designated regions of Mexico: Oaxaca, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Puebla, Michoacan and Tamaulipas. But, 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.
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.
Bacanora Bacanora is 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.
Sotol Sotol is 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 Until recently, Sotol was listed in the agave family but is now classified as a member of the Nolinaceae family. So to be clear, Sotol is NOT made from an agave and is therefore not technically a mezcal. However, given its history and close proximity it has been included here.
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.