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These Mezcals Feature A Perfect Smoky-To-Sweet Ratio

We talk a lot about whiskey, specifically bourbon and Scotch, around here. In fact, we zero in on whiskey so much that sometimes it feels like other spirits get lost in the shuffle for a few months. Mezcal, we apologize. We haven’t given you the attention you deserve of late.

That changes today. And since spring has officially sprung, the timing couldn’t be better.

For those needing a primer, mezcal is actually the term for any distilled alcoholic beverage made from the agave plant in Mexico. This means that tequila is also a form of mezcal. But while a spirit must be 51% Blue Weber Agave to be called a tequila (there are other rules), it can be made from any agave varietal and still be called a mezcal.

Flavor-wise, mezcal is often noted for its vegetal-sweet flavor notes featuring a robust, smoky backbone. Of course, some mezcals are smokier than others, making them a little tougher to get into. Balance is what you’re after, if you’re just starting your mezcal journey.

That’s why we’ve decided to share ten mezcals that manage a perfect smoky-to-sweet ratio. Check them all out below.

El Silencio Espadin

El Silencio

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $40

The Story:

Master mezcalero Pedro Hernandez makes this small-batch mezcal using Espadin agave as its base. It comes in a bottle that draws its inspiration from the traditional “barro negro” of Oaxaca. This organic mezcal is produced using the authentic process used for centuries. Agave is roasted, crushed to release its juices, and double distilled.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, you’ll find vegetal sweetness and a subtle kick of woodsmoke. The palate is filled with buttery caramel, pineapple, a dose of green herbs, and an underlying smoky presence. The finish is long, filled with heat, and ends with a nice mix of orange peels and vanilla.

Bottom Line:

This mezcal bridges the gap between sweet and smoke nicely, but it’s more of a mixer than a sipper. Perfect for a smoky margarita or bloody Maria.

Mezcal de Leyendas Maguey Ancho Guerrero

Mezcal de Leyendas

ABV: 46.9%

Average Price: $79

The Story:

Made using 100% Agave cupreata, Mezcal de Leyendas Maguey Ancho is one of a few artisanal mezcals in the Mezcal de Leyendas portfolio. This offering comes from Mazatlán, Guerrero, in the Sierra Madre mountains of southwest Mexico using roasted agave pits, a mechanical grinder, oak wood vats, and traditional copper pot alembic stills.

Tasting Notes:

Take a moment to breathe in the scents of tropical fruits, roasted agave, vanilla beans, and a kiss of smoke. Take a sip and you’ll find grilled pineapple, orange peel, and buttery caramel — all shuttling across a smoky backbone. The dram ends with a nice mix of sweet agave and smoke.

Bottom Line:

If you’re looking for a smoky, subtly spicy, semi-sweet sipper, look no further than Mezcal de Leyendas Maguey Ancho. Pair it with a crackling fire and you have the makings of a great evening.

El Buho Espadin Mezcal

El Buho

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $40

The Story:

Made using 100% Espadin agave, El Buho Espadin is the brand’s flagship expression. On top of the high-quality of this mezcal, it should be noted that the brand is all about sustainability. They plant more Espadin agave plants than they use every year.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, you’ll find aromas of caramel apples, freshly brewed coffee, and roasted agave. The palate transports you to a world of crisp pears, charred oak, fresh vegetable sweetness (green peppers), buttery caramel, and a nice mix of salt and smoke. The finish leans into that caramel and briny smoke.

Bottom Line:

This is a bold, well-balanced, yet reasonably priced mezcal. It’s the kind of mixing-sipping-shooting all-around mezcal you will want to continuously stock in your home bar.

Mezcal Marcanegra Dobadán

Mezcal Marcanegra

ABV: 48%

Average Price: $100

The Story:

This Joven (young) mezcal is distilled from 100% Dobadán agave that was allowed to grow from 8 to 12 years for maximum flavor. It’s distilled twice in copper pot stills. The result is a smoky, sweet, subtly spicy mezcal renowned for how it holds up in cocktails and as a sipper.

Tasting Notes:

Take a moment to give this a proper nosing and you’ll find aromas of roasted agave, ancho chilies, citrus peels, cracked black pepper, and just a wisp of smoke. The palate drives forward with notes of candied orange peels, buttery caramel, pineapple, and a nice kick of herbal smoke. The finish is smoky with a hint of vegetal sweetness.

Bottom Line:

Pair this subtly spicy, smoky mezcal with spicy or smoky Mexican dishes — think Chili Colorado or chicken mole.

Montelobos Mezcal Espadin

Montelobos

ABV: 43.2%

Average Price: $40

The Story:

This unaged Joven mezcal is made in small-batches using Espadin agave that’s roasted in underground pits before being distilled in copper pot stills. It’s known for its well-defined, mellow, balance of sweet and smoke.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is filled with the scents of fresh-cut grass, orange peel, clover honey, and a nice kick of smoky agave. On the palate, you get sweet agave, subtle pepper, a nutty sweetness, and a hint of peppery smoke. It all ends with buttery caramel, sweet agave, and herbal smoke.

Bottom Line:

Another reasonably priced offering, Montelobos Mezcal Espadin is the perfect joven for mixing. It really adds a new dimension to a smoky Paloma or margarita.

Siete Misterios Pechuga

Siete Misterios

ABV: 48.5%

Average Price: $190

The Story:

Similar to Mezcal de Leyendas, this brand’s portfolio is made up of various mezcals that were produced in different areas by different mezcaleros. Their Pechuga is made from Espadin agave in Santiago Matatlan, Oaxaca. It’s hand-milled, distilled three times with the addition of fruits and spices, and, like many Pechuga mezcals, is vapor infused with a raw chicken breast.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, you’ll find herbal notes mixed in with caramel, sweet agave, and just a hint of smoke. The palate centers on caramelized pineapple, crisp apples, floral notes, and a backbone of roasted agave. The last flavors you’ll find are those of butterscotch and smoky agave.

Bottom Line:

Pechuga is Spanish for “breast” — denoting that this type of mezcal involves hanging a raw piece of chicken (whole chicken or breast) inside the still while the spirit is being distilled. This is a great example of the style for newbies and aficionados alike.

Doña Vega Espadín

Doña Vega

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $45

The Story:

This artisanal, small-batch mezcal is made using hand-picked 100% Espadin agave. Distilled to proof, it’s a trifecta of pepper, juicy fruits, and briny, roasted agave. It’s unaged, yet surprisingly mellow and easy to drink.

It’s also a tremendous mixing mezcal.

Tasting Notes:

Take a moment to breathe in the aromas of raw earth, grass, roasted agave, and a nice hint of sweet barbecue smoke. Take a sip and you’ll find flavors of ripe pineapple, grassy agave, guava, and almond cookies — all anchored by an undercurrent of smoke.

The finish is sweet, smoky, and subtly peppery — a classic mezcal closing.

Bottom Line:

If you’re looking for an herbal, earthy, complex, smoky expression, this mezcal checks all the boxes. As a bonus, it’s surprisingly cheap.

Mezcal Vago Espadin

Mezcal Vago

ABV: 50.5%

Average Price: $42

The Story:

Founded 2013, Mezcal Vago is focused on building relationships with sustainable small farm operators. Their mezcals, including Vago Espadin, are produced by small, family-run mezcal producers. This particular mezcal was distilled by maestro mezcalero Aquilino Garcia Lopez in Candelaria Yegole, Oaxaca.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, you’ll notice aromas of fresh-cut grass, roasted agave, vanilla, and flowers smelled from a distance, along with subtle smoke. On the palate, flavors of sweet agave, banana, honey, buttery caramel, and herbal smoke are prevalent. The finish is long, warming, and ends with a nice mixture of pepper and smoke.

Bottom Line:

If you want to try an authentic, family-made mezcal, this is a great option. Especially for the price.

Del Maguey Pechuga

Del Maguey

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $189

The Story:

The most interesting thing about this mezcal is that most of the action happens after the initial distillation. Del Maguey takes its Minero Mezcal and adds it back into a pot-still along with apples, plums, pineapples, almost, plantains, and rice. Then, like all Pechugas, they hang a raw chicken breast over the still for the distillate vapor to travel through.

Tasting Notes:

Before sipping, take a moment to breathe in the aromas of licorice, figs, cinnamon, and vanilla, all balanced out by a solid note of agave smoke. Take a sip and you’ll find anise, cracked black pepper, buttery caramel, and vegetal agave. The finish is long, warming, sweet, and ends with a nice kick of spicy smoke.

Bottom Line:

Historically, Pechuga mezcal is made in extremely small batches to share with friends and family on special occasions. Buy a bottle of Del Maguey Pechuga and share it with your family to toast the (still forthcoming) end of the pandemic.

Ilegal Mezcal Joven

Ilegal Mezcal

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $38

The Story:

This small-batch mezcal is distilled by fourth-generation mezcaleros. The brand’s Joven Mezcal, from Santiago Matatlan, Oaxaca, is made with 100% Espadin agave before being distilled two times. It’s unaged and well-known for its subtly spicy, smoky, and sweet flavor notes.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, you’ll find notable scents of fresh-cut grass, herbal hints, crisp apple, and spicy green pepper. On the palate, you’ll find orange peels, buttery caramel, light vanilla, ancho chilies, and a nice smoky backbone. The finish is filled with sweet butterscotch and smoky agave.

Bottom Line:

When it comes to smoky, sweet mezcals perfectly suited for mixing, there’s no better option (for the price) than Ilegal Mezcal Joven.

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