With just over a week left until the Spirits of Mexico festival takes over New York City’s Astor Center for an evening, I thought I’d examine some of the spirits that attendees will be sampling. While I’m familiar enough with tequila and mescal, other like raicilla, bacanora, and sotol are wild cards to me because I’ve never tasted them. I’m looking forward to a thorough education on the merits and nuances of each, led by experts in the field on May 29th between 6 and 9 p.m. For now, I’m happy to share here, for the benefit of those who are as unfamiliar as I am with these spirits, a few highlights on how each one is produced. I pulled this info from the Spirits of Mexico website, and from RaicillaCentral.com, two wonderful resources for anyone seeking to learn more about lesser-known Mexican spirits.
A 400-hundred year old spirit distilled from wild Silvestre agaves that flourish in the Sierra Madres Mountains of Sonora…The mature agaves are harvested and slowly roasted in underground pits. The roasting process contributes to its mineral nuances. Fermentation takes place in wooden or stainless steel vats for upwards of 10 to 12 days. The roasted agaves are then fermented in open wooden vats, a long process that utilizes wild, airborne yeasts to precipitate fermentation. Bacanora is double-distilled in a copper pot stills and bottled at 40% alcohol by volume.
A centuries old drink… [Agave is cooked] over a slow fire, to produce a fine, aromatic steam. When the steam comes in contact with a copper cone cooled by fresh spring water, it condenses and, drop by drop falls into a slender mezcal sheath (husk). The aromatic liquid is then received by a glass jug and is given a final purification step in this completely natural process. Extreme patience is required because it takes an average of eight years from the planting of the agave, to obtaining Raicilla…it is safe to say that Raicilla can be considered the grandfather or the predecessor of Mexico’s most famous drink.
Sotol is distilled from the desert spoon plant, a hardy variety of agave native to deserts of Chihuahua. It takes the plant 12 to 15 years to mature and yield the highest amounts of fermentable sugars. After harvesting, the agave are baked in clay ovens for upwards of 3 days, crushed to extract the agave’s precious juice and then allowed to slowly ferment. The fermented wash is double-distilled in copper pot stills.
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