artisanal raicilla, agave spirits, & sotol
Jorge Alvarez sees raicilla as the highest form of spirits distilled from agave. He sources small-batch agave spirits in Zacatecas, and sotol in Chihuahua. Alvarez is deeply committed to preserving traditional artisanal craftsmanship both in representing a craft agave spirit and in providing livelihood to Huichol artisans.
Each cat mask on each Mexicat Raicilla bottle is an individual handmade creation by a Huichol artist. It takes about 3 hours to make one of these beaded cat faces.
Mexicat raicilla is 100% agave Maximiliana, a large silvestran agave of unusual deep flavor, specifically a local variety known as lechugilla tipica (there are three Maximiliana varieties in the Sierra: típica, pencas caidas, and pico de aguilar). Maximiliana looks like a giant cousin of the famous tobalá: they share a reputation for complexity.
Trimming is done with unusual care to avoid off- flavors from the spines. This is 400 lbs of agave
Mexicat’s José Salcedo, a third- generation distiller, uses an igloo-shaped clay oven. A batch is 3.5 tons. Salcedo builds a big fire inside and lets it burn until the wall of the oven is very hot. He then rakes out the embers and seals the agaves inside for 2 days.
Fermentation is by wild yeasts in 200-liter tinas and takes 5-8 days.
Salcedo double-distills in a copper-lined pot.
Mexicat with Salcedo has started a massive sustainability program for the Maximiliana. Its major fields are now 4-5 years old.
Mexicat raicilla is now 80% wild agaves; that percentage will be reduced as the cultivated fields come on line.
Maria de la Luz Martinez Ramos in remote Mexquital, San Luis Potosí, working on the Mexicat Destilado de Agave Ancestral, perhaps the most profound agave spirit we have encountered. She’s squeezing the juice from roasted agaves by twisting them in a hammock.
Alvarez believes roasting the agaves in clay ovens creates a spirit that is more pure, a spirit in which the flavors and aromas of the ingredients are not obscured by wood smoke or by the earth that is used to cover an horno (pit-oven).
The Maximiliana yields a complex raicilla with body and strong character. Because of the clay oven, the flavors and aromas are more true to the agave: citric, fruity, vegetal, and suprisingly gentle. This is first- class product, true to its ancestry.
Elba de la Cruz Montes making a beaded mask for Mexicat