Abocado: Flavored or infused mezcal. One of the classes of mezcal as defined by the current Norm.
Agave: Scientific name for the genus of succulents used to make mezcal. The term maguey is strongly preferred in Oaxaca. Many mezcaleros see the term agave as an outside imposition, and/or referring to the blue agave used in tequila.
Alambic: A copper-pot still used to make artesanal mezcal. Its evaporation chamber is separated from its condensation chamber by a gooseneck.
Añejo: One of the classes of mezcal as defined by the Norm. Aged in wood for over a year.
Autoclave: A stainless steel pressure cooker that is permitted for producing the category “mezcal,” per the Norm.
Bagazo: Agave fiber left over after milling, fermentation, and distillation. It may be used to insulate the hot rocks of the pit oven, and to seal joints on clay-pot stills.
Blanco: One of the classes of mezcal as defined by the Norm. White mezcal, receiving no treatment after distillation. Also called joven.
Capón: Maguey whose flower stalk (quiote) has been severed (capado). Maguey capón is prized for its high sugar content and strong flavor.
Carrizo: A type of endemic bamboo, used as conduit in clay-pot distillation. Also used as a venecia to measure alcohol content.
Colas: “Tails” of distillation. Low in ethanol and high in methanol, they are commonly used to adjust the final alcohol content of mezcal.
Común: Liquid condensed from the first distillation of maguey juice. When re-distilled, it becomes mezcal. See also “shishe” and “ordinario.”
Crema (de mezcal): Sweetened, flavored drink made with mezcal.
Denomination of Origin (DO): Also known as “Appellation of Origin.” Status defining a product as exclusive to a particular country. The Denomination of Origin for Mezcal (DOM) defines mezcal as exclusively Mexican, and that it may be produced specified parts of the states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Zacatecas, San Luís Potosí, Tamaulipas, Durango and Puebla.
Diffusor: Machine used to extract juice from cooked maguey. Permitted for producing the category “mezcal,” per the Norm.
Ensamble: A mezcal made from two or more maguey varietals. The mixture occurs during fermentation. “Cold blends” (mixing different varieties of finished mezcal) are frowned upon. Some mezcaleros prefer the terms “blend” or “empalme.”
“Filipino” still: A simple still in which evaporation and distillation happen in a single chamber. So-called because of the possibility that the technology was introduced to Mexico by Filipinos in the sixteenth century.
Hijuelo: Rhizomes that grow from some maguey varietals. Clones of the parent plant, they are pulled up and re-planted in the spring.
Ingüixe: In some regions, refers to the very end of the tails of distillation. Not used for adjusting the final alcohol content of mezcal.
Ixtle: Maguey fiber.
Jícara: A gourd-like fruit cask used to measure, taste, and drink mezcal.
Joven: One of the classes of mezcal as defined by the Norm. White mezcal, receiving no treatment after distillation. Also called blanco, although joven is the traditional and preferred term.
Madurado en vidrio: “Matured in class.” One of the categories of mezcal as defined by the Norm.
Maguey: The preferred term for agave in Oaxaca. The Spanish conquistadores brought the word with them from Hispaniola.
Mazo: Large wooden mallet used for hand-mashing cooked maguey in ancestral processes.
Metl: Nahuátl word for “agave.” The word “mezcal” is derived from mewl ixcalli – “cooked agave.”
Minero: Mezcal from Santa Catarina Minas, Ocotlán, Oaxaca. Because of its excellent reputation, the term has been co-opted by some commercializers who claim any “joven” is a “minero.”
Molino (egipcio o chileno): The large stone wheel, pulled by a horse or mule to crush cooked agave in artesanal processes.
Norm: In this context, “the mezcal Norm”- NOM-070-SCFI-2016, Alcoholic Beverages- Mezcal- Specifications. The current Norm came into effect in 2017.
Ordinario: Liquid condensed from the first distillation of maguey juice. When re-distilled, it becomes mezcal. See also “común” and “shishe.”
Palenque: A mezcal distillery, often part of the mezcalero’s home or property.
Pechuga: Meaning “(poultry) breast,” a traditional mezcal style in which poultry, other meat, and/or local fruits and spices are present in the final distillation. Defined as the “Destilado con” class in the Norm.
Penca: Spiky leaf of the maguey.
Perlas: “Pearls” – the bubbles that form on the surface of mezcal between approximately 45% and 55% alcohol by volume. A point of pride and mark of authenticity for many mezcaleros.
Piña: “Pineapple” – common name for the maguey stem that is harvested and cooked in mezcal production.
Puntas: “Points” or heads of distillation. Flavorful and high in alcohol, they are commonly used to adjust the final alcohol content of mezcal. They are sometimes consumed on their own.
Quiote: The inflorescence (flower stalk) that some agaves grow upon reaching maturity.
Reposado: One of the classes of mezcal as defined by the Norm. Aged in wood for between two and 12 months.
Shishe / Xixe: Regional name for the liquid condensed from the first distillation of maguey juice. When re-distilled, it becomes mezcal. See also “común” and “ordinario.”
Smoke: A flavor element in mezcal resulting from the wood used in earthen pit ovens and heating stills. Its predominance or overabundance in mezcal is considered a flaw.
Tepache: In this context, fermented maguey juice ready to be distilled.
Venecia: A tube made from carrizo for siphoning mezcal and measuring its perlas. The act of doing so is the verb veneci