We climbed the cobblestone streets of yesterday last week with Baga with the help of guildsomm user, Hannah Williams(thanks for the awesome video!), Dustin Toshiyuki and Jeff Turok.
This week: Agave varieties used for Mezcal production
Name 4 and describe their typical character
Agave Espadín (Agave angustifolia), makes up around 90% of Mezcal production, and is the genetic parent of the A. tequilana (weber blue) species that is used for tequila. It is both lightly tropical and floral, and serves as the standard-bearer of Agaves.
Then we have some wilder, harder to cultivate, and generally more complex varieties, which include Agave Tepextate, Agave Madrecuixe, and Agave Paplometl. Tepextate is known to be tropical, floral, and spicy, Madrecuixe leans more towards the vegetal and herbaceous end of the spectrum, and Paplometl has a rustic earthiness and meaty quality going on.
The Vago Mezcals are my favorite for tasting through the various Agaves, and isolating the unique flavors of each variety!
A couple others in addition to those described by Hannah:
Agave Arroqueño is a genetic parent of Espadín and has a similar flavor profile but more powerful fruit character of citrus, melon and cantaloupe, with some chocolate, cheesy, and vegetal notes.
Agave Tobalá grows in the wild at high elevations in the shade of oak trees (like truffles), and is much smaller than other agave plants. It is sweeter and fruity with tropical and spice notes such as mango and cinnamon.
Agave Karwinskii Includes the sub-species of Barril, Madrecuixe, and Cuixe, and is the most physically distinct of all the agave species. Unlike most agave plants which look like giant pineapples, with only the piña sourced, the Karwinskii species grows a vertical stalk and a skinnier vertical piña, and both the stalk and piña are harvested together for distilling.
Excellent info Michael. Does anyone have photos of these?
The Del Maguey web site has some good photos of the different species, such as Madrecuixe (http://delmaguey.com/madrecuixe/), Barril (http://delmaguey.com/barril/), Tepextate (http://delmaguey.com/tepextate/), and Tobala (http://delmaguey.com/tobala/).
This Eater story has some good photos too, especially showing the long vertical stalk of Agave Karwinskii (not sure which sub-species): www.eater.com/.../understanding-mezcal-and-its-amazing-ascent
Mexicano also called Dobadan can take 10-12 years to mature and has a delicate, floral and honey-like flavor.
Agave Tequilana, famous for Tequila is also used in Mezcal production and is a good representation of Tequila before the industry became heavily commercialized. Del Maguey makes one named San Luis Del Rio Azul.
Low yielding and rarely made Alto can be quite funky with cheese aromas.
Another low yielding variety, Salmiana can show chili pepper notes and green celery flavors. It's large, sometimes called the "green giant" and can take 25 years to reach maturity.