There are around 200 species of agave in the world, 150 of which originated in Mexico. In Oaxaca, mezcaleros use 25 to 35 different species of the plant, merging the unique botanical profiles of each with the terroir of the village to create highly distinctive and complex flavour profiles.
After harvesting by hand the agave, the pina are cooked for several days in a large earthen pit lined with hot stones, then crushed, usually under the weight of a massive stone wheel drawn by a horse or burro. The crushed pina are transferred to small wooden fermentation vats where natural yeast converts the sugar to alcohol. After several days, the mezcalero will determine by sight, sound and smell that the fermented juices are ready for distillation. It is then transferred to traditional copper or clay alembiques or stills and heated over carefully controlled wood fires.