Every Mezcal Finalist From World Spirits Competition 2023
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Mezcal Mastery: Every Mezcal Finalist at the 2023 San Francisco World Spirits Competition

Mezcal Finalist

Del Maguey Minero, an old favorite selected as one of seven mezcal finalist winners at this year’s world spirits competition in San Francisco.

The San Francisco World Spirits Competition has once again descended on the alcohol industry.

First convened by the Tasting Alliance in 2000, the SFWSC has persisted for decades as the world’s largest spirits judging competition. This year, 65 judges from across the world tasted over 5,500 spirits ranging whiskeyrumgin, vodka and more in just three days.

Of the 26 mezcals that were awarded a Double Gold (representing unanimous praise from all judges), just seven were selected as finalists for the Best in Show awards to be held in June.

Below, we’ve done a quick rundown of the top-tier mezcal finalists from this year’s competition.

Salvadores Mezcal Artesanal, Mezcal Destilado con Elote (50.2% ABV)

Mezcal Finalist

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“Destilado con Elote,” which translates to “Distilled with Corn”, gives you an idea of the roasted vegetal notes at play within this complex sipper. During the making of an elote mezcal, toasted corn is typically added during 2nd distillation and removed before it has time to ferment, adding nuanced notes to the spirit without sacrificing its “100% agave” status.

Judges described Salavadores Mezcal Elote as “sweet, slightly drying, and fruity on the palate, featuring hints of tropical fruits and fresh citrus.”

Paquera Mezcal, Barril (46% ABV)

Mezcal Finalist

(Photo: Paquera Mezcal)

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Headquartered in Los Angeles and produced via co-op in San Miguel Ejutla, Oaxaca, Pauqera is a relatively new brand that exemplifies the increasing international appeal of once-niche agave spirits.

Distilled from 14-year-matured Barril agave and then roasted for six days with mesquite and juniper wood, this expression combines a smoke-forward flavor with notes of greenery, vanilla bean and lemon zest.

Ilegal Mezcal, 7 Year Añejo (41% ABV)

Mezcal Finalist

(Photo: Ilegal Mezcal)

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Ilegal Joven is one of the most popular mezcals on the market. But it wasn’t until this year that the brand debuted a 7-year French oak barrel-aged extra añejo, a true rarity within the industry.

Pairing a nose of apple dessert with flavors of dark chocolate and stewed fig, this expression could easily be mistaken for a whiskey if you tried it with your eyes closed — which, in the case of this year’s competition, might have been exactly the case.

Be warned, however, that all those years in the barrel rack up a hefty price tag. Ilegal Mezcal 7-year retails for $150.

Mal Bien, ‘White Tape’ Espadin  (45.5% ABV)

Mezcal Finalist

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Mal Bien operates as a curated collection of small-batch mezcal producers sourced throughout Mexico, each distilling with wildly different techniques and varietals. Of its huge range, “White Tape” Espadin has often been described as the brand’s gateway spirit.

Packed with hints of fruit, pepper, minerality and lingering smoke, “White Tape” Espadin has rightfully earned its status as a starter entry from one of the more intimidating brands on the market. Even better, it only costs $35.

Del Maguey, Minero Single Village Mezcal (50% ABV)

Mezcal Finalist

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Perhaps the single most recognizable mezcal brand in the United States, Del Maguey has released over 20 expressions since launching in 1995.

This year, judges showered praise on the ancestral-produced Del Maguey Minero. Brimming with sweet creamy flavors of grapefruit, honeydew, citrus and pepper, this is a mezcal that dials back the smoke in favor of clay and rich terroir.

We tried this bottling when it first released in 2016 and awarded it one of our highest review scores to date. SFWSC made a great pick.

Se Busca, Madrecuishe Artesanal (45% ABV)

Mezcal Finalist

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Distilled from 12-year-matured Madrecuishe agave in the town of San Juan del Rio, Oaxaca, Se Busca Madrecuishe is one of the more niche entries selected as a finalist this year.

Judges applauded the spirit for its “humus and compost” aroma, smoked meat flavors and lingering herbaceous finish. Of all the entries on this list, Se Busca Madrecuishe comes out most expensive at $159.

Mezcal Amaras, Logia Coyote (46% ABV)

Mezcal Finalist

(Photo: Mezcal Amaras)


Due to limited distribution and small-scale production, it can often prove difficult to track down a specific bottle of artisanal mezcal. That appears to be the case with Mezcal Amaras Logia Coyote because we can’t find a single thing written about it online.

What little we do know, however, sounds promising. Mezcal Amaras won four Double Gold medals in competition this year, more than any other mezcal brand submitted for entry. What’s more, this expression is almost certainly made with Coyote agave, a darkly sweet fan favorite among enthusiasts.

We look forward to seeing this bottle on liquor store shelves.

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Pedro Wolfe is the managing editor of Tequila Raiders. With several years of experience writing for the New York Daily News and the Foothills Business Daily under his belt, Pedro aims to combine quality reviews and recipes with incisive articles on the cutting edge of the tequila world. Pedro has traveled to the heartland of the spirits industry in Tequila, Mexico, and has conducted interviews with agave spirits veterans throughout Mexico, South Africa and California. Through this diverse approach, Tequila Raiders aims to celebrate not only tequila but the rich tapestry of agave spirits that spans mezcal, raicilla, bacanora, pulque and so much more.