The Mexican government defines the types and aging categories for mezcal, similar to tequila.
Mezcal is split into two types, whether it is:
- 100 percent agave, or
- containing a minimum of 80 percent agave, with the rest made up other sugars.
This makes the general quality of Mezcal higher than Tequila, the latter of which can legally use up to 49 percent of other sugars (like corn or cane sugar). For the best Mezcal, always choose those with the label ‘100 percent agave.’
Aging time dictates the next three levels of mezcal:
- Abacado, Joven or Blanco: a clear, un-aged mezcal, usually bottled immediately after distillation or within two months.
- Dorado (golden): a young mezcal, but a caramel-coloring is added so it appears the same as an aged mezcal (but you won’t be fooled!).
- Reposado or madurado: aged in wooden barrels for two to 11 months.
- Anejo: aged for a minimum of one year in wooden barrels.
Mezcaleros argue that the best types of mezcal are young or joven types, which retain more of the initial characteristics and flavors of the agave plants. Sometimes wild yeast is used during fermentation, which means that even bottles within the same batch can differ widly.