Bacanora: The sweetest and forbidden agave distillate for over 75 years
We write this post for all that are interested in knowing more about agave distillates in different countries, because we have more besides Mezcal and Tequila, we have a diversity of agave plants and processes for all type of customers around the world.
What is BACANORA?
It is an agave distillate from the agave plant called "Angustifolia Haw", also known as "agave yaquina". The process still being artisanal as Mezcal; in this process the agave goes through different stages from jima, cooking in a wood oven, manual grinding, fermentation and doble distillation.
Bacanora has denomination of origin, can be produce within 35 municipalities from the state of Sonora. It is part of Sonora culture due to their process of elaboration has passed from generation to generation since colonial times.
For more than seven decades, bacanora was considered an illegal drink. The former governor of Sonora at that time, Plutarco Elías Calles, issued a prohibition law in 1915 that prevented the manufacture, import and sale of any type of intoxicating beverages in that state.
As a result of this law, those who dared to circumvent the law began to be persecuted, giving up to five years in prison. Despite its repeal in 1919, this law had long-term consequences.
One of them was that bacanora producers isolated themselves in the mountains to continue making this drink. Thus, for many years, the bacanora was produced clandestinely. It was not until 1992 when its production was regularized again and it was considered an alternative or an option for economic development in the state.
In 2000, the Mexican Property Institute (IMPI) granted the recognition of denomination of origin to 35 municipalities in addition to Bacanora. This means that only these municipalities are authorized by law to make this distillate.
Bacanora is the sweetest agave from all, its not so smoky that Mezcaal because some of them are cooked in a wood oven just for 24 hours instead of three days, giving that taste smooth and gentile.
The word Bacanora comes from the indigenous language of the Opatas, originally Bacanoraco is interpreted as: "Ladera de carrizos", it comes from the linguistic roots Baca which means "reed" and Noraco which means "slopes". This ethnic group made a fermented drink based on tatemado Agave and water; for your most important rituals and festivities.
How does it taste?
Colour: crystal clear. Once poured, a persistent and light body is perceived.
Aroma: Earthy and smoky at first, followed by slight anise and mesquite notes.
Taste: strong personality with slight anise notes when poured by itself. A sweet taste that lasts for a couple of minutes remains after swalloed.
Flavor: When is served alone, its strong personality is noted accompanied by hints of anise. In its wake it leaves a sweet sensation that persists for a few minutes.
How it is the process?
To go from maguey to liquor, the process is pretty similar to mezcal. Once the agave plants are ready, we proceed to the jimado, where the maguey heads, also called pineapples, are ready.
This is followed by the cooking of the pineapples, which takes approximately 48 hours. At this point the starch transforms into digestible sugar. Once cooked, the pineapples are passed to the mill to extract the juice.
Fermentation is the penultimate step, when the ground pineapples are put into barrels with water and left to rest for 4 to 5 days. Finally go to distillation, where the fermented pulp is passed through heat to obtain the bacanora. This drink has between 38 and 55 degrees of alcohol, less than mezcal, but almost always more than tequila.
After fermentation comes the double distilltion where they leave the first batch rested in stainless steel tanks for over six months to be mixed with the next batch, due to the ground temperature the flavour change so to have a homogeneous flavour, leave the first batch rest.
Currently the Sonoran Regulatory Council of Bacanora (CSRB) is in charge of product certification.
Does the master distiller come from a family of bacanora bacanora maestros? What history does the brand have?
In Sonora and specifically in the 35 municipalities that are within the denomination of origin of bacanora, more than an economic activity, the production of bacanora is a tradition that is passed from generation to generation, in Suaqui Grande, Sonora those who make bacanora aguamiel are the Quintana family, father and son the main vintners who were instructed by their grandparents and it is an activity in which the family participates.
Why/when was the brand created? Specifically for export?
The brand was created on May 27, 2016, the hottest day on record in the state of Sonora, that day the first cooking would become bacanora aguamiel, it was born in honor of the ancient tradition of making bacanora and to maintain Sonoran culture, which after 77 years of prohibition is almost forgotten, was the opportunity to make a product that would make a difference to others. Once on the market, bacanora aguamiel has had a very good acceptance and is becoming a product with export potential that can be valued all over the world for its notes and artisanal process that make it unique.
Is Aguamiel rested in glass before bottling?
Bacanora aguamiel is white, before bottled in crystal its rested in stainless steel tanks.
What does the logo (bird) represent?
El correcaminos (roadrunnner), is well known in the region as "churea", is the main element of bacanora aguamiel, It is a bird of the Sonoran desert which can be seen running between the agave plants.
What is the distillery doing for the preservation of the environment/ sustainability of agaves?
After 77 years of illegality of the bacanora and the exploitation of the raw material, the agave angustifolia was in danger of extinction, today there are agave plantations and nurseries that assure us raw material for the future and constantly replanting in new lands. To populate them with agave, the fermentation waste is used on the land and with the livestock, nothing is wasted and as much of it as possible is reused.
Also how big / small are the batches of aguamiel?
Production capacity of 40,000 liters per year.
Growing the plant is one of the most importatn steps. They use selected agaves that matured between 7 to 10 years, only Angustifolia haw.
Proceed to the jima of the plant that is done manually with a machete
The pineapples are cooked in ovens under ground with stone and mesquite wood, buried and left for 4 days, the starches and carbohydrates are converted into sugar that will later be converted into alcohol.
The pineapples change from yellowish white to dark brown in the cooking and the grinding is donde with an ax.
It is left to ferment in tanks with water, it is natural fermentation and varies depending on weather conditions, it takes between 2 to 4 days.
The fermented product is transferred to a copper still, where with mesquite wood it reaches its boiling point, then it goes through a spiral that is in a condensation chamber and then a double distillatiion is done to get more product pure.
Countries where you can find Bacanora Aguamiel
Mexico, USA, UK, Netherlands and Spain.
Currently exist four agave distillates with Denomination of Origin, are Bacanora (Sonora), Tequila (Jalisco, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Michoacán and Tamaulipas), Mezcal (Oaxaca, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, Puebla, San Luis Potosí and Zacatecas), and Raicilla (Jalisco and Nayarit).
Nowadays Bacanora is getting popular withing customers, who are eager to know more about new artisans beverages.