Liquor Laboratory

Maguey vs Agave: What’s the Difference? (2023 Updated)

Maguey vs Agave 

Last Updated on November 5, 2023 by Lydia Martin

Both are revered for their cultural significance and utilized in the production of traditional beverages like tequila and mezcal; maguey and agave are often confused by many novices. 

So to clear things up, our team did thorough research and in-depth investigation about the two succulents.

In this maguey vs agave comparison, let’s delve into the botanical differences, historical importance, and the diverse flavors they bring to the table. 

In-Depth Comparison of Agave vs Maguey 

Huge Agave Plant

Maguey and agave, both succulents native to Mexico, share similarities but also possess key distinctions. 

While agave refers to a specific genus of plants, maguey is a broader term encompassing various agave species. Maguey tends to have larger leaves, while agave leaves are typically more rigid.

“Rooted in tradition, Maguey and Agave spirits, nature’s essence distilled.” – Liquor Laboratory

Agave is known for its versatile use in tequila production, offering a smooth and sweet flavor profile, while maguey usually forms the base for mezcal, providing a smoky and robust taste. 

Read: Can You Eat Tequila Worm?

Main Differences 

Origin

Maguey and agave have their origins deeply rooted in Mexico. With its wide range of species, Maguey has been cultivated by indigenous communities for thousands of years. 

Conversely, Agave belongs to the Agavoideae family and is native to Mexico and the southwestern United States. 

Region/Location

Maguey and agave thrive in specific regions. Maguey is found throughout Mexico, with diverse species adapted to different climates and altitudes across the country. 

While also prevalent in Mexico, Agave extends its range into the southwestern United States (including the Caribbean). 

Both plants are deeply intertwined with the landscapes and ecosystems of their respective regions. 

Uses/Purpose

Maguey Plant

Maguey and agave serve distinct purposes and have varied uses. Maguey is renowned for its versatility, usually utilized for fiber production, medicinal purposes, and beverages. 

Agave, on the other hand, is primarily cultivated for the production of traditional Mexican beverages like tequila and mezcal. 

Each plant offers unique contributions to different industries and cultural practices.

Read: Agave vs Mezcal

Benefits

Maguey offers medicinal properties, with its leaves and sap used in traditional remedies. It also contributes to sustainable practices through its fiber and construction materials. 

Agave, known for its sweet nectar, is a source of energy and essential nutrients, and its cultivation supports local economies and traditional beverage production, like tequila and mezcal.

How They Taste 

Maguey and agave offer distinct flavors. Maguey offers sweet, fruity, or earthy notes with a more herbal or smoky profile. 

Agave, often characterized by its natural sweetness, ranges from floral and citrusy to honey-like, contributing to the unique taste profiles of tequila and mezcal [1]. 

As Mezcal Type

Pouring Tequila on a Glass

Agave and maguey play significant roles in mezcal production. While mezcal can be made from various agave species, maguey refers to the specific type of agave used in making mezcal. 

Maguey mezcal offers a distinct smoky and complex flavor profile, showcasing the rich heritage and craftsmanship associated with this traditional Mexican spirit. 

Price Point 

As mezcals, agave vs maguey’s price points can vary. Agave [2] mezcals are often more sought after and command higher prices due to their scarcity and unique flavors. 

Maguey mezcals, on the other hand, can offer a wider range of price points depending on factors such as species, production methods, and brand reputation. 

In short, maguey mezcals are more affordable than agave mezcals, with prices ranging from around $40 (or below) to $50 (or above). 

Do They Have Similarities? Harvesting Agave

Yes, maguey and agave share some similarities. Both are succulent plants native to Mexico and belong to the same botanical family. 

They have overlapping uses in producing traditional Mexican beverages such as mezcal and tequila. 

“Agave nectar is a good substitute for refined sugars. It has a relatively low glycaemic index, which means it doesn’t cause quick rises in blood sugar levels. It also has a nice, mild flavor.” – Yotam Ottolenghi, Chef

Additionally, both plants have cultural and historical significance in Mexico, being utilized for centuries by indigenous communities. 

Despite their differences, maguey and agave represent important aspects of Mexican heritage and play integral roles in various industries and traditions. 

FAQs 

Is mezcal made from agave or maguey?

Mezcal is made from maguey (in particular). Maguey is a specific type of agave used in the production of mezcal. 

The maguey plant is harvested, roasted, and fermented to create the distinctive spirit known as mezcal, which is deeply rooted in Mexican culture and traditions. 

Is agave also referred to as maguey?

Yes, agave is also referred to as maguey. Maguey is a broader term that encompasses various species of agave. 

In Mexico, the term “maguey” is commonly used to refer to different types of agave plants, particularly those used in the production of mezcal and other traditional Mexican products.

Final Verdict 

In this maguey vs agave comparison, it’s clear that both plants are closely related with shared cultural significance in Mexico. 

However, they have distinct uses, flavors, and applications, specifically in industries like beverage production. Maguey is key in mezcals while agave is essential in tequilas. 

While both plants can produce excellent traditional beverages, the best choice all boils down to personal preferences. If you’re like us seeking quality over price, agave is a better choice.  

References: 

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/mezcal 
  2. https://www.britannica.com/plant/Agave 

 

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