Tequila has delicious cousins in Chihuahua

by on 30/06/12 at 1:00 pm

Tequila is king- except in Chihuahua

Certainly the product of Blue Agave is the most famous of the Mexican spirits. And it is assumed to be the only or the best of the Mexican distillates. But this is far from true. Recently some other ones are appearing in the United States and placing quite well if not winning tequila competitions. This is not news to people in the “wild west” of Mexico- the vast ranch and mountain lands of Chihuahua. For centuries locals have produced their own hooch from a variety of plants. Finding these local varietals and well as the labelled ones is always a highlight of our Copper Canyon trips.

Sotol, the cool cousin of tequila

Sotol is the most common of the whiskey like spirits of the north land. It is bottles under a number of brands. Hacienda (produced in Delicias) is common in the US and my favorite is Don Cuco produced in Janos by Celso Jaquez and his family. Don Cuco reposada is so akin to a single malt whiskey and people rave over it.

You can find local non-labeled sotols in most small towns and they are quite good. My dentist gave a swig of  a sotol from Madera recently and it was quite good. This Madera area has a reputation for good sotols as does the area just north of Cuauhtemoc.


Lechuguilla, the quirky cousin of sotol

This one actually IS a cousin of tequila as it is made from and agave species found only in the Chihuahuan desert, Agave lechuguilla. I have never seen this one with a label on it and yet it can be found again in about any of the small towns- especially at higher elevations. The plant is toxic to sheep and cattle and is also the source for tampico fiber.

There is a pride in the locals about this brew. It is full bodied, sweet, clear and very good to sip straight. I always try to bring some back to the US.

Bacanora, the cultist cousin of tequila

Bacanora is actually the home boy of Sonora to the west but the plant it is made from, Agave pacifica grows also is certain areas of the west of Chihuahua.

Here is what tequila.net says about it:

Bacanora is a traditional drink in the state of Sonora, Mexico, just as the Tequila is the most traditional drink in Jalisco, Mexico. It is produced from agave Pacifica, also called Agave Yaquiana, a plant that grows in the mountain range of the State. Bacanora has been produced for over 300 years, and the secrets of its elaboration have been taught through many generations.

It was in the town of Bacanora, where the production of this traditional drink began. On November 6, 2000 the Official Gazette of Mexico published the “General Declaration of Protection to the Name BACANORA”. The former declaration appoints Sonora as the only state in which the production of Bacanora is acknowledged.

The traditional methods for manufacturing and distilling Bacanora are still followed after many hundreds of years. When the Agave plant is 6-7 years old, they are hand selected and the harvesters proceed to cut the plant right from the trunk with a small ax called “jaibica”. All leaves are removed from the Agave core.

The cores are then roasted / cooked in underground pits. The interior walls of these pits are cased with volcanic rock and heated with mesquite charcoal. This process takes approximately 2 days.

On the third day the roasted Agave cores are removed to mash and chop into Agave pulp.

The agave pulp is then placed inside pits cased with cement, thoroughly cleaned, adding fresh water and covering them perfectly to avoid air contact. The fermentation process begins, lasting 6 to 12 days, dependant on the surrounding temperature.

The fermentation product “saite” is placed on the stainless steel still. This still is heated with direct fire using mesquite charcoal. Inside the still is a water-cooled copper coil.

Soft water is added to the fermented “saite”, which is placed inside the still, thus the process of distillation begins as soon as the fire starts. The vapor is conducted through an inverted funnel that seals the higher part of the still, and at the same time takes the vapor to the copper still submerged in a stream of fresh water. Vapor condenses and becomes Bacanora after double distillation, which gives Bacanora a higher quality.

Palinque…whose cousin is this?

I have heard people talk of this drink but I have no contact with it. Does anyone know about it? Or am I just confused and people were taling about pulque- the agave beer drink canned and bottled in various Mexican locales?


One Response to “Tequila has delicious cousins in Chihuahua”

  1. […] Madres. We also offer horse trips, a tequila type trip featuring the drinks of the area including sotol and lechuguilla. Now we are introducing running trips to Copper […]

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