Mezcal is a beautiful spirit. Its nuance and variety are matched by few things in the spirit world, and a lot of that is thanks to the type of agave used to make it. Unlike tequila, which is made exclusively from blue Weber agave, there are dozens of different types of agave used to make mezcal—estimates are as high as 50 varieties. While you can’t find a mezcal made from every type of agave in the States, you can find enough varieties to be confused. So here are the sorts of flavors you can expect from many of the agaves you’re likely to encounter.
An important note: The flavor of any individual mezcal will also be influenced by the way it is produced and by the region in which the agave grows. That’s why some mezcals are incredibly smoky or chalky, for example. But these broad strokes are a good place to start.