Raicilla, Sotol and Bacanora

Raicilla, Sotol and Bacanora

Made from ‘desert spoon’ succulent (sotol in Spanish), sotol is trying to carve out a niche as an artisanal spirit with a character distinct from both Tequila and mezcal. The agave-based raicilla is closest to mezcal in style, but has a softer, less smoky taste and is made in western Jalisco, while bacanora is also made with agave, grown in the mountains and deserts of Sonora.

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Raicilla, Sotol and Bacanora

Raicilla, Sotol and Bacanora

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.

Wild spirit

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, Sotol and Bacanora

  • Black Pepper Black Pepper
  • Grass Grass
  • Smoke Smoke
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