Types of Agave Plants
What Are Magueyes?
The Mexican maguey plant (also called the agave — the terms are more or less interchangeable in casual conversation) can inspire visions of desert gardens or the many expressions of mezcal we proudly produce, among plenty of other possibilities.
Magueyes have edible flowers, which are a delicacy enjoyed across Mexico. Magueyes are also processed into agave syrup, rope fibers, and so many other products.
Historically, magueyes played a vital role in indigenous cultures across Mexico and extended into what is now the southwestern U.S. There’s no doubt this plant can multitask. Key foods, tools, construction materials, and much more all came from maguey leaves, stalks, and other parts of the plant.
The many varieties of agave may now be best known to an international audience as the source of beverages including mezcal, pulque, and tequila.
Mezcal and the Agave Plant
Mezcal and magueyes are inseparable. There’s simply no authentic way to make all of our mezcal expressions without magueyes playing the key role, from harvesting to distilling. Mezcal production depends on this hardy plant.
There are many types of agave for mezcal production. Keep reading to learn about the types of harvested agave we use to make our distinct mezcals.
Magueyes for Mezcal Production
A. inaequidens. This huge, wild agave, harvested at higher altitudes in the hills of Cotija, can exceed 2.0 meters in height. Its long, wider, pine-needle-green leaves are fewer in number than on other agaves, but hold more water, as does the piña. Thus, these massive plants have lower Brix and yields than other species of agave.
Wild A. cupreata (see below). Because this wild agave competes in nature with grass, brush, and trees, and frequently grows in more shade than when cultivated, it tends to be darker green in color. It is used to produce mezcal silvestre, made from noncultivated species of maguey.
(Coop pray AH tuh)
A. cupreata. Both wild and cultivated, and shorter but wider in size than other species, this type of agave takes up more space on the ground. Its wide, bright green leaves have copper-colored spines on the end and fold over, some say resembling a butterfly.
(Eh spa deen SEE yo)
A. augustifolia var. espadín (from espada, “sword,” for its leaf shape). A small espadín, the predominate agave in the state of Oaxaca, with long, narrow leaves. Currently classified as an A. Sp by the CRM (Consejo Regulador de Mezcal).
A. salmiana. Named for a German botanist, this agave has flared, thick, dark green leaves, and is known locally as verde (“green”). An agave known for producing aguamiel of which Pulque is produced.
(teh key LAW nuh)
A. tequilana. Also known as Weber’s blue agave (named for an Austrian botanist), this mezcal agave species has three- to four-foot-long, narrow, blue-grey hued leaves, similar to A. augustifolia var. espadín, the primary agave of Oaxaca.
(MAWN so suh WHAW yo)
A. sp. (unspecified agave). Cultivated around Jiquilpan and Sahuayo, north of Cotija, this agave is locally known as cenizo (“ash”) for the grayish tone of its leaves and chato for a unique wider point in its penca.
Tall, up to 2.3 meters, it has “sword-like” or “spady” leaves similar to A. tequilana or A. augustifloria var. espadín. Its piñas tend to be large in size and weight.
Put Your Knowledge of Magueyes to Good Use
Now that you’re a little more familiar with the maguey plant, you can make a more informed decision about your mezcal.
Check out our many expressions to find the one that suits you best: Shop La Luna Mezcal!