Top 53 Octopus Tattoo Ideas [2021 Inspiration Guide]
Chances are you already know this underwater sea monster has eight sucker-bearing arms, but did you know it can camouflage itself for defense?
When it comes to the octopus, Greek mythology has often viewed it as a symbol of Medusa’s severed head.
It’s break, the tongue, while its tentacles the snakes. Yet, it makes sense, when you consider that the octopus also has two eyes like humans too.
However, what makes the octopus truly unique aside form it’s suction cup like tentacles is it’s highly adaptive CNS which can mimic surroundings and camouflage itself. Not to mention, when injured or under attack, it will detach a limb in order to misdirect its predators.
In a sense, you can say this represents how we must cut loose excessive baggage from our lives in order to move forward.
Another unique characteristic of the legendary sea monster is that it also has a soft saclike body which makes it extremely flexible and agile. It symbolizes the idea of grace even in times without structure or order.
To help you come up with some ink ideas, I’m going to share with you a collection of the top 60 best octopus tattoos for men. From the giants the Kraken once depicted off the coast of Norway and Greenland to the ancient sailor tales of ships being attacked.
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Octopus Tattoo Ideas
This octopus arm sleeve is a brilliant example of classical black and gray tattooing. The detail sketching is tremendous, allowing the piece to create and depict numerous black line and gray scale applications. The realism of bumps, tentacles, siphon and suckers is clean and effective. The patches of negative space help add nuance to both the head of the beast and shade elements of the impressively etched galleon above it.
Love this neo traditional take on an American classic tattoo. The bright, vivid use of blue and red color is epic, working well in opposition to the stylized graffiti like script. Again, the clever use of negative space fashions balance and subtly expand the shading effects throughout the body art, while the eye itself is a cool color effect.
This blue ring Octopus tattoo is unfinished but when complete will look fantastic. The colorful realism of the creature will be amplified by completing the thicker black outlines. This will provide clarity in the work and help focus the ancillary technical elements such as suckers and skin markings.
A killer black line feature. It’s spare, but looks fresh on the skin through effective mini shade effects of hatches, hashes, and hybrid dot work shading. I also like the placement on the inner bicep, which spreads across the skin and allows the creation of a broader octopus tattoo. The thick, black slash of the eye is also an effective small detail.
The single tribal piece of negative space in the center of this brilliant Octoskull combination is superb. It’s contrast effect against the brilliant fill colors and gray alt fill pattern stands out stylishly. The rest of the tattoo has an amazing array of detail found in the 50+ best tattoo ideas. Both skull and creature have been cleverly etched in the realist style.
Wow. I dig the different patterns creating vibrant skin of this lunging stylized blue ring Octopus. The coursing tentacles heading across the subject’s chest are a wicked, vine like use of detail, with sweet pink suckers adding alternative shape. The subtle combination of soft gray scale shading and negative space is well done – allowing the color palette to pop off the skin.
An epic, absurdist line tattoo. The artist has skilfully shown off an array of different technical fill styles to map out an elegant and busy masterwork of sketch tattooing. The lines and hashes versus the suckers on tentacles. The hybrid dotwork shading against crisp horizontal black line in the spacesuit. The flat black fill of the astronaut’s helmet against the squinting empty eye of the sea creature. It’s a kick ass depiction of top quality, painstaking detail.
This is a confusing Japanese style blue ring octopus tattoo. The snakeskin take on the beast’s skin is a cool effect, however the image as a whole lacks clarity and definition. From a delivery perspective, a bigger eye, more crisp facial detail and a clearer alternate fill colour would’ve helped create nuance in the art work.
This is an innovative split-screen tattoo combining animal realism and classical Greek application. The opposing images are different in color and shade but have been inscribed in a fashion that meshes effectively. I particularly like how the various negative space effects transition across both parts, such as the head of the creature and alt fill of the Greek God Poseidon’s beard.
Wow! An intricate, Nat Geo foldout style full back octopus tattoo with an amazing coral reef fill effect playing off the orange central beast. There’s an astounding amount of time consuming detail threaded through the piece, whether it’s nodular suckers, bubbling skin, or funky chunks of coral peeking through. The blue ocean color works as bright, vivid fill in transition to thicken and frame the main parts of the tattoo.
A solid but unspectacular looking octopus piece featuring killer hybrid dotwork to shade the sea creature. It’s a clever depiction of difficult technique casual observers may not notice. The curve and curl of tentacles is also effective, fashioning opportunities for the black line to stand out.
Nice. This is a mean looking octopus. American Traditional effects underpin it’s compact delivery, while the marble type globes of tiara crosswork suckers and trumpet like siphon are unique technical applications.
Another octopus tattoo remixing American Traditional style in execution. Utilizing a human eye effect is a gamble that paid off, although the big nasty looks like it has an allergic condition judging by the redness around the orb. The length and breadth of the piece is suitable, as the old school ship faces being crushed by the octopus tentacles.
The technical effects in this sea creature are clean and sharp. It fashions the tattoo into fresh, vibrant body art with cleanly inscribed color fill and strong lines. Love how the shading inspires comparison to the body armor of a seahorse.
You’ll struggle to find a cleaner black and gray animal tattoo. It’s etched with an almost cartoon like larger than life mentality. The suckers look strong, bubbling at the bottom of a crisply delivered head and body shaped by light shade and negative space. The Japanese style fills at the top – and neg space curve of seaweed – give the tattoo a fully fleshed out, well balanced aspect.
A heavy duty, busy octopus calf tattoo (they are almost always orange, was there a discount on this color ink?), again using Irezumi elements to help scale the art work. This piece lacks the clarity of some others in this piece, but the age of the work in this image may be a factor – this piece was completed a long time ago. One area i’d touch up is the beast’s eyes – they could do with some bright yellow or burnished gold fills to make them stand out in the image center.
This tattoo carries an epic Jules Verne 20000 Leagues Under the Sea Vibe. I like how the captain’s stern visage and fresh detailed pipe hand mix with the realistic aquatic skin shade effects of the octopus. The artist has cleverly manipulated the space available to create a beastly inner arm art work of style and elegance.
This is killer chest ink. The octopus is essentially a mix of geometric concepts fleshed out with sharp lines and fine black ink fills to create an almost tribal tattoo. Love the head and mantle (globe bit) filled with negative space circles surrounded by black fill. The artist has shown a superb sense of technique and style within a simple black delivery.
Another busy neo traditional octopus upper arm sleeve. It’s colorful and vivid, but somewhat confusing due to the odd choice of eye ink and lack of clearly defined facial features. The traditional anchor part of the tattoo is well done, serving to break up the creature’s colorful chaos with gray ink and smooth rope effects.
A brilliantly inscribed thigh tattoo. With a huge bit of space to work with the artist has cleverly combined the ship with alternate fill colors (dig that bright green seawater) while allowing the massive sea creature to shimmy up from the depths and prepare to wreck it. The deft shade sails create excellent contrast against the other colors and show off the brilliant pattern of the boat. Working outward with color from the central negative space fashions a unique style of octopus. The tentacle’s curvature and alternative ridge lines complement the beast’s shape as well.
The bright, bubbling water is a real highlight of this lower forearm tattoo. Where it falls down is in the lack of defined outline. If I was the subject, a future trip to the tattoo chair would result in a bunch of fine black line additions to make the piece clearer, and i’d also add alternate shade effect to the suckers in order to give them some pop.
There’s great technical parts of this octopus ink – the neg space and line work looks fresh – however the eye is small and weak in comparing to the rest of the tattoo. The eyes, and the dark shading in general can be improved upon with white ink highlights.
This octopus tattoo has a tremendously unique – for this type of body art – alternating sharpie fill scribble and negative space to catch the eye with tentacle shading. Love how the head starts above shoulder to dominate the ship, and works down from there with strong flow and curves.
This octopus looks like it has come from a genetic experiment that gave it an elephants textured skin and a similar looking head. The concept is superb, however the abstract delivery gets in the way. Too many parts of the tattoo looking unfinished or unfocused and could do with stronger definition. A greater use of flair color filling could also help to promote the avant garde pattern effect yet still flesh out the art work.
Wooooo, this ink is hectic – the resultant hair cut not so much. This subject is not messing around, with a bad ass Skulltopus tagged onto the back of his head. The image is an absolute cracking piece of work with cleverly etched tentacles snaking in and out from the eye sockets of a bang on skull. I can dig this bold, brilliant concept and execution.
Love the curvature of this octopus tattoo. It fashions a wonderful sense of shape and provides the opportunity for intense, heavy black fuzz shading technique to flow along the length of the piece. I like the additional black blobs throughout, they complement the charcoal shade palette.
A massive thigh and upper leg blue ring octopus tattoo. It would have been a time consuming and exhausting piece to deliver for both artist and subject. The contrasting sky blue pattern of the tentacles and Japanese style wave elements are nicely etched, however the piece is let down by the under cooked negative space suckers. It has a real need to have these suckers either lined more effectively – they’re currently just circles – or have added shade and flavor thrown in to give the section and entire tattoo real pop.
There’s never much downside to ships being crushed by a giant sea creature. This full back piece represents an absolute masterclass on crafting a classical black and gray wrecking crew tattoo. Look at it, soak it in. Because it’s almost flawless – there’s realism, fine line tattooing, negative space elements, concept waves and sky shadow, plus three major images – beast, ship, and lighthouse – that complement each other with only their color being the same. This is a feature portfolio piece of art.
This salmon colored octopus stands out despite the artist’s choice not to use fine black outline, a gamble which pays off in the nuance of vivid color shades. Love how the subtle blue back fill opposes the almost delicate creature and allows it to shine.
Cool pulp fiction novel style delivery of heavy black fuzz shading. The tattoo is well placed on the shoulder/arm join which allows the tentacles to loop and twist in multiple directions. The sole change i’d make to this piece would be a bright eye fill in gold or yellow to create a vivid alternative to the overall heavy effect.
Wow! Full color realism and a graduating complete sleeve tattoo etched with masterful precision. It looks like a still image from the next Sharknado movie, where a Great White teams with a giant octopus to take down a rogue soviet freighter cruising toward San Francisco intent on plunder and war. The color applications in this work are next level, matching the bright blue of Gatorade with perfectly inscribed feature animals and machinery. Love the fiery sky too, absolutely blowing up the top of the image in opposition to the sensible steel work gray of the freighter. This body art is the ultimate in color tattoo.
This is a clever black and gray chest/upper arm combination tattoo. The massive arm tentacles mesh beautifully with the skull as they play well on shape and placement, stretching outward from the armpit with effective snaking patterns. The folds of skin and suckers look tremendous through mixing up gray scale shading and clever line work.
This alternative octopus is tremendous. The random use of scratch lines, cross and hatches are wonderful alternative fill giving the creature verve and individuality. I’m not sure about the spiral etching on the far right though. While it’s likely a deliberate technical choice the, black sharpie type fill is choppy, messy, and looks ugly when compared to the main octopus image.
Love the color choices in this blue ringed sea creature. The contrasting bronze of the octopus skin matches up perfectly with the flat blue effect. The artist’s choice to fashion and electric blue style in the on-skin blue is clever use of bright ink highlight.
Hahaha. This cheeky chap is quite the gentleman octopus. The use of top hat, monocle and mustache adds a layer of humor to the realism of the beast, which is filled with dark, compact shadow detail for the tentacles and more lightly inscribed dotwork technique for the body. All he’s missing is a restorative cup of tea (or eight).
A busy neo traditional octopus pumping bright colors into the traditional features of negative space and crisp black outlines. For me the boat is the highlight, it’s proud, stern and unyielding against the chaos of the storm above and sea creature below.
Another stupendous chest tattoo using fine details in fashioning a flowing, writhing octopus. The curves of bold line tentacles are counterbalanced by dark gray shading and small yet intricate groups of suckers, while the head and mantle are realistic in shape and pattern.
While the photograph’s angle doesn’t help this octopus ink lacks the style and subtlety of other eight legged sea monsters in this list. There’s cool details like the suckers and tattoo placement, however the color choice of black is a miss. The work is unable to generate enough contrast between the brown, and black outline. A brighter choice of color and additional black line details would have helped this body art tremendously.
The shading and fill technique give this octopus chitinous armor like ants, wasps, or scorpions. I love it as concept in conjunction with the steampunk style head and eyes. Each section uses great shading and line work to pull off the intense, heavy effect of beast more machine than man. Also like the small pockets of air bubbles created with black fuzz shade and negative space to help scale out the tattoo.
It’s interesting that in a beautifully composed and brightly colored tattoo the most eye catching part of the octopus is the mix of negative space and black line ink at the center. The suckers are great. They’re simple and subtle in contrast to the slickly vivid red of the rest of the ink.
Okay, this is a horrifying sea monster but in the best possible way. It looks evil, fat and bloated, brought to life with a bilious shade of slime gray. It could be a cover up based on the older, shaded piece still shown at the bottom and framed within the lower tentacles.
This is a cracking side tattoo. The colorful blue and green octopus does a tremendous job balancing traditional Japanese themes with absurdist elements such as the infinity eyes. Love the transitional line work in the gray shaded water and white caps. The back shading fills behind the ship’s mast is also awesome, with the circles matching up well behind the line work stars.
Another cool 3D blue ring octopus tattoo, with the color fill of purple and pink a transcendent technical effect well supported by bright sky blue rings. It’s the main element of the piece, drawn with exceptional skill and subtlety.
A negative space central image can be risky to pull off in any tattoo, but it’s done with assurance in this octopus piece. It’s nuanced and technically brilliant – I love the small snatches of black shading and the whip like curving of the tentacles, with the simple suckers on the underside providing contrast to the vast negative space.
Octopus Tattoo FAQs
What does an octopus tattoo symbolize?
Many people get an octopus tattoo to remind themselves that through different situations in life, it’s often best to be flexible and use creativity and intelligence to solve problems.
The octopus’ striking appearance means it’s a mysterious and elusive creature, traits that can serve well in many of life’s instances and associates with intuition.
The octopus acts as a totemic guide for those who need motivation to try new things, stray from their normal paces of life, and to let go from routine and normality occasionally.
What does a kraken tattoo mean?
The kraken was an enormous sea monster said to live in the deep, swallowing unwary ships that passed too close to its watery lair.
The Kraken is a popular octopus-style motif for large scale new wave tattoos on the back, chest or in sleeve form, while classic black and gray tattoos of the mythical monster are also hugely popular.
Did you enjoy these octopus tattoo designs? Click on the links below for more awesome galleries of sea going creatures, and monsters of the deep:
Top 29 Best Watches Under $500 For Men
With cellphones so ubiquitous, your watch choice can be less about telling time and more about personal style. However, a watch is not ‘just’ a watch. For example, the vast majority are made for right-handed people, but a select few cater to the lefties among us. There is a wide range in functionality and size.
The wristwatch is also one of the few socially acceptable accessories for men, so why not have a small selection? If you’re not cashing a CEO’s paycheck just yet, here are the top 28 most handsome watches for men that retail for under $500.
Got a bigger budget? Then check out our guide to the best men’s watches under $1000 instead.
Top 29 Best Watches Under $500 For Men
1. Tommy Hilfiger Stainless Steel Men’s Watch
If you like the feel of a pliable, non-metal band but aren’t comfortable with genuine leather, this watch comes equipped with a handsome synthetic band. At 46mm in diameter, this watch is perfect for men of smaller stature, as it will not overpower your hand or make it look like you’re wearing your father’s watch. With bold Arabic numerals, a stainless steel case, and classic styling, this watch is an outstanding choice for an everyday watch and the man on a budget.
2. Nordgreen Pioneer – Black Dial
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Not everyone has an endless amount of cash to drop on a luxury timepiece. If you’re money-conscious but want something high-end, then why not consider the Nordgreen Pioneer.
An inspired take on a classic Chronograph, Nordgreen celebrates the Danish with what they call a timepiece “that captures the sustainable future.” Available in various dial colors from blue, black, and white. There’s even the choice of three case colors – gunmetal, silver, and rose gold. A perfect addition to the collection of any watch enthusiast.
3. Fossil Grant Brown Leather WatchCheck Price
This lovely offering by Fossil features slim Roman numeral hour markers and delicate cut-out hands. The casing is stainless steel and is water-resistant to 165 feet, making it a great dive watch. The band is made of supple, soft calfskin leather and uses a buckle closure.
Of course, this timepiece also comes with the generous 11-year warranty and it’s own fun tin. This watch oozes class and is great for nearly every occasion in your life.
4. Citizen Sport Stainless Steel Men’s Watch With Brown Leather Band
If you don’t want to deal with changing out a battery in a digital watch, this watch is powered by either natural or indoor lighting. The mineral crystal face and stainless steel case make this watch water-resistant to 330 feet, making it a great choice for swimmers and snorkelers.
Handsome and utilitarian, this is a great watch for everyday wear. It’s one of the best watches for men who are always on the go.
5. Fossil Men’s Machine Chronograph Silicone Watch
This watch was designed with the active man in mind. The knurled silicone band stands up to sweat and oils without issue, and the timepiece itself is water-resistant to 165 feet.
The patterned bezel and quality craftsmanship of the black dial is excellent, as is to be expected from a Fossil watch. It even comes in the iconic and collectible tin!
6. Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Watch
This men’s watch features Japanese quartz movement that charges itself indoors or out when exposed to light, making it a great choice for those who don’t want to change out the battery too often. The stitched canvas strap is soft against your skin and will wick away moisture, while the mineral crystal face stands up to the rigors of your everyday life.
Water-resistant to 330 feet, this dive watch is a classic and simple design you’ll be proud of for years to come.
7. Invicta Pro Diver Chronograph Men’s Watch
Another gorgeous offering by Invicta, this watch features a bold design with a slightly nautical feel to it. It will look at home whether you’re wearing a business suit or are going for a dive of less than 660 feet. This piece is also covered by a one-year warranty as a matter of course. The luminosity feature and magnified date window make it a great choice if you work or play in low light.
If you want something that looks like a Tag Heuer but without the luxury watch brand price tag, this is a good option!
8. Casio Edifice Multi-Function Men’s Watch
This watch has three sub-dials for 12 hour, 60 minute and 60-second displays, in addition to the standard time. It also features a fold-over, push-down clasp on the stainless strap, keeping it secure throughout your activities. If you’re looking for a classy timepiece that shrieks sophistication, this is a great choice.
9. Fossil Machine Three Hand Stainless Steel Men’s Watch
This quality watch is a chameleon piece. It looks at home as a dress watch riding below the cuff of your best suit, and it also looks great paired with jeans and a t-shirt. Backed by Fossil’s 11-year warranty as a matter of course and beautifully crafted, this smoke-colored piece is guaranteed to become the go-to accessory for nearly every occasion.
10. MVMT Watches Black Face Men’s Watch
If you like the look of a simple watch, this minimalist offering from MVMT is right up your alley. With just a plain black face, tick marks to denote the hours and a single date window, there is nothing overdone or extravagant about this design. The is understated and suited to the simple design. It’s definitely a classy, low-key piece for the budget-conscious.
11. Timex Weekender Watch
If you’re looking for a fun watch to pair with casual outfits, this is a great option. The band is blue and yellow woven nylon, and the face features both civilian and military timekeeping. An Indiglo night light is also included. This watch is water-resistant to 99 feet, meaning it can withstand splashes of water or exposure to rain but you won’t want to submerge it.
12. PUMA Ultrasize Black Sport Men’s Watch
Boasting a 50mm diameter, this piece is perfect for the large-framed man or one who likes to wear his accessories oversized. A true fashion statement, this sports watch comes in eight different colors schemes to match your favorite hues.
Do be aware, however, that the dial knob is configure for left-handed men!
13. Timex Easy Reader Men’s Watch
Another dress watch designed with the older gentleman in mind, this watch features a white dial with generously sized numerals that do not appear comical to the casual observer.
It’s also an excellent choice if you take your contacts out at night and still want to be able to check the time. With classic lines and a simple white face, the watch would not be out of place at any casual gathering. It comes with Timex’s one-year warranty at no additional charge.
14. Fossil Nate Men’s Chronograph Watch
For men who like a more gritty, industrial feel to their accessories, this Fossil watch is right on point. The bezel is gear-edged and the face is utilitarian black and gray. Water-resistant to 165 feet, this watch is a great choice if you like your adornments to be understated yet add visual interest.
It’s definitely a stand-out piece, for those who would take notice!
15. Timex Expedition Field Chronograph Men’s Watch
Featuring an indigo night light, tachymeter, a date window and a buckle closure, this watch is perfect for men who like to work or play outdoors. It is also water-resistant to 330 feet, making it a great choice for snorkeling or swimming.
You won’t want to wear it for diving, however. With classic, black styling and a genuine crystal face, this is a timepiece that will stand the test of time in both form and function.
16. Seiko 5 Automatic Stainless Steel Men’s Watch
This Seiko automatic watch has all the bells and whistles you need, but presents it all in a plain and strikingly attractive manner. It features a date window in either English or Spanish, sword-shaped hands, a sweeping second hand and a mineral dial window. This is a great option for the man on the go. The canvas strap can be removed and hand-washed if sweat or other odors become an issue.
This watch is not water-resistant, so you’ll only want to wear it when you won’t be popping by the pool for a swim!
17. Invicta Pro Diver Collection Silver-Tone Men’s Watch
For those who prefer an all-metal timepiece, the stainless steel Invicta fits the bill nicely. It has a similar aesthetic to a Tag Heuer watch, but at a more affordable price. Equipped with a unilateral bezel and removable links, the band can be customized to fit your wrist perfectly. The face is flame fusion crystal and features a magnifier to highlight the date window.
It’s also water-resistant to 660 feet. If you’re looking for a gorgeous watch that stands up to an active lifestyle, this is an excellent choice.
18. Seiko Men’s Adventure-Solar Classic Casual Watch
This Seiko watch derives its power from either natural or indoor light and can withstand water depths of up to 330 feet. The supple brown leather strap and timeless brushed steel give this piece an attractive look, and the alarm chronograph is easy to set.
If you’re looking for a watch that can serve as a backup for your wake-up call while traveling, stand up to the elements and look awesome, this casual wrist watch is a winner.
19. Nautica Men’s Stainless Steel Watch with Blue Resin Band
Featuring a plethora of options and a smart, snappy style, this a great casual watch with a eye-catching blue dial. The hardy resin band is adjustable, and the face is protected by a mineral window. Whether for work or play, this bold blue design is handsome and substantial on the wrist. It comes with Nautica’s five-year warranty at no additional charge.
20. Citizen Sport Men’s Stainless Steel Watch with Black Leather Band
The black, red and white face of this piece eschews the traditional two-tone color scheme so often employed in other watches, and the contrasting stitching on the band adds creative flair. It comes backed by Citizen’s five-year warranty and will compliment any casual outfit.
21. Alessi Tic15 Analog Display Analog Quartz Black Men’s Watch
Another not-quite-round offering on our list, the curved square casing of this piece gives it instant visual appeal. Sleek and clean, this unfussy design will be a compliment to almost any occasion. It has quartz movement and is water-resistant to 99 feet, making it a great choice for everyday wear.
22. Invicta 1517 I Force Collection Watch
Another on our list designed for left-handed men, this watch is something special. Water-resistant to 330 feet and featuring oversize stenciled numbers and a sub dial, this watch is great for any casual outfit. The cloth band is extremely durable and stands up to dirt, sweat and grime.
If you lead an active lifestyle, this watch will be right at home in your collection.
23. TRIWA Blue Steel Nevil Canvas Watch
This watch comes in a whopping 14 color variations, all of them beautiful. You may decide to add more than one to your collection!
Designed in Sweden, this watch features Japanese quartz movement, a stainless steel casing and a strap made from Tärnsjö organic leather. TRIWA, which stands for Transforming the Industry of Watches, believes in the artistry of fine jewelry and it shows in their product.
24. Victorinox Swiss Army Alliance Watch
Another fine dress watch from the makers of the Swiss Army knife, this watch is emblazoned with the internally recognized cross and shield emblem. It has no sub-dials, tachymeter or other add-ons to detract from its simple and appealing style.
This watch will be at home with all but the most formal of outfits and carries a two-year warranty.
25. Ingersoll Automatic Stainless Steel Bull Run Watch
Again, Ingersoll remakes the classics and brings them into the present day. With a highly polished stainless steel casing, two sub-dials, a date aperture and arrow-shaped hands, this quartz watch is beautiful.
The band features contrasting stitching on the fine-grain leather, adding depth and detail to the workmanship. This watch will compliment any casual occasion and can be relied upon for years to come.
26. Tissot Quickster Chronograph Black Leather Men’s Watch
Made with scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and Swiss automatic movement, this watch is a smart and utilitarian choice. If you’re looking for a solid Swiss watch that isn’t flashy, this is an excellent option. It’s also guaranteed for two years.
27. Seiko Sport Solar Men’s Beige Watch
Are you getting tired of squinting down at your watch or holding it closer and closer to your face? Don’t worry, we all get a bit nearsighted with age, especially over the age of 40.
If you’re not quite ready for reading glasses or a comically huge watch, this is a great choice from Seiko. The numerals, indices and luminous hands stand out in stark white against a black background, and the numerals are generous in size. It’s a perfect casual watch for the older gentleman.
28. Seiko Men’s 5 Watch Blue Canvas Band
This simple and affordable watch has a clean, crisp aesthetic to it and doesn’t bog down its design with a ton of bells and whistles. It’s time and date, end of.
If you want a watch for casual wear, this Seiko is a shoo-in. The band is forgiving and comfortable against your wrist, and it’s blue color will likely compliment your existing wardrobe. The price is also extremely affordable.
29. Tommy Hilfiger Men’s Stainless Steel Watch With Brown Leather Band
Featuring the Hilfiger logo at the three o’clock position, this wrist watch is a statement piece. It is a bright, shiny stainless steel work of art that you’ll be proud to wear at all but the most stuffy of workplaces. The calfskin leather band uses a buckle closure and the date window is beside the logo at three o’clock.
If you’re a fan of Tommy clothing, cologne or luggage, you can complete your look with this stunning accessory.
The 40 Essential Albums To Own on Vinyl
Putting together a list of the essential albums to own on vinyl is not only impossible, it’s hugely stressful. I’ve done at least 30 variations; adding albums, taking off others, rearranging bits and pieces, or changing my mind altogether and taking it from the top.
There are sure to be some controversial takes, and there’s a swath of genres, records, and artists who didn’t make the cut, but I’ve only got one set of ears, a personalized palate, and a tight deadline.
Before you take a look at the list, here are some rules: these are in no particular order, there are no live performances or compilations, no more than one appearance by an artist, and the album has to physically sound good on vinyl. I’ve made it this far, but now I need a drink and a lie down.
1. Paul Simon - Graceland (1986)
This is my favorite album. I remember dancing around the lounge room with a literal boom box, and a massive set of headphones listening to The Boy in the Bubble, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, and You Can Call Me Al, picturing the film clip with Chevy Chase.
Out of all of my father’s albums, Graceland is my favorite, both for its scope and its sheer enjoyment. Whether it’s the Ladysmith Black Mambazo Orchestra singing together perfectly, or the amazing South African session musicians involved in its creation, Graceland is a fantastic album and a must-own for any music lover.
2. Led Zeppelin - IV (1972)
Sprawling, decadent, and powerful, Led Zep’s untitled fourth studio album is their best. It features a short little ditty called Stairway to Heaven, the sexually charged Black Dog, Mordor LOTR–style The Battle of Never More, and epic Misty Mountain Hop.
Most superstar bands don’t have four songs as good as this in an entire career, let alone on one album. Now, please excuse me, I’ve got 7.5 minutes to kill listening to Stairway…
3. Nas - Illmatic (1994)
Nas was a 17 year old still in high school when his debut album Illmatic dropped. The record is widely considered one of the greatest rap albums of all time (it’s firmly in my top three) and was announced as one of the 2020 recordings selected for inclusion on the National Recording Registry.
It turned Nas into a star and brought attention back to the East Coast after the dominance of gangster rap in the West.
4. Michael Jackson - Thriller (1982)
You can’t make a list of essential vinyl albums without Michael Jackson, and Thriller is all killer, no filler. It’s disappointing the way things ended for the King of Pop, but Thriller reminds us that we were lucky to hear the brilliance of Michael Jackson.
There’s a reason it’s the greatest selling album of all time.
5. The Black Keys - Thickfreakness (2003)
This living, breathing behemoth from the Ohio two-piece brought hipsters out from their garages in droves. The pumping piston drums of Patrick Carbery – who laid the tracks down on an eight-track in 14 hours – are a yammering foil for singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach’s dirty lashes of the axe and pedals, while his lyrics scrounge around like he’s digging into the couch creases looking for loose change.
I saw the Black Keys live when touring this album – it was all sweat, beards, and beer. I swear I couldn’t hear shit except for Set You Free for a week after.
6. Sade - Diamond Life (1984)
Honestly, you could pick any of Sade’s six albums for this list, but for mine, it has to be their debut Diamond Life. Merging soul with R&B and jazz elements, it’s got a bit of everything that’s great about 80s music.
Smooth Operator and Hang On to Your Love are incredible compositions, with Sade Adu’s vocals completely mesmerizing.
7. Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (1966)
These days, you could release this cerebral Beach Boys album by saying: “There are goats on the cover,” and make a badass meme campaign.
Pet Sounds revolutionized recording music, although nobody in 1966 seemed happy to spend their money on it, given that it was vastly different from the 10 Beach Boys albums that came before.
It wasn’t until the UK got a hold of it that the production and sound engineering side of the Pet Sounds record got its due respect, and everyone realized the music was awesome too.
8. Marvin Gaye - What’s Going On (1971)
1971s What’s Going On is arguably the greatest album of all time from any genre. Rolling Stone has it at the top of their 500 Greatest Albums, and for good reason.
What’s Going On is a narrative concept album that tells the tale of a man’s return from Vietnam. If you’re unfamiliar with the brilliance, pain, and tragedy of Marvin Gaye, take 53 minutes out of your day to watch this documentary. It’s time well spent.
9. NWA - Straight Outta Compton (1988)
I scored this on cassette from my big brother when I was going into high school (on the other side of the 90-minute marvel was 2 Live Crew). A decade older than me, he didn’t say anything much about it except for, “Listen to this and don’t tell mum. Ever!”
Straight Outta Compton ushered in the gangsta rap era. Without NWA, the rap landscape would be very different; less realistic and raw, less creative, edgy, and honest. It certainly wouldn’t have been better.
10. David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
Bowie ushered in a new era of rock and pop fusion by creating different characters in his music and an amazing level of theatricality to his work.
Ziggy Stardust helped bridge the gap between the declining hippy culture and stadium rock with a burgeoning live music scene where the show was just as important as the music.
11. Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
She might have gone off the rails, but Lauryn Hill is still one of the greatest female vocalists I’ve had the pleasure of hearing live. While that’s highly unlikely to happen anytime soon, I can always put this album on and remember how talented she is.
A melting pot of hip-hop, soul, R&B, and pop, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is a phenomenal record from a once-in-a-generation artist.
12. Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde (1966)
Not being able to incorporate a greatest hits compilation album is hardest here. Folk legend, visual artist, and bourbon bottler Bob Dylan is not only brilliant but also prolific.
Any of 10 studio, live, or compilation albums could take this space, but for pure end-to-end quality, his seventh studio album Blonde on Blonde may be the finest.
13. Outkast - Stankonia (2000)
“They are threateningly talented individuals” – Cee Lo Green
Outkast’s Stankonia took rap music and threw out the rule book. They turned hip-hop into something interplanetary (and the South into a stronghold), where freedom of expression, musical innovation, and pure enjoyment melded with traditional rap bangers and everyday struggles.
14. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories (2012)
I’m not much of a dance music guy, but Daft Punk is cool, whether the helmets are on or not. If you throw this on the Technics (careful, it’s hard to get in non-collectible form), things are going pretty well.
Twan’s cool vlog about the making of Random Access Memories – Daft Punk’s most critically acclaimed album recorded over the course of four years – is well worth a watch for anyone who wants to know more about this chart-topping album that gave us the massive hit Get Lucky.
15. Miles Davis - Kind of Blue (1959)
Great jazz music is made for being enjoyed on vinyl, and Kind of Blue is the greatest of jazz music. Put it on your player, settle in, and let Miles take you somewhere else for a while.
Check out the making of this classic album by watching this fantastic documentary (apologies for Bill Cosby’s appearance).
16. Radiohead - Kid A (2000)
I’m going to come clean: I AM NOT a Radiohead guy. I can appreciate their music, its complexity, skill, and vision. But it’s just not my thing. I’m sorry.
This clip explains brilliantly why Kid A is so vital and so vivid for many music fans, something I could not articulate.
17. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
This one might be a little controversial, but this is Kanye at his artistic peak. Coming off the poor reception of 808s & Heartbreak (an underrated album and my second favorite Kanye record) and dealing with problems in his personal life, Kanye hit studios across the world and created a masterpiece.
All of the Lights. POWER. Runaway. Blame Game. Monster. This album is not only chock full of hits but features some of the best rap verses Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross have ever spit.
This is a reminder of a time when Kanye was the center of the world for his musical abilities and not his private life.
18. Bjork - Post (1995)
Another choice some might not agree with, but Post is an exceptional album from Icelandic goddess Bjork.
It’s hard to describe what this album sounds like, but if you imagine every genre of music baked in a cake and topped with Bjork’s fascinating soprano as the icing, then you have Post.
While known for spawning the hit single It’s Oh So Quiet, there is much more to this album.
19. Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang 36 Chambers (1993)
The debut studio album from the New York Collective is a stone-cold classic. Wu-Tang Clan announced themselves with gangsta rap’s signature braggadocio, plus a fusion of spare beats from the RZA threaded with Kung Fu samples.
Nine distinctly different voices and perspectives from inner-city New York can be heard, all with amazing lyrical flow and a willingness to experiment with beats, tempo, and personality.
The album gave birth to the highest-grossing hip-hop group of all time and ushered in an era of merchandise, film, and music production that still sees the group active and innovating today.
20. Fleetwood Mac - Rumours (1977)
The Rumours album from Fleetwood Mac showed that copious amounts of drugs, sex, and alcohol, and relationship breakdowns (there were two couples in the group who both split before recording), could be great for creativity.
Rumours sold more than 10 million copies in the first month alone, while singles Go Your Own Way, Dreams, You Make Loving Fun, and Don’t Stop all made the US top 10 charts.
Disfunction has never sounded so good.
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21. Prince and the Revolution - Purple Rain (1984)
While the film doesn’t quite hold up, the album remains an absolute banger that mixes power-pop, shredding guitars, funk, and psychedelic influences into an almost perfect tracklist. This is Prince at the peak of his powers.
22. The Clash - London Calling (1979)
London Calling is what happens when a punk band develops their music into a force that reflects the uncertainty, angst, and disaffection of an entire generation. London was a mess in 1979, with heroin, unemployment, political, social, and racial tension ripping through the city (and all of Great Britain).
While their classic punk sound was still readily apparent, The Clash’s third album harnessed reggae, roots, rock, ska, and heavy metal elements into a soup of powerful, politically, and socially aware set of tunes.
23. The Roots - Things Fall Apart (1999)
The Roots (yeah, Jimmy Fallon’s Band) proved you could make a killer hip-hop album with a live band. Things Fall Apart is a socially conscious album that still found resonance with the gangsta rap set and old school b-boys, which at that time was difficult to accomplish.
It features Black Thought’s lyrical dexterity and boxer’s delivery, mixed with great production and special guests like Mos Def, Erika Badu, Jill Scott, Eve, and Dice Raw.
24. Pearl Jam - Vs. (1993)
Pearl Jam, along with Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and lesser-known bands such as Mudhoney and Temple of the Dog, brought Seattle’s grunge sound to the rest of the world. After the commercial success of their debut Ten, Pearl Jam opted to mix harder and more aggressive rock with Eddie Vedder’s iconic vocal range on their sophomore album.
They eschewed releasing any singles despite having a handful that would’ve certainly made it into the top 10. It remains their most influential album and one that moved beyond grunge into another realm.
Fun fact: They wrote Daughter on the tour bus!
25. The Beatles - White Album (1968)
Another band where their entire back catalog could have appeared on this list, The Beatles White Album gets the nod. 30 tracks including classics Back In The U.S.S.R., Helter Skelter, Blackbird, and George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps make up this influential double album.
26. Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
If I didn’t put this album on here, my sister would kill me. While many contemporaries looked outside, Pink Floyd focused on inside the mind with intense and dystopian fervor.
Dark Side of the Moon, much like Pet Sounds, transformed record arrangement, production, and recording, while the music itself was damn good to listen to as well.
Dark Side took out a lot of the long instrumentals and solos Floyd was known for while still maintaining a cinematic quality. Their audio innovation added the sonic effects that bands ever since have been copying.
27. Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid, M.A.A.D City (2012)
“It ain’t nothing but a Compton thang.”
I don’t have too many contemporary musicians on this list (let’s face it, music now is made for a digital age, and I’m considered OLLLLLLD), yet Kendrick Lamar is an exception.
Lamar mixes old school gangsta sensibilities with furiously developed production on this coming-of-age concept album. To Pimp A Butterfly may be a stronger album, but I’ll argue forever that Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City is more influential and essential.
28. Nirvana - Nevermind (1991)
I can still remember, nearly 30 years later, exactly where I was when I heard that Kurt Cobain had died.
If I hadn’t heard Nevermind, and especially Smells Like Teen Spirit, I wouldn’t have paid attention to the hype this band created. It’s hard to put into words just how much Nevermind impacted not only music but youth culture.
29. Eric B and Rakim - Paid in Full (1987)
The rap game changed once Rakim took the Mike and Eric B got on the turntables. Other rappers focused on changing things (KRS One), talking tough (Big Daddy Kane), and the drug epidemic in New York (Slick Rick) – Rakim focused on being better than everybody else
They took the socially conscious early hip-hop and added elements of cool that to this day remain unchanged, and gave us Paid in Full, which is still firmly inside the top 10 rap albums of all time.
30. (What's The Story) Morning Glory?
Seriously, if this album came out now – with all that media stoushing with fellow Brit Pop legends Blur – the internet would have broken. While Liam has turned into an epic storyteller and entertaining parent, for most of their career the Gallagher brothers have been considered complete and utter knobs (Noel still is).
The fact remains, though, that with the possible exception of dance music stars such as Fatboy Slim, The Prodigy, and the Chemical Brothers, no one had a bigger impact on British music than Oasis did throughout the 1990s, which has carried over into pop-rock music today.
31. Metallica - Metallica (The Black Album, 1991)
While old-school metalheads point to this as the moment Metallica sold out, in reality, it’s the band taking the next step in their evolution and proving heavier music has its place in pop culture.
The album is full of classic tracks. Enter Sandman is a grinding stadium rock offering. The Unforgiven a heartfelt ditty. Through The Never a reminder of Metallica’s thrash past. Then there’s Nothing Else Matters, an emotional power ballad about expressing and opening yourself up to others.
It might have pissed off their core fans, but Metallica topped the charts and has gone on to sell over 25.2 million copies worldwide, turning the band into the face of modern metal and gaining them more fans than they lost.
32. The Highwaymen - Highwayman
Waylon Jennings. Willie Nelson. Johnny Cash. Kris Kristofferson. Four of country music’s greatest stars joined forces as The Highwaymen, a country supergroup.
The result is a fantastic outlaw country album showcasing the distinct qualities of each man’s voice. Opener Highwayman sets the scene for a collection of country covers (including two Cash originals) perfect for a road trip through the great US of A.
33. Rage Against The Machine - Rage Against The Machine
Few political bands have managed to sell millions of albums and sell out stadiums without deviating from their beliefs like Rage Against The Machine.
Despite their success, or possibly because of it, the LA foursome has been a driving force in alternate rock for almost three decades. Merging rock with rap before nu-metal was a thing, Rage has a distinct sound thanks to vocalist Zac de la Rocha’s biting lyrics and Tom Morello’s unconventional guitar playing.
Rage Against The Machine is a Molotov cocktail of hard-hitting raps, brain-damaging guitar licks, slick bass lines, and thumping percussion. I can still remember headbanging in my room to Killing in the Name. Good memories.
34. The Prodigy - Music for the Jilted Generation
Before becoming household names with the release of Fat of the Land, The Prodigy lit up clubs and raves with tracks from their sophomore release Music for the Jilted Generation. The record is a big “fuck you” to new laws introduced against rave culture that fuses elements of trance, techno, and jungle.
The album contains a raft of eclectic samples, from films such as Star Wars: A New Hope, Poltergeist III, and Smokey and the Bandit, across 13 tracks fueled by Liam Howlett’s production. Their Law, Poison, and Voodoo People are all huge tunes, but for me, it’s No Good (Start the Dance) that showcases the brilliance of The Prodigy.
35. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
Both Joy Division albums should be part of any vinyl record collection, but if you had to choose one, I lean towards the Manchester group’s seminal debut Unknown Pleasures.
Four decades on and this album remains one of the greatest releases of all time. It’s responsible for creating the post-punk genre and has influenced almost every modern rock band ever formed.
Every song is a hit, from the droning bass of Peter Hook on opener Disorder to vocalist Ian Cutis’ fractured vocals on She’s Lost Control. This is an album addressing themes of angst, industrialism, epilepsy, and heartbreak brought together by Curtis’ pained baritone.
36. The Rolling Stones - Exile on Main St.
Recorded mainly in a villa in France, the making of Exile on Main St. is the stuff of legend. Keith Richards was in the depths of heroin addiction and Mick Jagger often missed sessions, but somehow when the band did manage to get together they created magic.
The Stones’ 10th album is chock full of incredible songs that merge rock and blues with soul and country, resulting in arguably the Stones greatest ever record.
37. Dr. Dre - The Chronic
After finding success with gangster rap group NWA, Dr. Dre proved he was a master of the art form with the release of The Chronic.
Creating the blueprint for g-funk, Dre blessed hip-hop fans with a classic album all about blunts, 40s, and attractive ladies. He also introduced the world to a then 18-year-old Snoop Dogg on hit Nuthin’ But A “G” Thang.
While the lyrics pose a problem in the current world, the beats still hold up, with Dre cementing his status as a hip-hop legend.
38. Amy Winehouse - Back To Black
Besides Adele, Amy Winehouse is the greatest female vocalist to come out of the past two decades. Possessed with a deep, soulful croon, you can feel Winehouse’s pain and sorrow on tracks such as Rehab, Addicted, and the glorious title track Back To Black.
A troubled figure who couldn’t beat her demons, Back To Black stands as Winehouse’s legacy – an emotional collection of soul, jazz, and pop songs that’s the biggest insight into her life we will ever get. RIP.
39. Bruce Springsteen - Darkness on the Edge of Town
You could put any number of Springsteen albums on this list, but for mine, it has to be Darkness on the Edge of Town. This is an exploration of the working class in America, with Springsteen fully embracing his love of rock and roll.
From the driving opener Badlands to the sax-heavy The Promised Land and the tale of a down on his luck loser on album closer Darkness on the Edge of Town, this 10 track record is a compelling masterpiece.
Springsteen would go on to release records that charted better and produced bigger hits, but this remains a touchstone in his career.
40. Black Sabbath - Paranoid
The godfathers of metal, Black Sabbath have released 19 albums over a 50-year career. Picking their best isn’t easy, but Paranoid stands the test of time. There’s not a bad song on it, from the demonic War Pigs to lo-fi Planet Caravan, this album highlights everything incredible about this band.
If you only own one metal album, make sure it’s Paranoid.
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A Brief History of the Pilot’s Watch
To put it simply, a pilot’s watch is just another tool used by aviators. Characterized by their oversized bezels and extreme legibility, these timepieces take what is essentially a standard wristwatch and upgrades it to include features and functions better suited to those in the mile-high club.
From its early beginnings at the turn of the century to its position amongst wartime aviators, the pilot’s watch, much like the diver’s watch, is a specialty timekeeping device that, since its inception, has been a staple in the world of horology.
What is a Pilot’s Watch?
While most will claim there is no definition or standard for what a pilot’s watch is. We would argue that if it’s been specially tailored to an aircraft pilot’s needs, it’s a pilot’s watch.
Typically boasting chronograph functionality and an easy to manipulate crown, a pilot’s watch can include various complications for measuring distances and time while in flight.
Characteristics of the Pilot’s watch
Each and every brand has a different vision for what makes a pilot’s watch. However, the five specific characteristics consistent across the cavalcade of pilot’s watches include a large and legible dial, luminosity, an oversized crown and extra bezel markings, a dual time or GMT function, a 12 o’clock orientation triangle, and the flyback chronograph.
Large and legible dials make it easier for a pilot to tell the time quickly regardless of conditions. The addition of luminosity features also increases legibility, especially at night. Notable for their large Arabic numerals, the oversized crown is another crucial feature of the pilot’s watch. Historically, pilots wore gloves during flight, making it difficult to operate a watch without a more oversized crown.
The Longines Avigation BigEye, for example, features a 41mm dial with massive easy to read markings and indices. Coupled with the oversized buttons and its 54-hour power reserve, it’s perfect for long-haul flights.
Longines Avigation BigEye
Additional bezel markings are used for various calculations like fuel burn and wind correction angles, alongside the 12 o’clock equilateral upright orientation triangle, which allows a pilot to immediately interpret the time regardless of their current orientation in the air.
Considered one of the best pilot watches you can buy today, the re-issue IWC Automatic Spitfire was initially produced for the British Royal Air Force from 1948 onwards. Boasting additional bezel markings up the wahzoo and the always important 12 o’clock orientation triangle, pilots can tell the time no matter which way they are facing.
Dual Time or GMT Functions and flyback chronographs are added complications that allow plots to track multiple time zones or coordinated universal time (UTC) in addition to assisting waypoint navigation and grid searches, thanks to the single push flyback chronograph.
Now we move onto the complicated side of things with Dual Time/GMT functions, flyback chronographs, and even onboard computers, also known as a Navitmer. Rolex was the first watch manufacturer to produce the Dual Time/GMT functionality. First conceptualized for commercial pilots of Pan Am (Pan American World Airways), aviators would favor the Rolex GMT-Master for many years to come.
Getting even more complicated, however, the Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 46 is one such watch that looks like it’s been stripped directly from a 747’s cockpit. Boasting a chronometer-certified mechanical caliber that can keep track of time spent, it can even complete mathematical calculations on the fly thanks to the addition of a Navitimer.
Essentially an onboard computer, this function uses a rotating bezel for basic arithmetic and mathematics.
Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 46
History of the Pilot’s Watch
When you’re thousands of feet in the air, battling against the insane conditions of high altitude flying, you need the right kind of tool to complete the task at hand. Facing an issue with watch technology in the early 20th century, many pilots had to contend with the flimsiness of pocket watches. Having to strap them down to either their wrist or thigh, it would not be until 1904 that the first pilot’s watch would arise.
Constructed upon special request, Louis Cartier was tasked with building a specialized watch for his friend Alberto Santos-Dumont. Presenting the Brazilian aviator with the Cartier Santos, it was the first watch of its kind.
Capable of matching the same reliability and accuracy of the planes they were flying, Santos-Dumont needed a reliable way to keep time without removing his hands from the controls. Considered also the first wristwatch, the Cartier Santos would go on to pave the way for many years of evolution to the incredible timepieces we have today.
Seeing the likes of Breitling add in elements such as a circular slide-rule and chronograph to meet the demands of ever-changing flight complexities. While other brands like IWC, Bell & Ross, and Longines eventually joined the fight to supply pilots with the tools they needed during wartime.
Of course, the most outstanding achievement for the Pilot’s Watch was traveling beyond our atmosphere and into the great unknown – space. An accolade that was achieved by the Omega Speedmaster (ref. CK 2998) when it was worn by astronaut Walter Schirra during the “Sigma 7” mission of the Mercury Programme in 1962.
Although the past is filled with incredible examples of analog horology and complicated mechanical improvements, the digital revolution is impossible to avoid in 2021. For that reason, professional pilots are more likely to opt for more modern watches like the Garmin D2 Delta PX.
Hosting a whole range of features like GPS navigation, intelligent notifications, flight planning, altimeter, automatic flight logging, and a whole lot more, it’s much easier to operate than a Navitimer. Though it retains some of the analog aesthetic that makes pilot’s watches so popular today, it’s still a smartwatch through and through.
It will be interesting to see what the next step is in the evolution of the pilot’s watch.
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Defining the Difference Between Mezcal and Tequila
Mexican spirits mezcal and tequila are cultural icons generating massive interest, investment, and increased share of the worldwide alcohol market. Much like Scotch, vodka, and gin, where the agave spirit has been crafted and how is becoming just as important to consumers as the taste and price.
Casual liquor lovers and cocktail drink sippers may not know what separates mezcal and tequila. Both are distilled from cooked agave pinas, but there are different varieties of agave species, differences in taste, regulation, production, and bottling that make mezcal and tequila unique from each other.
The following article will help you understand the differences between each product, and help you figure why styles and price differ between seemingly similar expressions.
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Tequila is a distilled spirit made only from the agave tequilana weber or blue agave plant. Mezcal (or del maguey) is produced from any agave varieties, which include espadin, tobala, tepeztate, arroqueno, and tobaziche, although there are approximately 30 that can be used for distillation.
The word mezcal comes from Nahuatl Mexicali, which means “oven cooked agave.” Mezcal forms part of the rapidly growing alcohol sector focused on traditional “terroir” and techniques of production. While tequila is also doing this, the differences in traditional production between the two spirits are quite different.
Mezcal vs Tequila: Why do they taste different?
From an alcohol by volume perspective (ABV), mezcal and tequila are bottled at the same strength. Due to differences in agave varietals, their preparation, and distillation, mezcal has the reputation for tasting stronger, particularly when compared to Blanco and Joven tequilas, which are predicated on clean and crisp blue weber agave flavor.
Mezcal’s rustic production comes from around 30 different agave varieties – resulting in an earthier, smoky flavor than the spirits crafted from the blue agave plant. Tequila is most often produced by steaming the agave inside industrial ovens before being distilled two or three times in copper pots.
Mezcal is more old school, using traditional earthen pits that are lined with lava rocks and filled with wood and charcoal, where the agave pinas (agave hearts) are cooked before being extracted, then fermented and distilled in oak barrels, clay pots, or small copper pot stills.
Why is mezcal more expensive than tequila?
Mezcal tends to be more expensive than tequila because of the old school, labor-intensive production methods, as well as the scarcity of a lot of the wild agave plants used to make the spirit. Mezcal is produced in small batches by more artisanal distilleries and lacks the export cost advantages tequila enjoys from being able to be produced in larger quantities.
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Denomination of Origin
Tequila is carefully protected by a Denomination of Origin (DO) which allows for the production of tequila in selected Mexican states: Jalisco, Michoacan, Tamaulipas, Nayarit, and Guanajuato.
Mezcal is also protected by a DO and can only be produced in the following states: Oaxaca, San Luis Potosi, Michoacan, Guerrero, Durango, Tamaulipas, Puebla, Zacatecas, and Guanajuato.
In tequila production you can use only one particular species of agave, however, for mezcal, you can use any type. This gives a Mezcal producer a larger range of flavors to choose from in crafting their spirit.
Mezcal bottling must also occur at the palenque (distillery) at which it is made to ensure the quality of each bottle.
Official Standards (Tequila)
As a prized export product and Mexican cultural icon, there are many regulations in place that ensure the quality of taste and production for tequila. The Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM) specifies the official standards that must be kept for any product to be named tequila, which is then certified by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT).
To be classed as tequila there has to be a minimum of 51% blue weber agave in the bottle, and alcohol by volume (ABV) must be between 35% and 55%.
Always try to look for 100% agave tequila expressions – you’ll find that statement on the bottle. These are premium tequilas that are exclusively bottled in Mexico and strictly monitored by the CRT.
For other tequilas, known as mixto tequila, the other 49% can be additives such as sugars. They might be sold in bulk to then be packaged outside of Mexico. You’ll find cheap supermarket brands and pre-mixes are made with mixto tequila.
Official Standards (Mezcal)
The first regulations for mezcal were introduced in 1994 in article NOM-070-SCFI-1994 (Spanish document). Like tequila, guidelines regulating production have been put in place to protect mezcal’s unique place in Mexican culture, and the methods of its production.
Mezcal can only be made from 100% agave with no additives or other products and must be bottled between 36% and 55% ABV.
The production of tequila is divided into seven steps:
Each step of the process is closely regulated by the CRT to ensure general tequila standards are met and followed to guarantee maximum quality. Each tequila distillery has its own source of agave, proprietary processes, quality control, and distillation/storage techniques that will affect the tequila’s taste.
Mezcal production, in general, is an old-school endeavor, regulated into three production categories: Mezcal (most modern), Artisanal Mezcal (mix), and Ancestral Mezcal (most traditional).
The traditional way of baking an agave for every method is in a conical earthen pit called a Horno de Tierra. Mezcal regulations also allow for brick ovens (Artisanal, Mezcal) and autoclaves (Mezcal).
The next phase is extraction, usually done with a large milling stone called a Tahona wheel that is pulled by a horse or donkey. Other appropriate methods include Chilean or Egyptian mills, simple mallets (ancestral), trapiches (artisanal, mezcal), or shredders (mezcal).
When producing ancestral and artisanal mezcal, containers of wood, clay or masonry tanks, animal skins, hollows in stone, earth, or tree trunks, must use maguey fibers in the fermentation process. The more advanced mezcal process can use stainless steel tanks during fermentation.
The final part of mezcal production before bottling is distillation, which breaks down as follows:
- Direct fire on clay pots and coils made from clay or wood. The process must include maguey fibers (Ancestral, Artisanal, Mezcal)
- Direct fire on copper stills or clay pots and coils made of clay, wood, copper, or stainless steel. The process may include maguey fibers (artisanal, mezcal)
- Stills made of copper or steel (mezcal) mal skins, hollows in stone, earth, or tree trunks. The process may use maguey fibers (Artisanal, Mezcal)
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The Different Varieties of Tequila
How you plan on drinking tequila will help determine the type of spirit you wish to purchase. There are three main types of tequila; Blanco, Reposado, and Anejo.
You’ll also find Joven (in between Blanco and reposado), cristallino (color removed), mixto tequila (the stuff you use for frozen drinks), and extra Añejo tequila (matured longer) available as well.
Blanco or silver tequila is unaged tequila that tastes more of the agave plant and citrus than longer maturing tequila versions. It’s the go-to for cheap drinks and the lead-in product for most tequila producers.
Reposado (rested) and Anejo (aged tequila) offerings are darker in color, aged in barrels, and gain a heavy but smoother flavor from the distillation process. They are recommended for neat sipping for experienced mixologists looking to craft a specific taste.
The Different Varieties of Mezcal Agave
While mezcal applies some of the tequila terminology above (especially agave espadin mezcals), the different kinds of agave species used, in combination with production methods are often the most useful way of differentiating between expressions.
Agave Espadin is the most common – utilized in around 90% of production – and the one closest to blue weber agave genetically. You’ll find a lot of similarities between tequila and espadin mezcals from an initial flavor and versatility perspective.
Tobala is a rare variety of agave that is wild harvested. It relies on birds and bats to spread its seeds through pollination, which makes it one of the most highly-priced mezcals
Tepeztate is another rare variety harvested wild and can take up to 30 years to reach maturity. They can be recognized by bright yellow blooms at the top of their tall stem or Quijote. They are known for being the most intense of agave flavors.
There are other agave varietals, such as arroqueno, cureata, and salmiana, all with their own personalities that can be used in crafting different tasting mezcals. You may also find ‘ensamble’ mezcals, which are a collection of different agave varieties distilled into an expression.
While closely related, mezcal and tequila have distinctly different identities and personalities based on how they are made, and with which type of agave. Pricing-wise, basic tequilas are cheaper, while old-school mezcal is more expensive due to the cost of harvesting and distillation.
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