Mezcal, the smokier and bolder tasting agave-based alcohol than tequila, has never been more popular. According to research firm ReportLinker, the North American mezcal market recorded sales of US$326.29 million in 2019 and is expected to reach US$521.11 million by 2027. Data Bridge Market Research statistics indicate that the global mezcal market reached US$387.10 million in sales in 2021, and is expected to reach US$2.458 billion by 2029, an annual growth rate of nearly 23%.
“Previously the provenance of craft bartenders and spirits connoisseurs, mezcal has definitely entered the mainstream,” says Michael Anstendig, spirits and wine expert and co-author of the book. The Japanese art of cocktail making.
Anstendig noted that, technically speaking, tequila is a subset of mezcal. But while the former can only be made with Blue Weber agave, mezcal uses more than 40 varieties of agave that are field-aged for five to 35 years before being harvested.
“The vast majority use Espadin, but there are also Tobala, Madre Cuishe, Tepeztate and countless others,” says Anstendig. “Artisanal mezcals are often made in small, family-owned distilleries where agaves are roasted in traditional covered underground pits, which impart a distinct smoky note.”
He adds that while tequila celebrates aging with phrases like reposado and anejo, aged mezcals are much less common.
The most affordable bottles of mezcal sell for at least US$45, according to Justin Lane Briggs, the Mexican portfolio manager for Skurnik Wines & Spirits, which manages more than 150 mezcals. He says many of the highest quality products cost over US$100, with some reaching over US$200.
“These mezcals often use hard-to-find agave and require a labor-intensive process to produce them,” says Lane Briggs. “They are also produced in micro-quantities in remote areas of Mexico. Some releases can be as little as 100 bottles or even less.
Below are seven of the rarest and most expensive mezcals available on the market today, as recommended by experts.
Mezcal Amaras Sucker Lodge US$349.99
From Amaras Logia, a brand that offers more than half a dozen expressions of mezcal, the Chuparrosa is handcrafted with an agave that bears its name. The plant comes from the mountains of the Chontal region of Oaxaca and ferments in open-air vats using wild yeast. It features flavors of roasted coffee and ripe raisins, along with occasional citrus notes.
Guerrero Blue Mezcal Class $349
The agave papalote in Clase Azul’s Guerrero mezcal comes from the little-known state of Guerrero in southwestern Mexico along the coast. The region’s seaside setting and forests give the agave a fresh, floral flavor that results in a lemony, woodsy mezcal that isn’t traditionally smoked. Its decanter is as striking as the mind and handcrafted in a process that takes two weeks: jade-colored and adorned with a flower, it has a colorful top with the image of a hummingbird and is a piece to hang on long after the drink is gone.
Tobasiche Jolgorio $245
Established and run by the Cortes family of Oaxaca, El Jolgorio is one of the most requested mezcals among serious spirit fans. Made in small clay pots, this expression uses Tobasiche, a rare species of agave that looks like caramel and is herbaceous and sweet when it comes to smoking.
Tlamati Papalometl $185
Produced in the foothills of Puebla, this expression is made with Papalometl agave, known in Oaxaca as Tobala and one of the most sought after varieties. With a silky texture, it hits the palate with an explosion of tropical fruits and has a creamy finish.
Crassispina spiders $250
Handcrafted with three of Oaxaca’s oldest and rarest agave varieties – Crassispina, Maguey Blanco and Arroqueño – Macurichos opens with delicate floral notes followed by hints of peppers and jalapenos. The finish, on the other hand, is all corn silk and butterscotch. It’s part of Skurnik’s portfolio, and Lane Briggs recommended pairing it with ceviche, pork belly, or a creamy dessert like flan or pana cotta.
Miner’s Royal Chest $185
The Angeles Carreno family are the originators of the Real Minero Pechuga and are considered to be at the forefront of mezcal production when it comes to studying and preserving agave plants. This expression uses the Espadin agave. Similar to most Pechugas, it relies on a combination of fruit, spices, and raw chicken breast—yes, you read that right—during the distillation process for its savory, raisin-like flavor profile.
The Lost Explorer Salmiana $180
The Salmiana agave in this mezcal grows for 12 years before being harvested and stands out for its herbaceous taste. Sweet and spicy at the same time, the mezcal slowly unfolds in the mouth to unearth flavors of oranges, chili peppers and dried herbs. It’s fresh and bright.
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