As a regular reader, you know I have a fascination with the diversity of agaves from which mezcal can be made. From my-likely-to-be-highly-inaccurate accounting, I am somewhere in the mid-40’s of species, sub-species, or varieties of agave from which mezcal is currently produced.
I recently came across an academic research piece from the noted agave expert, Ana Valenzuela-Zapata, that said there were 42 species in Mexico from which mezcal is made. This is directionally where I came out on my last piece on this topic. (I got to 47 but I know there is some overlap). So while the exact number is hard to pin down, and is likely a moving target, my pursuit continues.
Here we go. Strap on your agave nerd hat! I have been working on this new piece for months. I put up my first post on this topic in May, but I have learned more since then and this list is better. Perfect? No. But better. You see, it is a difficult topic to tackle. Let’s start with the mezcal regulators.
Mezcal had its first modernized set of government regulations, called NORMA in 1994. A new NORMA was drawn up for mezcal in 1997 and revised in 2005. Under the new laws, all mezcal production must be certified in order to sell or export it. The NORMA lists only 5of the common varieties of agave from which mezcal can be made, such as espadin and tobala.(more…)