Although mezcal is considered by many to be synonymous with “smoky,” a handful of new bottlings showcase the agave spirit’s more delicate side. In the vein of Fidencio’s “sin humo” release from a couple of years back, the bottlings below offer grassy, herbal, floral and mineral notes, generally unobscured by heavy smoke (although some do have a modest amount).
Packaged in a dramatic black bottle and bottled at a higher 86 proof, this “entry level” bottling ($39, 43 percent ABV) is intended for cocktail mixing. Made entirely from espadín, this approachable mezcal has a vegetal nose and a touch of wet-slate minerality, plus a jalapeño peppery finish.
2. Creyente Mezcal Joven
Made from a blend of two 100 percent espadín agave mezcals from two Oaxaca regions, the end result of this mezcal ($50, 40 percent ABV) is a mix of zesty and floral notes, layered with honey and a subtle puff of smoke on the mineral-y finish. As for that creature on the label? It’s a mythical hybrid creature that is part antelope, part jaguar and part golden eagle.
This limited-edition “sipping” mezcal ($75, 40 percent ABV) is made by a ninth-generation master distiller from a blend of three agave varieties (espadín, tobaziche and Mexicano. Look for a lush roasted agave note finishing with restrained smokiness at the end.
If you’re not familiar with the pechuga style of mezcal , it involves distilling the spirit with a raw chicken breast dangling in the still (no kidding!), along with fruits and grains. This lip-smacking version ($170, 51.7 percent ABV) is predictably savory, with bold mouth-coating flavors that extend to honey, pineapple and a raw, rubberlike note that’s characteristic of many mezcals. Each sip finishes long, accented by light smokiness and cayenne heat.
This single-varietal mezcal ($60, 48 percent ABV) has a very bright, vegetal scent that suggests fresh bell pepper and fresh basil. Austin company Heavy Métl (métl is the Aztec word for “agave”) imports this bottle (as well as Real Minero). This mezcal is complex and lip-smacking, finishing with a flicker of cayenne and an intriguingly savory-smoky exit.
New to the U.S. market as of May 2015, this is a blended mezcal ($65, 48 percent ABV) made with madre cuishe and espadín agave. Positioned by the producer as “agave-forward,” rather than smoky, look for a dried-herb nose that suggests oregano, lavender and honey, and a light palate with a floral hint and a crisp, drying finish with a whisper of bitter grapefruit peel.