MEZCAL REGULATIONS

BACK TO BASICS

Like with Tequila there are many rules that regulate the production of mezcal. The first laws for Mezcal were only put into place in 1994 in article NOM-070-SCFI-1994 which exist to protect the integrity of this traditional spirit. Mezcal is also protected by a denomination of origin or DOM and can only be produced in the following states of Mexico:  Oaxaca, San Luis Potosi, Michoacan, Guerrero, Durango, Tamaulipas, Puebla, Zacatecas and Guanajuato.

Aside from the denomination the other most important of the regulations are the categories of Mezcal: Mezcal, Artisanal Mezcal and Ancestral Mezcal, their differences are explained with each step in production which you can find here.

In Tequila production you may use only one particular species of agave, however for Mezcal you can use any! This gives a Mezcal producer incredible diversity and choice in his/her selection. Another rule is that to be called Mezcal of any category, the bottling can only occur at the palenque at which it is made, to ensure the quality of the end product. Also, the ABV has to be between 36% and 55%.

Last but not least Mezcal can only be made from 100% agave with no additives or other products, whereas the different Tequila categories determine not the production process but the quantity of agave: Tequila (”Mixto”) and 100% agave Tequila.

These rules govern all Mezcal that is produced, however there are many Mexican states that don’t fall under the denomination but might still produce distilates of agave. These are called ‘Aguardiente de Agave’ as they are not allowed to be called Mezcal. Other agave spirits such as Bacanora, Raicilla and Sotol each have their own set of regulations

BAKE BABY BAKE

As with any step of creating Mezcal, how it is done has an impact on the flavours of the end product. The most traditional way of baking an agave is to this day still the most widely used, which is in a conical earthern pit called:

Horno de Tierra (Ancestral, Artisanal, Mezcal)

For more details on the Horno de Tierra, check out the Mezcal Production page here: Production

According to the regulations of Mezcal, the following may also be used for other categories:

  • Stone brick ovens (Artisanal, Mezcal)
  • Autoclaves (Mezcal)

I HAVE A CRUSH ON YOU

After the cooking is complete the starches have been transformed in to fermentable sugars which need to be extracted.

According to Mezcal regulations there are numerous ways you can do this:

The most traditional way of doing this is with a large milling stone called a: Tahona wheel that is pulled by a horse or donkey, and can be used for any category of Mezcal. Some producers use a more back breaking method by using a large bat by hand to crush the softened agave hearts in a hollowed out tree trunk or canoe!

  • Tahona, Chilean or Egyptian mill, or mallets

(Ancestral, Artisanal, Mezcal)

For more details on the Tahona wheel, check out the Mezcal Production page here: Production

The following methods are used for the other categories:

  • Tahona, Chilean or Egyptian mill, mallets, trapiche

(Artisanal, Mezcal)

  • Tahona, Chilean or Egyptian mill, trapiche, shredder or series of mills

(Mezcal)

FERMENTATION STATION

Like with all other steps the fermentation has strict rules that apply for each category too.

For more details on the fermentation process, check out the Mezcal Production page here: Production

When producing ‘ancestral Mezcal’ you must use one of the following:

  • Wood, clay or masonry tanks, animal skins, hollows in stone, earth or tree trunks, and process must use maguey fibers (Ancestral, Artisanal, Mezcal)

For ‘artisanal Mezcal’ for following applies:

  • Wood, clay or masonry tanks, animal skins, hollows in stone, earth or tree trunks, and process may use maguey fibers (Artisanal, Mezcal)

And finally ‘Mezcal’

  • Wood, masonry or stainless steel tanks (Mezcal)

IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT

Now to the final step of production before everything gets bottled up: Distillation! For more details on the distillation process, check out the Mezcal Production page here: Production

The following is how to distill any ‘ancestral Mezcal’:

  • Direct fire on clay pots and coils made clay or wood, and process must include maguey fibers

(Ancestral, Artisanal, Mezcal)

For ‘artisanal Mezcal’ you may use the following:

  • Direct fire on copper stills or clay pots and coils made of clay, wood, copper, or stainless steel, and process may include maguey fibers

(Artisanal, Mezcal)

And finally ‘Mezcal’:

  • Stills, continuous stills, columns stills made of copper or steel

(Mezcal)

Subscribe to The Agave Club to receive special offers and more!

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close