All About Bacanora!

What is Bacanora?

For all intensive and cultural references, Bacanora is the “mezcal” from the state of Sonora. Located in the northwest region of mainland Mexico, the production of “mezcal” or any other distillate was illegal in the state of Sonora until the year 1992 due to prohibition. While most production is similar to artesanal mezcal the rules and regulation for the production of Bacanora are based upon that of Tequila. Written in 2004 and yet to be updated, NOM-168 states that Bacanora must be produced within and with agave cultivated in the Denomination of Origin which includes 35 municipalities centered around the town of Bacanora as well as most of the southeast region of the state. It also mandates that Bacanora be produced only from agave so unlike tequila, no other sugars are allowed. While the only agave that is currently allowed for production of Bacanora is Agave angustifolia Haw, it is known locally as Agave Pacifica, Agave Yaquilana, and Agave Bacanora. And yes, this agave does have the same scientific name as Espadín, but it looks vastly different; it is much smaller, more narrow, and has fewer pencas. It is an agave that is both cultivated and found grow in the wild, and according to NOM-186, the agave has the be registered with the Consejo Regulator del Bacanora and that it must be mature when harvested. Of note; there is a movement to allow producers to use other varieties of agave, and hopefully that will come about in the next revision of NOM-186. As of now, those producers are bottling their non-Pacifica products as “Destilado de Agave” or as notated for the US market, “Agave Distillate”

Production is similar to what you would find with artesanal mezcal such as pit-cooked agave but you will definitely find influences of the tequila industry in terms of milling with shredders and distillation in stainless steel pot stills in addition to small copper pot stills. The end result is definitely somewhat of a blend between the two styles of agave distillates and with a lot of character. In many ways, Bacanora could be a good bridge for tequila drinkers looking to tread lightly into the world of mezcal.

While producers do age their Bacanora similarly to tequila and mezcal with classifications of reposado and añejo that have to be aged in oak barrels, they have yet to include “extra añejo”. BUT, the largest size barrel allowed for an añejo is only 200L which is the same size of American whiskey barrels and the most commonly used barrel, it unfortunately disallows the uses of other types of barrels that you would find with wine, sherry, port, or cognac.

The one interesting aspect of Bacanora that is vastly different from tequila but kind of similar to pechuga style mezcales is the infusion of anise and uvalama which is a small round fruit, that is blackish-blue in color and grown on the vitex mollis tree which is native to Sonora. Both of these infusions add a regional twist of flavor not found in other agave distillates.

Currently, there are only a few brands on the market in California and certainly less across the United States. While we have hundreds of tequilas and mezcales we currently carry twenty three different Bacanoras, which makes it a great time to taste each of the different brands and expressions. And just like Tequila and Mezcal, Bacanora is a category that is definitely going to grow and grow fast!

Jul 16th 2021 Khrys Maxwell

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