With a few exceptions, nearly all traditional mezcales are distilled twice, using only the maestro’s senses and experience to regulate the heat of the fire, to separate the puntas, corazones y colas (heads, hearts and tails), and to recombine them for the ideal balance of aromatics, flavor and ABV.
When it comes to traditional mezcal, there are three types of stills used:
Alambiques (alembic stills) are familiar to anyone with a basic knowledge of distillation. A fire heats a large metal pot containing ferment. As alcohol boils off, the vapors go up and across a lyne arm before condensing in water cooled coils. The vast majority of mezcales available in the US are made in alambiques.
Ollas de barro (clay pots) work similarly to alambiques. A large clay pot filled with ferment, is heated from a wood fire below. The alcohol vapors then rise into a second clay chamber, stacked above it before hitting a water-cooled condensing plate and dripping onto a funnel that drains out of the side.
Filipino stills are the most rugged and basic, the kind you would build on a deserted island. The ferment is heated in a metal pot, topped with an wooden chamber similar to a barrel, or even a hollowed out tree trunk, and capped with a metal or clay condensing plate.