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Mezcal (also: Mescal or Meskal) is a spirit distilled from mash made out of the steamed hearts of various species of agaves. The word mezcal comes from the Aztec language, the Nahuatl, and means "cooked agave": mezcalli from metl = agave, ixcalli = cooked. Historically, mezcal is the general term for all kinds of agave spirits made in Mexico. Since 1994 however, there is a protected denomination of origin (denominación de orígen) for Mezcal.

Traditionally agave spirits are made from locally available agaves with varying techniques and named differently from region to region. Tequila from Jalisco is the most widely known mezcal, commercialized under the name "Vino Mezcal de Tequila" (Mezcal wine from Tequila). Popular since the 1880s in Mexican mining towns, the name Tequila persisted.

Other agave spirits are: Bacanora from Sonora; Raicilla, around Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco; Tuxca, around Tuxcacuesco, Jalisco; Comiteco, around Comitán, Chiapas; Sotol from Chihuahua (attributed to the family of Mezcales though not made from agaves, but from Dasylirion-species).

The Mexican standard NOM-070-SCFI-1994 regulates the production of Mezcal and implies the denomination of origin, which limits the production of agave spirits to be called Mezcal to the following Mexican states: Oaxaca, Guerrero, Durango, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, Guanajuato und Tamaulipas.

Tequila can be called Mezcal accordingly, but not all Mezcal is Tequila. And that´s a good thing, because industrial shortcuts have made Tequila a mediocre product over the last 100 years, while Mezcal-production has kept its handcrafted character at a high level. Note: Mezcal is not Tequila with a worm.