You could describe mezcal as a characterful cousin of Tequila. Hailing from Mexico, it’s an artisanal agave spirit that stands out for its complex, diverse characteristics and rich heritage. For curious, adventurous drinkers, it’s a spirit that is well worth exploring. 

What’s the difference between mezcal and Tequila?

While Tequila can only be produced from one type of agave (blue weber) mezcal can be made from any agave species, and there are over 30 commonly used! Each of these varieties offers up its own unique flavour profile. Many species aren’t regularly farmed, certainly not on the scale of blue weber, which takes around seven to 10 years to mature. Producers will often harvest or cultivate from foraged wild or semi-wild plants, some of which can take up to 30 years to reach the maturity required to distil a good spirit. Growers and producers have to be in it for the long game, the long life cycle of agave plants means that once a field is planted, it’ll be years before that land can be used for something else. 

How mezcal is made?

Mezcal also differs from Tequila in the way the harvested agave is processed. Once prepared, the hearts of the agave plants, called piñas, need to be cooked. Commonly, Tequila producers will steam the piñas in an oven, whereas mezcal producers tend to use traditional fire pits covered with rocks, which result in a distinctive smoky character that is often seen as a classic characteristic of mezcal.

There are a number of other differences between the production of the two, and if you’re interested in reading all about them, I thoroughly recommend that you check out this handy blog right here (after you’ve finished the one you’re reading currently, of course). 

The takeaway is, mezcal takes a really long time, and a lot of manual effort to make and the result of this is that it’s often produced in relatively small batches, many of which probably never even make it out of Mexico, let alone to our shores here in the UK. Then you’ve got the spirit’s rocketing popularity in the neighbouring USA, it’s a wonder we can get our hands on any at all!

Thankfully, there are a number of passionate brands in the UK making a stellar effort to ensure we get to find out what mezcal is all about, and sharing quality examples of this fascinating spirit. Here are a few of our favourites.

5 mezcal brands

Del Maguey

Del Maguey has been bottling mezcal since the mid-90s, it was way ahead of the curve, and helped pave the way for the spirit’s international popularity by creating an awareness outside of its native Mexico. The brand specialises in bottling up mezcal from family producers in single villages and offers up all sorts of tempting expressions for the agave aficionados out there. 

Del Maguey Vida de Muertos Mezcal 

Produced from 100% espadín agave, this expression was released to celebrate Dia de  Muertos.

Del Maguey Wild Tepextate Mezcal

For something more unusual, this mezcal was produced from the seldom-seen tepextate agave variety, harvested from high altitudes, and growing in the wild. 

Sin Gusano five mezcal brands to try

Sin Gusano

Born from pure passion and fascination with small-batch agave spirits, Sin Gusano is one of the most exciting importers around, celebrating craft, not shy to bottle up the obscure and unique and in turn inspiring the passion of inquisitive drinkers. Sin Gusano’s one-off releases focus on different varieties of agave, and the terroir in which they were grown. Constrictive legislation means these precious liquids often can’t be labelled as mezcal as they come in such small batches that are not always from registered distilleries. I’m not taking it off this list though, come get me Consejo Regulador del Mezcal! It’s basically as close as you’re going to get to going to Mexico, hiring a car, and knocking on farmer’s doors every time you spot a stone grinding wheel in their fields. Which is what founder Jon Darby did.

Sin Gusano Agave Spirits Set

This set of three 150ml samples is a great way to get stuck into what Sin Gusano is all about, and to explore the different profiles offered up by espadín, tobalá, and castilla agave varieties. 

Sin Gusano Espadilla & Papalome

A good example of just how niche things can get, this expression combines a majority of Espadilla agave, alongside a portion of a variety called Papalome. The cooked agave is fermented in rawhide before it’s transferred to a Filipino still comprised of a clay boiling chamber which leads into a hollowed-out tree trunk, which serves as a condensing chamber!

Dangerous Don Mezcal Espadín

Dangerous Don

While it’s exciting to geek out occasionally, you also need a reliable, good-quality option for all your everyday mezcal needs. The range from Dangerous Don offers a solid selection for both sipping, and for mixing in cocktails, with a classic unaged expression as well as coffee, and mandarin infused varieties. Both of which work exceptionally well with the vibrant character of mezcal, and in a twist on a Negroni. 

Dangerous Don Joven Mezcal Espadín

Produced in a traditional artisanal fashion, the agave is roasted in a pit before being fermented and distilled, creating a classic herbaceous, smoky profile. 

Dangerous Don Café

A lot of people are obsessed with coffee Tequila, I think they must not have discovered coffee mezcal yet. 

QuiQuiRiQui mezcal


QuiQuiRiQui bottles up single distillery mezcal expressions, working with the Mendez family in the village of Santiago Matalan to produce its small batch espadín mezcals, and works with a host of other producers that work exclusively with other agave varieties including tepeztate, cuishe, and madrecuishe.

Quiquiriquí Mezcal Ensamble

This ensamble style is made from three types of agave: tepeztate, cuishe, and espadin. After roasting and distillation, the mezcal from each maguey is blended together and rested for two weeks.

QuiQuiRiQuí Mezcal Destilado con Mole

Pechuga style mezcal involves an unusual production method, that usually includes raw protein (often chicken or turkey breast) and spices being hung inside the still during distillation. This is an impressive example that involves no meat products, and instead was made with traditional Mexican mole paste (made with chiles, sesame seeds, almonds, peanuts, garlic, onions, raisins, bananas, and cacao).

Lost Explorer Mezcal

The Lost Explorer

The Lost Explorer offers a selection of mezcals aimed at curious drinkers, and those looking to delve into the nuances of the spirit. Based in Oaxaca, the brand is committed to sustainable production, following initiatives such as planting at least three agave plants for every one harvested, and offering long-term contracts and fair prices to its growers. 

The Lost Explorer Espadín

Showcasing the well-loved espadín agave in all its glory, plants are matured to a full eight years old before harvesting, and bring oodles of ripe fruit character to the table. 

The Lost Explorer Salmiana Mezcal

Salmiana is a wild agave species found at high altitudes, making it rather hard to forage – but it’s certainly worth it for its super herbaceous, zesty, vegetal character. 

Click on link for some mezcal cocktail inspiration.