Agave spirits rule the world. From mezcal to tequila to pulque and now raicilla. Have you ever heard of raicilla? Or better still have you ever tasted it? In this article, we'll equip you with all you need to know about this agave spirit. So, here we go.
Raicilla is one of the Mexican agave spirits, and it undergoes distillation from its genus agave, just like mezcal and tequila. Essentially, raicilla was a Jalisciense mezcal, and in January 2019, it received a Denominación de Origen (NOM), and this application gave rise to controversy. The NOM allowed raicilleros to create and sell their spirits within the region of the Mexican state of Jalisco. The agaves involved in the production of raicillas included angustifolia, agave maximiliana, silvestri, inaequidens, rhodacantha, and valenciana, with the exceptions of Azul. Most of the production takes place between November and May, and the production styles and areas include:
De La Costa — more sub-tropical and northern, and rise from the upland of the sea with smoky and fruity characteristics.
Sierra — possesses the highest number of distillers and often offers more complex and herbaceous characteristics
Southern — retains a very long tradition and has the most diverse technical styles and agave plant varieties.
The production of Raicilla takes place at an elevation of 2,000 meters with silvestri, mezcal bruto and pulquero. One liter of the spirit from about 30 kilograms of the wild pinas, and these pinas are harvested randomly at 2,100 m within a radius of 50 km. Some of the harvested pinas weigh even more than 50 kg. In this process, the team uses mules to carry water to the site from a spring located 2 miles away, and they use the water in different stages of the production process.
To cook the pinas, the team places oak logs at the bottom of the oven and then sets them on fire. They then add about 100 pinas to the pinas, cover it with canvas and then layer the oven with mud.
After three days of cooking, the team removes and places the pinas for crushing on a pad with a mule-driven stone wheel. They then put all the fiber and juice into the fermentation vats.
Fermentation is a natural process, and the production of Raicillas does not involve the use of yeast. In 5 to 10 days, the beer will have fermented properly before distillation, whereby the oak oven maintains a constant temperature.
The team then wheelbarrows the pulp after fermentation to the distillation vessels, where they add water to dilute and prevent scorching of the juice. At this point, sealing the cooking vessels using pulp helps to trap smoke and to manage the heat within the vessels. Once the mash has heated to boiling, the spirit comes off at an ABV of 20%. Some of it proceed for second distillation to an ABV of 50%. Blending down the two distillates brings about an ABV of 40%.
Types of Raicilla
Balam Costa (Orange Label, Joven)
Balam Costa raicilla undergoes double-distillation in a clay pot still with Filipino-style. It is very rustic compared to Anejo. This spirit tastes well in a mixture of citrus-forward and herbal cocktails, and it has enough depth and character that stands up even in a mix of powerfully herbaceous drinks.
Palate: It has a tangy and bright acidity with orange oil, gravel, and clay notes.
Finish: Almost metallic and herbal finish of green tea tannins and thyme.
Balam Madurado (Green Label, Anejo)
Anejo raicilla is entirely different from Balam's joven, although they both undergo open-air fermentation and double-distillation. The difference comes in whereby Anejo raicilla undergoes aging inside glass carboys undergoes. This type of aging softens and mellows the spirit, making the sharp acids more lactic. This is an excellent spirit to taste, especially when neat.
Notes: Green olives
Touch: Rich and round with hints of wet stone, cheesy funk, and white pepper heat.
Estancia Raicilla undergoes fermentation and distillation from the agave of Maximilian, and this is the reason behind its clean and perfumy flavor. Unlike the other raicilla that undergo fire-roasting underground, La Estancia uses an adobe oven to roast the agave pinas. After that, the pinas proceed for fermentation involving the use of wild and airborne yeast and then to the final stage of double-distillation inside an alembic still. This gives the spirit a flavor that is bright and almost gin-like.
Flavor: Light, perfumy, and floral with vegetal flavors.
La Venenosa Sierra de Jalisco Raicilla (Black Label)
Black label raicilla is Venenosa's most acidic spirit produced with the agave of cultivated maximiliana. It undergoes roasting in clay and wood-fired ovens followed by open-air fermentation using indigenous yeast and then distillation inside an alembic still. This agave spirit is bright with lactic acid and lemon-lime tartness.
Flavor: Flavors of bold fruit
Notes: Passionfruit, overripe banana, and mango notes
Finish: Finishes with hints of tarragon and wet stone and vegetal notes.
La Venenosa Costa de Jalisco Raicilla (Green Label)
This raicilla expression comes from El Tuito village and is a product of yellow agave(rhodacantha agave). The agaves undergo roasting followed by open-air fermentation in wooden containers before undergoing distillation in a still made from Higuera Blanca's tree trunk.
Taste: Vegetal savoriness, cedary smoke, and seaside air
Notes: Wildflower, fresh truffles, jalapeno, sagebrush, and saline mix with queso fresco funk
Finish: Oily weight with campfire smoke flavors.
La Venenosa Sur de Jalisco Raicilla (Red Label)
Among all Venenosa agave spirits, Red Label raicilla is the most mezcal-like and traditional, and it is a product of 100% Angustifolia agave, locally known as lineño agave. Its production takes place in a town close to Colima volcano known as Zapotitlán de Vadillo.
Palate: Spicy and floral
Notes: Allspice, white pepper, wet stone, clove, and sugar cookies
Finish: A long and tannic finish with hints of burnt embers and license smoke
La Venenosa Sierra del Tigre Raicilla (Orange Label)
La Venenosa Sierra del Tigre Raicilla is exclusively a product of foraged and wild inaequidens agave, which undergoes pit-roasting and fermentation inside open-air tubs built underground. This spirit is unrefined, raw, and exists in limited quantity or around 700 L per year.
Flavor: Ranges from fruity and sweet flavors to flavors of savory umami and sour lime.
Finish: Pungent creamy finish.
Notes- over-ripe mango, pine, green papaya, custard, and soursop with heavy earthen funk wafts with a meatiness similar to French wash-rind cheeses.
La Venenosa Puntas Raicilla (Blue Label)
La Venenosa Puntas Raicilla is deceptively smooth with no traces of alcoholic heat. It is also one of the awe-inspiring agave spirits that you can ever taste.
Flavor: Almost gin-like and vegetal herbaceousness
Notes: Jasmine, honeysuckle, juniper berry, and fresh-cut grass with lime oil freshness and touches of tropical fruits.
Finish: Velvety and long with white pepper, custard, and orange creamsicle bursts.
La Venenosa Étnica Tuchi
Fermentation of tuchi raicilla involves the combination of mai agave and wild masparillo together with naturally occurring airborne yeast. The spirit then proceeds for distillation inside Filipino-style still that is handmade.
La Venenosa Étnica Tepe
The distillation of Tepe raicilla involves the use of fermented agave of wild Castilla, and like tuchi, its fermentation involves the use of airborne yeast that is naturally occurring.
Why Choose Raicilla
With the high sales of this agave spirit, its interest has been on the rise, and raicilla La Venenosa is already racing to beat highly-rated tequilas. The depth and character of raicilla are pretty outstanding, and it sends drinkers going for more and more bottles.