Raicilla is a spirit made in Jalisco state from agaves distilled in remote areas. Raicilla is a mezcal – but not on the label, due to Mexican regulations. Raicilleros use at least nine kinds of agave, all of them wild, some with several differing local varieties. Raicilla goes way back in time; its distillation was introduced in the 1600s from the Spanish colonies in the Philippines, which resulted in the common use of the primitive Filipino double-chamber clay still.
Raicilla, Sotol, & Churique
From Xavier Villegran, whose family has been involved with mezcal for three generations. His main focus is Raicilla de Costa, distilled in El Tuito on the mountainous Cabo Corientes peninsula south of Puerto Vallarta, where raicillero Rosalio Rodriquez has substantial hillside plantings of chico aquilar (angustifolia). Balam also produces mezcal, sotol, and the rare churique.
BALAM Raicilla Sierra
From Mascota and San Sebastian del Oeste, in the mountains on the road to Puerto Vallarta. Agave Maximiliana (lechuguilla).
750 ml / 46% abv
LAS PERLAS de JALISCO
Raicilla Las Perlas comes from Nikhil Bahadur and 5th-generation raicillero Santigo Diaz Ramos, whom Nikhil encountered while doing business in Tequila. The taberna is near the Diaz Ramos hacienda in the small pueblo of Las Guasimos (pop. 42), located inland from the Pacific coast on the Cabo Corrientes peninsula, south of Puerto Vallarta. The agaves are roasted in an above-ground oven.
Mexicat is the brainchild of Jorge Alvarez, who discovered raicilla while working in the tequila industry. He sees raicilla as the highest form of spirits distilled from agave. He helps support a massive sustainability project in the Sierra.
There is more. Each bottle has a beaded cat face, an individual handmade creation of a Huichol artist. It takes a full day to make three cat faces. Preserving traditional artisanal craftsmanship is a deliberate Mexicat goal, both by sponsoring a craft agave spirit and by providing a livelihood to Huichol artisans.
Mexicat Raicilla Sierra
From the El Mosco distillery near Mascota in the Jalisco Sierra Occidental, operatated by 4th generation Benito and Jose Salceda, agronomist brothers and Raicilla pioneers deeply engaged in a large sustainability project using agave Maximiliana (called lechuguilla). The 40% abv nicely balances the intensity of the large wild Maximiliana. Flavorful and soft. Double distillation shows a smoother side of raicilla.
750 ml / 40% abv
SOTOL is distilled from the desert plant dasylirion wheeleri (Sotol is its Spanish name) in Durango and Chihuahua, using the same artisanal methods as for mezcal. The piña, the central core, is small and dense, not easy to harvest and prepare for distillation: the yield: one bottle per plant.
BALAM Sotol Durango
From Penon Blanco, Durango. Dasylirion wheeleri
750 ml / 47% abv
CHURIQUE is distilled from the small and rare agave lechugilla, a high-desert cousin of agave potatorum (the agave of mezcal tobala). It can take up to 30 years to mature.
From Madera, Chihuahua. Agave lechugilla
750 ml / 47% abv