Raicilla, Sotol, & Churique

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.

BALAM     LAS PERLAS de JALISCO     MEXICAT     Sotol     Churique    


BALAM

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 DESTILADO DE AGAVE TIGRE

    Unreal product. Ancestral distillation on a Filipino still by Chuy Lapian in Las Agujas (pop. 48, at 5100 ft) in the Sierra del Tigre southwest of Guadalajara. His distillation is as authentic as it gets: like many Jaliscans, he uses a masonry (brick) above-ground oven to roast wild agave inaequidens. The lengthy (23-day) fermentation and single distillation to high alcohol of a single 400-bottle batch yields a raicilla of notable focus and lactic complexity. Big. Lapian has such contempt for modern production methods that he won't call his distillate raicilla.

    750 ml / 43.8% abv

    $120.00

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  • BALAM RAICILLA AÑEJO DE LA COSTA

    Since 2012, Rosalio annually aged one barrel of rhodacantha for a year, then adds it to a tank. In 2019, he filled a small barrel with the aged assemblage for a month of integration and filled 274 bottles. Rich, mellow, and deep. Truly one of a kind.

    750 ml / 43% abv

    $92.00

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  • BALAM RAICILLA DE LA COSTA

    From Rosalio Rodriguez in El Tuito in the mountains of Cabo Corriente, south of Puerto Escondido. Rodriguez distills chico aguiar (agave angustifolia) and agave rhodacantha, both wild and grown in his own fields. The climate is moderated by being close to the sea: spicy and nicely vegetal.

    750 ml / 47% abv

    $75.00

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  • BALAM RAICILLA DE LA SIERRA

    From Benito Salcedo Rios in El Mosco, a tiny pueblo (pop. 148) at 3200 feet in the Sierra Madre south of Mascota. Benito is an agronomist, and you can taste his feel for the plant: lechuguilla (agave Maximiliana), an agave he working on cultivating for sustainability. Focused and very cleanly distilled.  

    750 ml / 46% abv

    $75.00

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  • BALAM RAICILLA DEL LLANO

    From Juan Jesús Ariaz Lugo in San Gabriel, a pueblo on the central plateau SW of Guadalajara. Agave angustifolia, the familiar espadín cultivated in Oaxaca, but tasting far more fruity and earthen, very accessible at the lower abv preferred by many raicilla distillers. Nicely round.

    750 ml / 40% abv

    $75.00

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  • BALAM RAICILLA MADURADO DE LA COSTA

    A solera of rhodacantha added to annually since 2004. 559 bottles, average age more than 8 years. There is nothing like it made from agaves. Complex and very mellow.

    750 ml / 47.7% abv

    $96.00

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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.


  • LAS PERLAS RAICILLA DE JALISCO

    The most carefully made agave spirit we know of: for example, the fermentation is 3-4 weeks; the top of the copper still is a hollow tree trunk, lending a soft moistness to the spirit: beyond ancestral. Wild and semi-wild agaves angustifolia and rhodacantha harvested, distilled, and bottled one batch at a time: about 650 bottles. Fresh, full-bodied, easy to drink. Scarce!  

    750 ml / 44% abv

    $96.00

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MEXICAT

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 RARE AGAVE SPIRIT GOLD: MASPARILLO

    Distilled by hand by Don Lupe Castro in Mezquital de Oro, Zacatecas, close to tequila territory.  The agave is a variant of agave Maximiliana called masparillo, a small wild agave growing at high altitudes on thin soils. Don Lupe’s stone-enclosed stills bring out a clean, focused, floral, and mineral spirit.  Masparillo is uncommon. This is good stuff.

    750 ml / 40% abv

    $72.00

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  • MEXICAT RARE AGAVE SPIRIT SILVER: MANSO

    Another hand-distillation by Don Lupe Castro in Mezquital de Oro, Zacatecas, close to tequila territory.  The agave salmiana is a cultivated agave, here called manso. Don Lupe’s version is extremely well distilled: softly rich, round, citric, and spicy.  Amazing price for the quality.

    750 ml / 40% abv

    $54.00

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  • MEXICAT RAICILLA SIERRA

    Every bottle has an individual hand-made huichol bead mask; people collect them. From Mascota in the Sierra Madre Occidental, double-distilled in copper at the destilería of 4th-generation José and Benito Salceda, agronomist brothers and raicilla pioneers deeply engaged in a large sustainability project cultivating agave Maximiliana (called lechuguilla). Flavorful and soft. Double distillation tends to show a smoother side of raicilla, and the 40% abv nicely balances the intensity of the wild Maximiliana.

    750 ml / 40% abv

    $60.00

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Sotol

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 DESIERTO

    Dasylirion Wheeleri distilled with artisanal methods by Enrique Valencia in the pueblo of Coyame (at 4000 ft) in the high Sonoran desert of Chihuahua. Hand-milled. Sotol growing in a colder and dry climate yields intensity with plaenty of minerality; a touch of sweetness. Focused and nicely clean.

    750 ml / 48% abv

    $75.00

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  • BALAM SOTOL DURANGO

    Dasylirion Wheeleri distilled with artisanal methods by Jesús Román in Peñon Blanco at 5200 feet in Durango. Hand-milled. Sotol from the mountains is softer and fruitier. Long complex finish.

    750 ml / 47% abv

    $75.00

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  • MEXICAT SOTOL ARTESANAL

    Dasylirion Wheeleri from 4th and 5th generation distillers Norma & Bienvenido Fernandez, using artisanal methods in Madera at 6500 feet in the mountains of Western Chihuahua. Smoky, earthy, but very clean; fruity and intense; long finish: best sotol we have tasted. The Nahuatl word from which sotol derives is tzotollin, a small palm tree. There is a local belief that it means sweetness in the head, and that’s certainly what this sotol is.

    750 ml / 42% abv

    $66.00

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  • Sotol Tasting Pack

    The folks at The Crafty Cask featured our BALAM Sotol Desierto  &  MEXICAT Sotol Artesanal at their Virtual Sotol Tasting on July 30th. Whether you attended or not, we've put together this tasting pack to introduce you to the expressions that were poured during the event. Individual bottles also available.

    750 ml

    $138.00

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Churique

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.


  • BALAM CHURIQUE

    An unclassified wild agave, found only in the Chihuahuan desert and locally called lechugilla (small lettuce), distilled using artisanal methods by Bienvenido Hernandez in Madera, at 6500 feet in Chihuahua. Hand-milled. The sparse & tiny agave looks intimidatingly thorny. Agave distillates from tough environments are intense: so is churique. Unique, mineral (chalky), appealingly slightly sour finish.

    750 ml / 47% abv

    $75.00

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CADDELL & WILLIAMS – Drink Real

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