Bacanora, The World's Gift From The State of Sonora
by Greg Rutkowski
Are you contemplating trying mezcal but you desire something less smoky?
If so, then Bacanora is the best spirit for you. In this article, we'll let you into the secret behind Bacanora's popularity and what makes it so special compared to other agave spirits.
Before then, let's get to know where it all began.
History of Bacanora
Bacanora falls in the category of mezcals. What makes bacanora different from others is that it is less smoky than other mezcals. The production of this drink from Sonora involves using a spiky and native agave plant known as Pacifica. This agave is almost similar to Agave Angustifolia. The difference comes in the taste of bacanora.
The high and dry mountains of Sonora have very different sets of soil and climates compared to the ones in Oaxaca, and this environment dictates the nature of the Pacifica agave. However, nowadays, you can also find bacanora produced from wild agaves that soak up moisture, minerals, and sunlight.
Bacanora was a local spirit long before, and it did not have any national allegiance. As a result, you could find it in Tucson and the Southern part of Arizona. The area still has a fantastic collection of agaves that some people have started using to produce local agave spirits.
During the prohibition period, the Mexican distillers only supplied bacanora to the local markets. However, when the local prohibition also took over, the tradition of distilling bacanora went underground. This resulted in an improvisational and very portable distilling style. Up to date, the distillers only sell a few unlabeled bottles of varying qualities across the Mexican border.
Growing the Agave Pacifica
The production involves explicitly the use of agave Pacifica which is native to the Sunora region. The agave plant takes about six years to mature, and the harsh arid climatic condition in the Mexican area is the reason behind the hardy nature of the Pacifica plants. The agave’s fibrous leaves sometimes grow to over 60 inches, and the mature pinas weigh between 44 to 88 Ibs.
Harvesting & Leaf Removal
The native name of the harvesting process for agave Pacifica is jimar(hee-mar), and it involves a tool known as Coa. The harvester (Jimador) removes the pointed agave leaves using the bare hands, exposing the core or pina, which is pineapple-shaped. Harvesting these agaves is a difficult task, and it always requires enough strength.
Roasting the Pina Cores
After harvesting, the jimador splits the harvested pinas by hand and places them into underground ovens designed especially for roasting. The ovens are known as mallas, and they soften the pina, making the juicing process very easy. Also, the wood inside these ovens is responsible for the smoky flavor of Sonora Bacanora. Some producers prefer using boilers or autoclaves in place of wood for roasting to produce less smoky flavors.
Extraction / Juicing
Following the traditional methods of producing Bacanora, the producers crushed the roasted pinas using a grinding wheel known as tahona. The modern method utilizes the use of mechanical crushers, which separate the juices from the fibers. After mincing, the producers wash the pinas using water and stain them to drain the juices.
The team places the agave pulp into barrels for fermentation, combines it with water, and then covers barrels air-tight. The fermentation process takes about 6-12 days, which depends on the temperature within.
After distillation, the team places the juices into stills and heat them over fires of mesquite charcoal. Invented funnels at the top of the stills conduct vapor from the heat, and the condensed vapor flows through the pipes into the barrels. This is entirely the distillation process, and it is responsible for the premium quality of Sunora Bacanora. At first, bacanora did not undergo aging. However, the current brands are coming up with Anejo and Reposado iterations of Bacanora.
It generally has a dry profile with peppery hints and an earthy touch. The difference in flavors lies in the distillation process and the climate and distinct soils in Sunora.
Types of Bacanora from the State of Sonora
This bacanora is one of the imports into the United States, and the Contreras Family owns it. This family has been working on Rancho Tepua for about five generations, and it stands out as one of the best drinks to savor.
Mazot is Chacon family’s-owned drink. The mother takes charge of the brand, the father in charge of the agriculture while their son the distillation. The Chacon family produces terrific bottles, embracing the spectrum of infusions and Blancos. They also thought of incorporating uvelama into the production process of bacanora and ended up producing a fantastic product.
Batu brand belongs to Rafael Encinas, who has been producing bacanora over the years. Batu has both an amazing quality and unique flavors, which makes it a drink to savor.
Santo Cuviso is also another bacanora brand owned by the Chacon family. Santo Cuviso has three labels; anis, blanco and uvelama. These labels have very special infusions, and their flavors and exceptional.
Why Choose Bacanora
The peppery hints and earthy touch or bacanora can quickly lift your moods with just a single sip. Unlike other tequila and mezcal, bacanora has a less smoky flavor, and who wouldn’t love the sound of that.