Maguey tobala (Agave potatorum) grows wildly at high altitudes and it is often cultivated as well. Its relatively minuscule size yields extremely limited quantities of intensely aromatic mezcal. Due to its tiny size and long growing period (12-15 years), Maguey tobalá is becoming increasingly rare in some regions. Unlike most other maguey, tobala does not produce hijuelos, which are the shoots or pups that sprout around the main plant once it has matured. For this reason, tobala can only grow from seed. Towns like Santa Catarina Minas, Oaxaca have two different types of Maguey tobala: tobala chino which grows in the sun, and tobala orejon which grows in the shade. This difference in sunlight is amplified over the 12-15 years it takes for the plants to reach maturity, and the two different types of tobala have a noticeably different character and taste. Some mezcaleros, like Tio Rey (Mezcal Vago) in Sola de Vega, have been successfully cultivating Maguey tobala for years.
Read more about this maguey in our blog: Blind Tasting: Agave Tobala Mezcals
Photo courtesy of our friends at Maguey Melate