The Best Mezcal to Drink Right Now
Mezcal’s popularity has been blowing up over the past decade or so. The Mexican spirit, which can be made with more than 20 diverse varieties of agave, boasted a market value of $338 million in 2022, according to Straits Research. The market intelligence company projects that value to soar to a whopping $2.1 billion by 2031.
Wine Enthusiast has similarly noted the growing number of varied mezcals turning up in the U.S. Of the 147 mezcals we’ve tasted since the magazine started reviewing the category in 2006, over 25% (39 bottles) were reviewed in the last year alone.
“No doubt, the category has been absolutely skyrocketing,” says Writer-at-Large Kara Newman, Wine Enthusiast’s resident spirits reviewer. “New bottlings seem to be coming on the market every day. A large part of that is the ongoing tequila boom, which has stoked interest in all kinds of agave spirits, and mezcal in particular.”
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The arrival of celebrity-backed mezcal brands hasn’t hurt either, she adds. Beloved names—like Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston (whose Dos Hombres made the list below), Lebron James (founder of Lobos 1707) and Cheech Marin (Tres Papalote)—have also drawn more attention to the category.
But famous people aside, there’s a reason the world has finally started paying attention to mezcal to the level it deserves. Like wine, there are many different elements that impact the flavor of each bottle: the type of agave used, individual microclimates, differing soil types, plant ripeness, fermentation, distillation techniques and more.
“This is an amazing time to be learning about and enjoying mezcal,” says Newman. “Although Mexico has a long tradition of mezcal varieties and expressions, we have never had access to such a wide collection here in the U.S. as we do now.”
While all this choice and diversity is great for aficionados, for those who are just dipping their toes into the world of mezcal, choosing a bottle can be incredibly confusing and difficult. Don’t fret: The following picks, which hail from our list of the Top 100 Spirits of 2023, represent the best of the best and are a great place to start.
These wide-ranging selections range from a seven-year, French-oak-aged añejo that’s scented with lots of smoke to a 98-point espadin (made with the agave that’s responsible for at least 80% of mezcal sold) that’s macerated for two weeks with a family mole recipe. While any of these picks would certainly elevate a margarita or Oaxacan Old Fashioned, most are ideal for sipping straight up. “Personally, I wouldn’t want to mix a $100-and-up mezcal into a cocktail,” warns Newman.
Ready to dig in? Let’s go.
Best Vegetarian Pechuga Mezcal
QQRQ Mezcal Destilado Con Mole
Savory, spiced and stunningly complex. Bold cayenne and smoked paprika aromas set the nose twitching, while the super-earthy palate delivers an ever-evolving rotation of flavors: meaty/umami notes, cocoa powder, hints of tropical fruit, a suggestion of roasted tomato, a whiff of smoke, subtle spices that waft into the lip-smacking finish. Every sip tastes different. 98 Points — Kara Newman
Best Añejo Mezcal
Ilegal Mezcal 7-Year-Old Anejo
Think of this enjoyable sipper as a mezcal for the smoky Scotch set. The amber hue and mellow caramel aroma leads into a rich caramel and toffee palate. The complex finish offers plenty of campfire smoke, plus cacao nib, clove and burnt orange peel. 96 Points — K.N.
Best Mezcal for Cocktails
Mi Mamá Me Dijo
Mild tropical fruit aromas lead into a complex palate bursting with roasted and meaty tones, and a long, distinctly saline finish with a pine-needle hint. All that umami wrapped around a fruity core brings to mind roasted tomato sprinkled with plenty of sea salt, or roasted pineapple swathed in prosciutto. Overall, a memorable sipper. Espadin. Best Buy. 96 Points — K.N.
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Best Espadín Mezcal
Xicala Joven Mezcal
The delicate aroma is slightly sweet, slightly floral, with a peppery undertone. Those notes are echoed on the light-bodied palate, reading as rose petal and a hint of tropical fruit, leading into a long, peppery finish. Bell pepper and torched sage create a final vegetal exhale. Espadín. Best Buy. 94 Points — K.N.
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Mezcal Sacrificio Joven
Pencil lead and rubber aromas are underpinned by honey and citrus. The brisk palate opens with rubber, slate and smoke, leading into a crisp finish with black pepper and a mouthwatering tinge of lemon peel. Espadín. Best Buy. 94 Points — K.N.
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Best Durangensis Mezcal
Bozal Cenizo Mezcal
Mild almond aromas lead into a palate that unfurls hints of vanilla and brown sugar. The midpalate surprises with plum skin, espresso and rootsy sarsaparilla, plus mouthwatering lemon zest, drying to a long and spicy finish laced with cayenne, clove and sandalwood. 95 Points — K.N.
Best Tobalá Mezcal
Pluma Negra Mezcal – Tobala
Overall, this mezcal opens floral and exits smoky. Think rose petals tumbling over wet pavement: Floral hints on nose and palate lead into more austere graphite and stone notes midpalate. Numbing black and pink peppercorn and a puff of smoke frame the exhale. 95 Points — K.N.
Published: January 19, 2024