Speaking to BeverageDaily.com at InterBev 2012 in Las Vegas, Favila explained that even before the Spanish arrived in Mexico, native Indians fermented the local agave crop to create pulque, which then became mezcal.
But unlike its more famous son tequila, the forefather has lagged behind in the shadows – often made on a small-scale basis – and still awaits global category stardom. But could its hour be nigh?
The spirit differs from tequila in that it can be made from a number of different agave species, whereas tequila – distilled mainly in Jalisco state – is only made from the blue weber agave species.
Mezcal is usually only distilled once, while tequila is double distilled. Although both drinks have a similar alcoholic content, Mezcal tends to have a stronger, smokier flavor.
Flavor sophistication route
Asked about growing interest in mezcal among the young in Mexico – native tequila brands are taking the ‘flavor sophistication’ route to appeal to women and young adults, Favila said:
“We started seeing this trend when some of our finer brands started appearing. Now we have a collection of fine, smooth, very tasty mezcals that have been filtered naturally…that suit the palette.”
“From the east coast to the west coast we see a resurgence in the awareness of mezcal…we see growth potential from New York to San Francisco and countrywide,” Favila adds.
Nonetheless, Favila warned that Mexico faced a period of scarcity for its in-demand agave crop, which meant that some brands could suffer in the near future.
Euromonitor International data from 2011 – which includes tequila and mezcal within one category – sites 46% of global volume sales for the spirits in the States and 40% in Mexico.