The word mezcal traditionally meant any alcoholic drink made from the agave plant. So technically speaking, tequila was considered a type of mezcal. But today, the word’s meaning is changing to mean a spirit made in a specific way from a variety of types of agave. The big difference in flavor profile—beyond factors like aging, yeast, and the agave varietal(s) used—is that in mezcal, agave hearts are charred, deeply roasted in pits called “palenques,” imparting a smokiness to the flavor spectrum that likens it to a peated Scotch. Except it’s so wonderfully different.