Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What is Bacanora Part I

I was recently reading Lawrence Downes' article Linda Ronstadt's Borderland from the New York Times dated December 27, 2013. I highly recommend the article. It was quite informative not only on the life of singer Linda Ronstadt but also the manner in which Downes describes various places along the Arizona/Mexico border that he visited with Ms. Ronstadt. One particular paragraph stood out to me:
Linda put her poles aside and lay back on a bench to watch the stars. As Venus sank to the horizon, the rest of us drank shots of home-distilled bacanora, smooth Sonoran mezcal, from a Bud Light bottle, and talked about things I’ve forgotten.
Now this passage got me thinking about what Bacanora is. I decided to do some research.

Apparently, Bacanora was illegal from roughly 1915 to 1992 in both Mexico and the United States. Why? That I have yet to find in my research but what I did find was that Bacanora is a traditional agave spirit hailing from the Mexican state of Sonora. As with the designation of Tequila being official from Jalisco, Cognac being official from the French departments of Charente and Charente-Maritime and Champagne from the Champagne region in France, Bacanora is the official spirit of the Mexican state of Sonora. According to the article What is Bacanora from the website Tequila.net:
On November 6, 2000 the Official Gazette of Mexico published the "General Declaration of Protection to the Name BACANORA". The former declaration appoints Sonora as the only state in which the production of Bacanora is acknowledged.
Just as brandy is the general blanket term used for any cognac not made in the cognac regions of France, Mezcal is a general blanket term used to describe distilled agave spirits not made in Jalisco (Tequila) and Sonora (Bacanora). There are differences in the types of agave used in the manufacturing and distillation of Tequila and Bacanora.

According to the article Tequila, Mezcal, Bacanora & Sotol from The Tequila Factory website:
"Tequila” is a product of the fermentation and distillation of only one type of agve plant, the Agave tequilana Weber, blue variety. It is known as the state drink of Jalisco (Where the city of Tequila is located)...It is known as the state drink of Sonora (Where the city of Bacanora is located). It is made from agave plants that grow wild in Sonora state. Producers just call the plant “yaquiano” agave, but in fact there are at least four different species of agave that are used.
I have yet to get my hands on some Bacanora in order to give you all a first hand account of how it tastes. But I did find a testimonial from the article When in Sonora Drink Bacanora from the Festive Foods website:
So how does it taste? In my opinion, pretty good. Initially it has a sweet overtone that is replaced by a smoky bite and a harsh kick at the end. It lingers in your chest after drinking it and invites you to reflect. While I understand the necessity to look to the cocktail market to make money, I honestly think Bacanora is much better straight up or over ice than in a mixed drink. Bacanora’s character is much more like a fine scotch than Tequila, and as such it is best enjoyed unadulterated. We played around with mixing Bacanora with grapefruit soda and lime juice for a while, but ultimately found that we were messing with an already good thing. It’s unavoidably strong flavor profile makes me think that the road forward for Bacanora will not involve mainstream mixed drinks, but will more closely resemble what other mescals have done in Mexico. In Mexico City, for example, the hip thing to do is going to mezcal bars, where one can sample mescals from all over Mexico. I could see this in Bacanora’s future. It needn’t, and indeed shouldn’t surrender its fierce flavor in order to fit in. This is what happened to many Tequilas, and should be a lesson for Bacanora. Instead of compromising with anyone, I think that Bacanora could be a bold representative of the region of Sonora, something that Sonorans and foreigners alike could drink and appreciate. It really is distinctively Sonoran, and that side of ranching culture in Sonora is something that Bacanora can share with the world.
The DrinkupNY listing for the Cielo Rojo Bacanora Blanco describes it as having:
An inviting nose of agave, fresh herbs and wildflowers leads to a soft, creamy, medium-bodied palate brimming with generous notes of vanilla, cocoa, spice, anise and roasted agave. A subtle spiciness appears on the long finish.
Guess I have a new mission for the upcoming year of 2014. Have any of you ever drank Bacanora? What did you think. Any input would be appreciated. Here's a video I found on YouTube on how Bacanora is made in the traditional fashion:


Thank you all for your comments, suggestions and questions throughout this past year. May you all have a Happy, Prosperous and Wonderful New Year 2014.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla