Agave is the plant that is used to make Mezcal. While tequila can only be made from one type of agave (Blue agave), Mezcal can be made from any type of agave. Though there is no official count of how many different types of agave are currently used in Mezcal, it’s commonly said that over 40 types are featured in different varieties of Mezcal. This more diverse use of agave, equals more diverse variation in flavor, aroma, and feel.
Agave Espadin is (for the most part) the only farm-grown agave used in Mezcal. All other varieties of agave are either wild or semi-wild, however there are some producers that are successfully cultivating Tobala and others varietals. The agave is important because it carries a good deal of the Mezcal’s character. You may hear people talk about terroir when referencing wine, and similar terminology can be applied to Mezcal. Terroir refers to the environment in which the agave is grown, which greatly impacts the flavor. For example, agave that is grown near coniferous trees will often carry hints of pine, and an Espadin from San Luis del Rio may produce very different flavor notes than an Espadin from Santa Catarina Minas. The terroir seeps into the agave, and these environmental factors amplify as the agave grows for 8-25 years before it’s ready to be harvested.