I’ve lived in Oaxaca, photographing distilleries, for the past six years, which has given me a chance to see the great variety of production that goes into mezcal. Although there are wonderful maestros making this spirit in other Mexican states, Oaxaca is often cited as the heartland of the smoky spirit. From side-of-the-road operations to more formal production facilities, I have witnessed the industry’s evolution. It is an exciting and challenging time for young mezcaleros, entering their product into a competitive, international spirits market while learning to adhere to the rigorous certification regulations that are still evolving. As the category gets more popular in Mexico and abroad, there has been a push and pull between industrial growth and protecting the artisanal character of the liquor. Fortunately many brands and mezcaleros are keen to invest in creating a product that is sustainable, from recycling waste elements to planting more agave and preserving seeds. Follow along as I share scenes from the production process at Oaxacan distilleries, typically called palenques or fabricas de mezcal.