The Raicilla Spirit
16th March 2017
Share This Post
WHAT IS RAICILLA?
Made in the highlands of the Sierra Madre Occidental, Raicilla (pronounced rye-see-ya) is an agave spirit rooted in folklore and tradition. With a 400 year history in Mexico, this artisan spirit highlights the floral characteristics of the Maximiliana agave, commonly known as Lechuguilla. From the heart or “piña” of the Lechuguilla surface a bouquet of light citrus and floral aromas that are joined by notes of hibiscus, beach plum and pineapple. In comparison to its agave cousins, Tequila and Mezcal, Raicilla is considered the most fragrant and floral spirit in the agave family.
With the arrival of distilling technology in the 16th century, Raicilla transformed from a fermented beverage to the distilled spirit of today. During this transformation, the spirit grew in popularity among indigenous locals, which led to its illegalization by the ruling Spanish who believed it to be an unsavoury custom. Its illegalization forced producers into remote areas to distill in secret – a practice that remained for centuries. This is why for more than 400 years Raicilla has been made in the same traditional way, passed down through generations of family distillers.
“Raicilla is considered the most fragrant and floral spirit in the agave family. The unique flavour of Estancia Raicilla is created through our distillation process and the terroir where our Lechuguilla grows”
HOW IS RAICILLA MADE?
After 8 years, the Lechuguilla agave shoots up a tall flower, known as the quiote, to signify it’s ready to harvest. After cutting the quiote, the jimador leaves the plant for 12 more months to allow the sugars to return to the piña before harvesting. Each piña can weigh as much as 100 kilograms and it takes approximately 10 kilograms (or 22 pounds) to make one litre of Raicilla.
Our distillation process begins by roasting the agave piñas for 2 days in an adobe oven (similar to large pizza oven) to activate the natural sugars for fermentation. The agave piñas are then crushed before the juice and fibres are placed in open oak barrels to slowly ferment using wild airborne yeast. When the ferment is ready, it is double distilled in copper alembic stills to create Estancia’s aromatic Raicilla.
Much like the concept of terroir in viticulture, the flavour of our Raicilla is very much a product of the climate, geology and volcanic soil where our agave grows. These conditions, along with our distillation process, create the floral aromas that make this spirit truly special.
From the first moment liquor dripped from the copper coil of an alembic still, humans have been experimenting with libations in the pursuit of the perfect tipple. As a result of its crisp floral notes, Raicilla has emerged as an amazing spirit for mixologists looking to add something fresh and fragrant to their cocktail lists. Raicilla’s bright characteristics makes it perfect as an alternative mixer in traditional sours, spirit-forward cocktails, dulops and smashes, as well as tropical-style drinks.
Raicilla is great as the base spirit in traditional mixers like Margaritas, Cranberry & Lime, Caprioskas, and even Bloody Mary’s. Its fragrant flavour also makes it superb in tropical-style daiquiris like mango & mint, peach & ginger, hibiscus & lime, pineapple & basil, or simply with fresh coconut water & shaved ice. Below are a few of our favourite cocktails for something a little different.
“Raicilla has emerged as an amazing fragrant spirit for mixologists looking to add something fresh and floral to their cocktail lists.”
PRICKLY PEAR MARGARITA
- 2 purple prickly pears 2 oz. raicilla
- 1 Tbsp. of lime juice
- 3/4 oz. triple sec
- 1/2 oz. agave syrup Coarse-grained salt 1 lime wedge
- Ice cubes
Place prickly pears in water and poach for 10 min. When cooled, peal away outer skin and blend with a little water. Strain juice to remove seeds and pulp and pour into a cocktail shaker. Add Raicilla, triple sec, lime juice, agave syrup, ice and shake well. Pour into a glass filled with ice and rimmed with salt (optional). Garnish with lime wedges.
CUCUMBER & SERRANO PEPPER
- 1 small cucumber (seeds removed)
- 1 1/2 oz. raicilla
- 1 oz. lime juice
- 4 thin slices of green Serrano peppers (seeds removed)
- 1/2 oz. natural syrup Ice
Blend cucumber with a little water and strain into cocktail shaker. Add lime juice, Raicilla, natural syrup, 2 ice cubes and shake well. Pour into glass and top up with mineral water. Add Serrano Chile and stir.
- 1 1/2 oz. Raicilla
- 3/4 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
- 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
- 1/2 oz. agave syrup
Combine Raicilla, juices, and syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice; shake vigorously and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with lime wheel.
In 2014, Rio Chenery left New York City for the highlands of Jalisco to try his luck at distilling his family’s favourite drink. After reuniting with longtime friend, Jonas Brewer, the two set off for the mountains of Jalisco in the hope of building their dream distillery. They soon settled on the town of La Estancia where they set up production in a 200-year-old spring-fed hacienda. With the help of Master Distiller Juan Ramos, Estancia Distillery was born, and with it our unique Raicilla.
If you would like more information about Estancia Raicilla then please leave us a message