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by Greg Rutkowski


What is Tobala Mezcal? Everything You Need To Know About Tobala Agave

by Greg Rutkowski

Tobala Mezcal Tobala Agave Mezcal For Life

by Greg Rutkowski

Tobala Agave Plant Used To Make Mezcal

What Is Tobala Mezcal?

Tobala mezcal is a coveted wild agave distillate produced from the tobala agave.

In order for the distillate to be called a mezcal, it needs to be made according to the denomination of origin for mezcal distillates.

Outside the denomination of origin for mezcal distillates, agave spirits made with tobala agave can be found using the name papalometl.

Tobala mezcal has historically been one of the few “single varietal distillates” available that do not include any other types of agave in the production.

This specific mezcal is known for its strong and complex flavors that are exciting to try and leave you wanting more. 

Bottles of tobala mezcal are harder to find in the United States than other mezcals that use espadin agave and is typically positioned as a more luxury mezcal.

This is because tobala is an agave that has a less abundant supply, typically grows in places trickier to harvest, has a lower yield than other agaves, and takes more work to produce. 

For raving mezcal enthusiasts, tobala mezcal is a fan favorite.

Due to its rarity and popularity, it commands higher price points than other agave distillates, especially espadin. 

Expect to pay more when you go to the store. Upwards of $100 for higher quality brands. 

It will be worth your while.

Tobala Agave Piñas Used To Make Tobala Mezcal

What Does Tobala Mezcal Taste & Smell Like?

All mezcals potentially can taste very different from each other whether you use the same agave or not. In general though, on the nose you will get mineral, earthy, and buttery.

On the pallet, expect strong notes of tropical fruit and spices. 

In general tobala mezcal has a very distinct flavor profile.

Its concentrated flavor contributes to its marketability and foothold in the marketplace as an alternative to espadin mezcals.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming you know exactly what tobala agave mezcal is and how it tastes if you’ve only tried one. 

Tobala can taste very different depending on a variety of factors.

The factors that can affect taste and smell are; process, the producer's hand, time of year, equipment used for distillation, and terroir; climate, elevation, weather, soil, etc.

Del Maguey Tobala

Del Maguey Tobala

The Del Maguey Tobala mezcal is perhaps the most famous expression of tobala.

It is made in the Oaxacan village of Santa María Albarradas on a tropical hillside. The spirit is crafted by maestro mezcaleros Don Rogelio Martinez Cruz and Leopoldino Miranda.

The fermentation is all natural and is distilled twice in copper alambique stills. Alcohol content clocks in at around 48% ABV.

Mezcal Vago Tobala

Mezcal Vago Tobala

Perhaps the second most famous mezcal is the Mezcal Vago Tobala.

This mezcal is distilled by maestro mezcalero Emigdio Jarquin Ramirez in a refrescadera still located in Miahuatlán, Oaxaca. 

Where Does Tobala Agave Get Its Name?

Tobala is pronounced (toe - bah - lah).

Just like most agaves, there are many different names depending on where you are in Mexico. 

Tobala agave is also known as Agave Patatorum as a more formal classification.

The name is Zapotec, which means “hat is in the land of rock and clay.”

Papalometl is a Nahuatl name that means “butterfly.”

Other colloquial names are Bili a Dob-be, Maguey, Yaulticuchl (Mixtec), and Maguey de Monte


What Does The Tobala Agave Look Like?

Tobala agave is one of the smallest agave species.

It is about eight times smaller than the espadin agave and can take hundreds of agave piñas to make a batch of tobala mezcal. 

The tobala agave has a unique appearance with wide leaves, or pencas, in the shape of a spade.

Another characteristic of the agave is its light red tips around the leaves.

Where Does The Tobala Agave Grow?

The tobala agave is a species of agave that is endemic to Mexico. It is mainly found in the states of Puebla and Oaxaca.

The tobala agave loves to grow in limestone soil between 1,300 and 2,400 meters in elevation in tropical forests, dry rocky climates, and transition zones according to the Agave Spirits Institute.

Because of where and how they grow, harvesting needs to be done in a very careful manner, by hand and donkey for transport.

How Long Does Tobala Agave Take To Reach Maturity?

The agave can reach maturity from 12 years old all the way up to 17 years old. However it has been witnessed that it can reach maturity in as little as 7 years conditions permitting.

One interesting fact is that this particular species of agave does not produce a hijuelo and can successfully reproduce by seeds and bulbils.  

Which Mezcal Producers / Brands Produce Single Varietal Tobala Mezcal Expressions?

  • Ánimas Tobalá
  • Cuentacuentos Tobala – Everardo Garcia Salvador
  • Leyendas Maguey Tobalá – Oaxaca
  • Maguey Melate Tobala w/ Apples – Maria Alicia Alva Sanchez
  • Todos Santos Mezcaleros Tobala
  • Gusto Historico Tobala – Ramo
  • 5 Sentidos Papalome
  • Esfuerzo Tobalá
  • Codigo 1530 Ancestral Papalomé
  • Salvadores Tobala
  • El Samaritano Tobala
  • 5 Sentidos Tobala – Atenogenes Garcia
  • Agua del Sol Tobala – Berta Vasquez
  • Luneta Tobala – Angelica Garcia Vazquez
  • Luneta Papalometl – Rodriguez
  • Mal de Amor Tobala
  • Dixeebe Tobala
  • Alipus XX San Miguel Aniversario – Don Felix Garcia
  • Mil Caminos Tobala
  • Acre Tobala
  • Alipus XX San Baltazar Aniversario – Don Cosme & Cirilo
  • Sacrificio Tobala
  • Alipus San Juan XX Aniversario – Rodolfo Juan Juárez
  • Macurichos Ancestral Tobala
  • Mezcalero No. 25
  • Amaras Logia Tobala
  • Cómplice Tobalá
  • Vago Tobala – Joel Barriga
  • Mezcalosfera Tobala – Don Ageo
  • Nosotros Mezcal
  • Viejo Indecente Tobala
  • Vamonos Riendo
  • Dos Hombres Tobala
  • Joyas Oaxaqueñas Tobala
  • 5 Sentidos Papalote – Delfino Tobón Mejia
  • OAX Original Tobalá
  • Creyente Tobala
  • Rezpiral Tobala with Frutas – Aureliano Hernandez
  • Sin Gusano Tobala – Sola de Vega
  • The Lost Explorer Tobala
  • Doña Vega Tobala
  • Sacapalabras Tobala
  • Maguey Melate Tobala – Abel Quiroz
  • Cinco Elementos Tobala
  • 5 Sentidos Tobala – Israel Palestino
  • El Rey Zapoteco Tobala
  • Siete Misterios Doba-Lá
  • Diaz Brothers Tobala
  • Rezpiral Tobala – Mario Vasquez
  • Carreño Tobala
  • La Jicarita Tobala
  • Maguey Melate Papalometl – David Rivera Herrera
  • Rezpiral Tobala – Berta Vasquez
  • Maguey Melate Tobala – Jaime Moreles Aquino
  • Cuish Tobala
  • Grand Artesanal Jean-Marc Tobala
  • Alipus San Juan XX Aniversario – Joel Antonio Cruz
  • Real Minero Largo, Tobala
  • Los Vecinos del Campo Tobala
  • Alipus Santa Ana XX Aniversario
  • Gul-Roo Tobala
  • Grulani Tobala
  • Palenqueros Tobaziche – Tobala
  • 5 Sentidos Pechuga de Papalote
  • Palenqueros Tobala
  • 5 Sentidos Sierra Negra-Tobala
  • Gente de Mezcal Tobala
  • Farolito Papalometl
  • 5 Sentidos Tobala – Alberto Martinez
  • Bozal Tobala
  • Riazuleño Contemporaneo
  • Banhez Tobala
  • Alipús San Luis del Río 2018
  • Espina Negra Tobala
  • Los Nahuales “Still Proof” Tobala
  • Convite Tobala
  • Palomo Tobala
  • Tio Pesca Tobala
  • Los Nahuales Special Edition No. 3
  • Mezcalero No. 21
  • Dos Jaimes Joven
  • Rey Campero Chato
  • Quiquiriqui Tobala
  • Vago Colorado Inaugural
  • Pluma Negra Tobala
  • Erstwhile Tobalá
  • Los Javis Tobala
  • Pescador de Sueños Tobala
  • Los Danzantes (Los Nahuales) Tobala
  • Corte Vetusto Tobala
  • Noble Coyote Tobala
  • Nacional 1931
  • Lalocura Tobala
  • El Mero Mero Tobala
  • Montelobos Tobala
  • El Yope Tobala
  • La Medida Tobala
  • Cruz de Fuego Tobala
  • Mala Idea Tobala
  • Sacacuento Tobala
  • La Nina del Mezcal Tobala
  • Scorpion Anejo Tobala
  • Scorpion Silver Tobala
  • Salvación Tobala
  • 5 Sentidos Papalometl
  • Leyenda Tobala (Puebla)
  • Mezcalero Special Bottling No. 3
  • Vago Tobala en Barro
  • Del Maguey San Pedro Taviche
  • Quiereme Mucho Tobala
  • Los Cuerudos Tobala
  • Siete Misterios Tobala
  • Nucano Tobala
  • Del Maguey Wild Papalome
  • Del Maguey San Pablo Ameyaltepec
  • Mezcalero No. 2
  • Derrumbes Oaxaca
  • Koch Tobala
  • Mezcalero No. 7
  • Mezcalero No. 8
  • Yuu Baal Tobala
  • Pierde Almas Tobala
  • Real Minero Tobala
  • El Jolgorio Tobala
  • Mezcalero No. 13
  • Mezcalero No. 1
  • Rey Campero Tobala
  • Wahaka Tobala
  • Vago Tobala – Aquilino Garcia Lopez
  • Vago Tobala – Emigdio Jarquin Ramirez
  • Tosba Tobala
  • Marca Negra Tobala
  • Gracias a Dios Tobala
  • Del Maguey Tobala
  • Bruxo No. 5 Tobala

How To Sip Your Tobala Mezcal?

For an all inclusive guide on how to taste your mezcal, click here.

In this article we covered end-to-end everything you need to do in order to maximize your tobala mezcal tasting experience. 

And you can check this out if you are looking for amazing mezcal drinkware from Oaxaca, Mexico.

Updated: 12/17/22


Greg Rutkowski, President Mezcal For Life

Greg Rutkowski, President of Mezcal For Life

Greg is a certified Agave Spirits Advisor and Mezcal Sommelier through the Agave Spirits Institute. He contributes to a number of agave spirits projects inside Mexico including Raicilla tours and also his agave spirits distillery in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco.


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