Mezcal is a classic Mexican spirit typically enjoyed on its own, unlike its cocktail-friendly cousin, Tequila. Mezcal is derived from the agave plant and aficionados claim it has a distinctly smoky taste as well as other more subtle flavors. The spirits industry typically classifies Tequila and Mezcal as two separate categories even though Tequila is derived from a specific variety of agave. Mezcal is seen as the more craft or artisan distillation of the agave plant compared to the high profile mass market production seen with Tequilas. Many craft distillers in Mexico produce as few as 700 bottles of Mezcal each year.
Source: WSJ, April 2017