In a few hours the temperature of the Chihuahuan desert shoots up. From 10 to 40 degrees Celsius without warning. With the sun in its splendor, the wild specimens do their best to survive, to absorb the greatest amount of nutrients from the soil. The dasylirion wheeleri belongs to this fighting lineage. This plant in its interior, in a generous way, keeps herbaceous flavors, smoke and vanilla. The juice that is obtained when cooking its pineapple -and later it is distilled- is the raw material of a gift with more than eight centuries: the sotol.
Archaeologists say that in Paquimé the first vessels were found with a liquid that they identified as that liquor. Tarahumaras, Anasazis and Apaches enjoyed its flavor, used it in ceremonial rituals as a spirit drink and even as a remedy, to which they added snake poison to enhance its qualities. It is still used that way. The reptile’s venom is offered as a differentiator and tourist curiosity, since they assure it strengthens the immune system and favors digestion.
Crystal clear or aged, sotol survived the passage of time. For years it was relegated as a cheap drink, but a little more than two decades ago a handful of businessmen mobilized to improve their production processes, obtain the designation of origin – which today the States of Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua have – and avoid the deforestation of these plants.
It takes at least 15 years for the plants to develop into sotol.
It must be free of herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers.
It is common to find this distillate in the best bars in the world.
It is drunk straight and in cocktails.
Its pineapple is more closely related to garlic and onion than to agave.
Plant collectors have to travel miles to find good specimens. They go for days in wild areas.
The bet turned out to be favorable and for sample is the distillery of Jose Daumas Gil de Partearroyo, engineer and enologist who in 1996 acquired a winery in which they made brandy, where at present his house of production of sotol is located, in Ciudad Delicias. There he produces seven different labels that he sells in North America, China, Europe, Russia and Chile.
“He just needed a push. It is a noble distillate that can be sipped, grandparents say that a daily glass helps to improve health”, comments engineer Alejandro Valles, Production Coordinator of Vinomex, the company that produces the Hacienda de Chihuahua labels.
Valles explains that the international awards obtained by the sotol have contributed to its popularity. In contests they measure it with tequilas and mezcals. This brand has more than eight awards, including two medals at the World Spirits Awards, one gold and one silver.
The flavor of the Hacienda de Chihuahua Añejo captivated actress Julia Roberts who coined the phrase: Like Tequila? Love Sotol, referring to the distillate with a two-year aging in French oak barrels. Roberts regularly serves it to her guests.
The production and aging methods have become more sophisticated, now you can find triple distilled liquors, sotol creams, extra old versions with a five year aging and a bottle that includes small gold flakes. “It is one of the most requested ones, it is an aged liquor with pure gold, which since it does not have any alloy is beneficial for human consumption”, Valles assures.