“It’s quite a laborious process, which begins with harvesting the plants – these can weigh 40kg each. Then, you have to extract the piña, or heart, by cutting off the plant's leaves and roots. The piñas are cooked for about three days in pit ovens, which are earthen mounds over pits of hot rocks. This underground roasting gives mezcal its intense and distinctive smoky flavour. Afterwards, it’s crushed and mashed traditionally using a stone wheel turned by a horse, then left to ferment in large vats or barrels with added water – this starts the fermentation process. The liquid is collected and distilled in either clay or copper pots which will further modify the flavour of the final product.
“The flavour can then be changed depending on the fermentation process; for example, a special recipe for Pechuga mezcal features cinnamon, apple, plums, cloves, and other spices, distilled through – wait for it – chicken, duck, or turkey breast. Other variations flavour the mash with cinnamon, pineapple slices, red bananas, and sugar, each imparting a particular character to the mezcal. Jalisco in Mexico is a famous mezcal town, but Oaxaca produces 90% of the country’s mezcal.” – Omar