Most people assume that the Agave plant is a type of cactus, but it’s actually a sweet succulent that is related to the lilly family. The main difference between an agave and a cactus is that agave has leaves whereas a cactus does not.
Agave’s resilience is what makes it so powerful, growing with very little water in dry arid terrain. With hundreds of soft spines radiating out from it’s solid centre, the reproductive parts of the agave is protected and out of reach of animals that might want to feed on it. This allows the agave plant to collect and store energy in it’s heart, also known as the “Pina”, which means "pineapple" in spanish.
It takes around 20 years to flower, at which time the stalk grows up to 6 meters high so that the yellow flowers can bloom out of reach of wild animals. Agaves only flower once, set seed and then die. Plants that only flower once are called monocarpic. In the production of 100% Agave spirits, it is best to harvest the agave plant before it flowers, as this is when sugar levels are at their peak.
Apart from being used to make Mezcals, Tequilas and Karoo Agave Spirits, the agave plant is incredibly versatile. It has been used to feed farm animals in times of drought, as a source of paper (even currency), medicines, gritty soaps, shampoos, agave syups, rope (also known as sisal) and even surf boards.