Raicilla and Sotol
Mexico’s agave spirits have lesser-known variants beyond Tequila and Mezcal. Known to many wary locals as a fiery spirit made from wild agave plants, Sotol is now embracing the new age of niche spirits with a range of grassy, smoky and earthy flavours. Raicilla is different still, offering a sweeter, softer take on Mezcal but still that roasted-agave robustness.
The desert spoon sub-species of agave plant has been employed for a number of purposes by the inhabitants of northern Mexico for many centuries – and, at some point, they started fermenting (and then distilling) it.
Sotol grows wild, particularly on the rocky slopes of the dry grasslands of the Chihuahua desert; and, unlike the blue agave used to make Tequila which flowers once and dies, desert-spoon agave can flower every few years.
Production is similar to that of Tequila, as is classification: plata, reposado, añejo and extra añejo in ascending order of age. But while Tequila is characterised by its peppery kick, Sotol has a more subdued, grassy character, often with smoky and earthy undertones.
Did you know?
- the agave sub-species used in Sotol production is dasylirion wheeleri, known as desert spoon or sotol in Spanish
- it’s thought that the name originates from the use of the dry stem of the plant as an improvised spoon, with discarded stems found regularly at archaeological sites
- desert-spoon agave is usually harvested in the wild, and grows on both sides of the Rio Grande: in northern Mexico, but also in New Mexico and Texas
Typical Character and Style of Raicilla and Sotol
- Black Pepper