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Raicilla: The Spirited Drink (Second of 2 Parts)
by Ariadna Cossío |
by Ariadna Cossío |
The raicilla is an alcoholic beverage related directly to the tequila, with which shares both its origin as the method of processing. The difference is that the latter is a product of blue agave, while the raicilla is a distilled the agave lechuguilla. Product traditional Jalisco – their production covers from the peoples enclaved in the West Sierra Madre until the communities of the coast-the raicilla is still in search of obtaining their appellation of origin with the purpose of raising the quality and sustain the prestige of this drink, worthy of be disclosed at national and international as ambassador of our region.
How Raicilla is Made
There are two varieties of agave by which the raicilla is processed. One is located in the Coastal Region, headed by El Tuito and Cabo Corrientes, with a type of agave. The other is in the Mountain Region, headed by San Sebastián del Oeste, Talpa and Mascota. The agave of the raicilla, known as “lechuguilla”, is a wild agave. Their reproduction is on the basis of seed, unlike the agave tequilero, which their reproduction is based on sprouts.
The process of preparation of this drink can be described in broad outline, by the following steps:
1. When the distilled from agave are in full maturity, begins to bloom the “quiote” (the stem edible of flower of the agave). Subsequently cuts off the “quiote”, which can last up to three years without process.
2. The stalk is removed to leave the pineapple clean.
3. The pineapple is cut. In the case of the raicilla, using a furnace type that is heated baker to some temperature until the walls remain on the “red-white”; i.e, when the walls are filled with white ash. That indicates that the oven is ready.
4. The embers are taken out and all the pineapples are placed inside the oven from 36 to 48 hours, sealing it perfectly. If there was rift, oxygen would enter and could burn the pineapples. It requires before the next stage.
5. The oven is opened and the pineapples are drawn already cut. At that time the name of pineapple changes; now it is called “mescal”.
6. The juices from this “mescal” are extracted (the cut pineapple), using a heavy mill. Then it is macerated using a wooden mallet.
7. The juices are placed in containers and hydrolyzed; i.e distilled water it is added. Then, the fibers are added and so begin the process of fermentation by natural induction. Depending on the containers, the fermentation can last from six to fifteen days.
8. Once that the fermentation is completed, the juice and the fibers are placed in small containers, where being heated to slow fire for the steam to be captured in the top of the container. Then a drill pipe is placed to inject water for cooling gradually until that little by little the beverage is distilled.
Please note that this description corresponds to the artisan preparation of the raicilla, because the current processes for obtaining tequila, “bacanora”, “stool” and other distilled drinks are highly industrialized.
Ing. Jorge Dueñas, producer of the brand “El Real” in San Sebastián del Oeste, who since 1997 has driven all their efforts to make of this drink a product of great prestige in the region, has subjected to quality control these processes. His brand, for example, comes in four presentations: Raicilla Blanca (with graduation from 40%); Raicilla Gold (equivalent to that of tequila reposado. Unlike tequila, Raicilla Gold is stored in barrels three to twelve months. The official standard of tequila establishes that the reposados must be two to three months in barrels); Raicilla Añeja (found from 24 to 36 months in casks); Raicilla XO: Extra Añeja (found in barrels more than 36 months and graduation ranges between 36 and 38%. This gives it a smooth and pleasant flavor).
Brief legal framework
At the moment, the raicilla is still in search of his appellation of origin, which is a legal figure that protects four fundamental aspects: a region perfectly delimited; a raw material; a drink or product; and the name of that product. For example: the 126 municipalities of Jalisco can make tequila and use this word, if and when requesting permission to the Mexican government, which is the holder of the appellation of origin together with some regions of Nayarit, Michoacán, Guanajuato and Tamaulipas.
In the case of the raicilla, it has already achieved delimit perfectly the region of origin in seven municipalities (San Sebastián del Oeste, Mascota, Talpa, Atenguillo, Mixtlán, Huachinango and Cuautla), plus some others adjacent that also share the same habits, climatic conditions and production (Puerto Vallarta, Cabo Corrientes, Tomatlán and Ayutla). With this, the raicilla is in process of obtaining its appellation of origin, which would mean an essential characteristic that would contribute to pulling it out of its bad reputation and put it in its rightful place.
In 1997 Ing. Jorge Dueñas, producer of “Raicilla El Real”, began with this business in the framework of the legal economy establishing the Council Promoter of the Mexican Raicilla, agency owner of the collective brand “Raicilla Jalisco”. From that time on, to use the appellation “Raicilla Jalisco”, any producer has to be member of that council. This is a quality assurance, because within this grouping was established the rule under which the raicilla should be produced. There are currently 70 members, approximately, and is expected to continue adding other producers to improve the quality and sustain the prestige of the raicilla at the national and international levels.