Mezcal. Part 11. Bacanora, Raicilla, Sikua, Sotol, Destillado de Agave

Besides tequila and mezcal, there are also related spirits such as bacanora, raicilla, sikua, sotol or destilado de agave. But what are the differences between them?

In the introduction to this series of articles, we already reported on how agave spirits can be classified. Within the distillates there are different groups: Bacanora, mezcal, raicilla, tequila and others. Sotol also belongs to this group, but since the genus Dasylirion is no longer classified as agave, sotol must be correctly listed separately from agave distillates. The summary as agave distillate is a modern way of looking at it due to legal requirements, because traditionally all agave distillates are called mezcal.

Classification of agave spirits.
Classification of agave spirits.

After we have already reported extensively on mezcal and tequila, we will now briefly describe the other distillates.


Bacanora is a mezcal named after the town of Bacanora in the Mexican state of Sonora. Bacanora can only be produced in some regions of this state. The wild Agave pacifica, also called Agave yaquiana or Agave angustifolia, is used for this. Agave vivipara and other closely related agaves are also used. The agaves grow in the mountainous region of the Mexican state of Sonora. Between 1915 and 1992, the production of Bacanora was illegal. In the meantime, bacanora has a protected origin in Mexico, but not yet internationally. Since 2005, the production methods have been regulated by law. As with mezcal, the agave hearts are roasted in earth pits, resulting in a smoky finished product. [1-78] [1-79] [2]


Raicilla is produced in Jalisco, mainly from Agave lechuguilla (Agave inaequidens) and Agave pata de mula (Agave maximiliana, also called Agave raicilla). One also reads that Agave lechuguilla is identical with Agave pata de mula. So here, as with mezcal in general, the confusion regarding agave nomenclature is also evident. Raicilla is indeed a mezcal, but it may not be called such because it is produced outside the regions permitted for mezcal production. For raicilla, the agaves are usually cooked in above-ground ovens, which means that raicilla is not as smoky as a mezcal. However, some producers use earth ovens, as they do for mezcal. The term raicilla has no protected origin. [1-79] [1-80] [2]


Sikua is produced in Michoacán. In this state, however, it has now been officially permitted to produce mezcal since 2013, so sikua has been merged into mezcal. [1-81]


Sotol has been legally protected in Mexico since 2004, but not internationally. Sotol may only be produced in the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Durango. It is produced from wild-growing specimens of Dasylirion wheeleri, which usually take 15 years to mature. The species Dasylirion durangensis, Dasylirion palmeri and Dasylirion acotriche are also said to be used. Botanically speaking, this genus is no longer classified as agave, but this does not stop the locals from making “mezcal” from it anyway. This is a traditional process that does not care about the subtleties of modern nomenclature. More or less, the production of sotol is the same as that of mezcal. Hearts are cooked in above-ground ovens or boiled in earth pits and distilled both by column distillation or in copper stills. Sotol must be made from at least 51% of the juice of Dasylirion and is sold in various stages of maturation. It is available as a blanco bottled immediately after distillation, as a reposado aged for at least 2 months in oak barrels or as an añejo aged for at least one year in oak. [1-77] [1-78] [2] [3] [4]

Destilado de Agave

In regions that do not belong to the protected mezcal area, a mezcal is also traditionally produced, but it cannot call itself mezcal. Instead, it must be called agave distillate. [1-81]

  1. John McEvoy: Holy Smoke! It’s Mezcal. ISBN 978-0-9903281-0-0. Mezcal PhD Publishing, 2014.
  2. http://www.ianchadwick.com/tequila/otherdrinks.htm: Other Mexican Drinks.
  3. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sotol: Sotol.
  4. Thomas Majhen: Die Barfibel. Kapitel: Sotol. ISBN 978-3-8442-5233-0. Berlin, 2012.

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Hi, I'm Armin and in my spare time I want to promote bar culture as a blogger, freelance journalist and Bildungstrinker (you want to know what the latter is? Then check out "About us"). My focus is on researching the history of mixed drinks. If I have ever left out a source you know of, and you think it should be considered, I look forward to hearing about it from you to learn something new. English is not my first language, but I hope that the translated texts are easy to understand. If there is any incomprehensibility, please let me know so that I can improve it.

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