Mezcal is the smokier, hotter cousin of tequila. Made from more than 30 types of agave (tequila is only made from one—blue agave) and cooked in a covered underground pit that gives it that smoky flavor, mezcal is a high-proof spirit that deserves to be savored. Here are the best bottles to try.
1. Del Maguey Chichicapa
Named for the single village in which it's made about 6,000 feet above sea level, this mezcal from respected producer Del Maguey ("of the agave" in Spanish), which was founded by artist Ron Cooper 21 years ago, is smooth and vegetal.
2. El Jolgorio Telpeztate
The agave used to make this bold, earthy mezcal is harvested at 25 years of age, making just about as mature as the oldest Pappy Van Winkle. It can be found growing horizontally from the steep mountainsides.
3. Rey Campero Tepextate
If you were to smoke flowers and orange peels, they'd probably taste like this mezcal made from wild Tepextate agave, whose brand translates to "King of the Countryside."
4. Ilegal Mezcal Reposado
When he couldn't find a good mezcal for Café No Sé, the bar he owned in Guatemala, Ilegal Mezcal founder John Rexer began smuggling the stuff from Mexico (even dressing as a priest to get it across the border). It's since turned into a legal operation that's become a darling of bartenders.
5. Mezcal Vago Olla de Barro Tobala
Connoisseurs consider Tobalá the truffle of the agave world. This one's crafted entirely by hand by noted producer Tio Rey using a fermentation vat his grandfather carved from a pine tree a century ago.
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.