“I asked an old woman what flavours she tasted in mezcal and she said: Time
I asked an old man what is mezcal and he said: Patience
I asked a Mescalero what he smelled in mezcal and he said: History.”
Holy smoke its mezcal book
There is no better way of describing this beautiful agave spirit we call Raicilla, a type of mezcal from Jalisco with over 600 years of history.
Mezcal by definition, but not by denomination
Raicilla, pronounced rye-see-ya, is a type of Mezcal but as it is not produced in a Mezcal DO (Denomination of Origin) state it cannot be labelled as such.
Made in the state of Jalisco, famed for the blue weber agave from which Tequila is made – but not Raicilla – hence why it is not called Tequila either.
In the 1780’s, artisans who crafted their mezcals adapted the name Raicilla to avoid a mezcal tax levied by the Spanish Crown.
There are two distinct styles of Raicilla:
De la Costa (of the coast) and De la Sierra (of the mountains)
Jalisco offers a great diversity of agave species, second only to Oaxaca. For this reason, along with diverse terroir, equipment and technique, Raicillas offer an amazing journey of flavour and history.
It is a spirit of pre-Hispanic origin, revered by the ancient indigenous people of Mexico who claimed it’s consumption increased vitality, strength and health.
La Venenosa Raicilla
The brand La Venenosa was created four years ago by chef Esteban Morales, to bring these hidden jewels to the market. Esteban crisscrossed the state of Jalisco in search of the best Raicilla producers in the region.
We showcase three unique Raicillas from La Venenosa, created by three different Maestro Taberner using varied production techniques from different areas of Jalisco showing the diversity of three different agave species;
Sierra – 42% ABV
Maestro Tabernero: Don Ruben Pena
Agave: Maximilliana, cultivated at 1,500 metres above sea level. Cooking: Roasted in a wood fired adobe oven.
Distillation: Arabic-philippino still and bottled after only one pass.
Initial aromas are of earth and mineral, followed by tropical fruit including papaya and avocado. Leading on to wet grass and delicate fruit flavours of tangerine. Well balanced acidity.
We pair the Sierra with papaya sprinkled with a little seasoning.
Sur – 47% ABV
Maestro Tabernero: Don Arturo Campos
Village: Zapotitlan de Vadillo
Agave: a type of Angustifolia known locally as Lineño cultivated at 1at approximately 1,200 metres above sea level.
Cooking: Roasted in an earthen oven.
Distillation: distilled twice in a Phillipino style still made out of copper and a hollow tree trunk.
Initial notes of old sherry come to the fore and develop into geraniums, cookie dough, dry fig, wood smoke and spices.
Earth on the palate with pronounced herb. The finish is dry and gently bitter.
We’ve decided to pair this with smoked cheese complimenting the dried fruit and sherry notes.
Costa – 45.5% ABV
Maestro Tabernero: Don Alberto Hernãndez
Village: Llano Grande of the coastal region Cabo Corrientes.
Agave: Rhodecantha that takes 8 years to mature and Angustifolia that matures after 12 years, are cultivated at 700 metres above sea level.
Cooking: roasted in a wood fired Adobe oven.
Distillation: twice in a Philippino still made out of copper and a hollowed out tree trunk.
Beautifully balanced with a vibrant minerality. Bold aromas of smoke and sea salt salinity. Smoked cedar, pine flavours with a floral and vegetal agave quality.
We pair this with green olives drawing on the savoury, salty qualities.
“Raicilla is really more like a glass of wine than a tequila. The agave has a beautiful relationship with the soil like the grapes do.”
• A Mezcal made in the state of Jalisco
• With over 600 years of history
• Medicinal name initially to avoid tax
• Made from a variety of agave species
• Uses earthen pits and above ground ovens to cook the agave hearts.
• Diverse, evocative and unique.
Sip + savour
Written by Rama Chandran