Ancestral is a term used in the context of Mezcal production. To understand what it means, you must first gain some broader context on how the spirit is regulated. Certified Mezcal is defined and classified by a Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM). All certified mezcal is 100% agave and no other sugar source may be added during fermentation.
The NOM establishes three categories of mezcal, (which are then broken down further into six classes). One of these is Ancestral, with the other being just Mezcal, and Artisanal Mezcal. In our opinion, as the word ‘Ancestral’ implies, it is the most old-school and most hardcore sub-category of them all.
To be certified as an Ancestral Mezcal, the agave must be pit-cooked and mallet-crushed or stone-milled. Distillation must occur using clay pots, with the still head made from either clay or wood - with stainless steel strictly prohibited. If you want the intense Mezcal flavours, look for the term on the label as it’s most likely to meet your criteria.