Raicilla De Una: Mexico’s Legendary Agave Spirit Comes of Age
Mexico’s rebel-child spirit has found its dream partnership. Ethan Lovell with Waves For Water and Amber Sellers, founder of Artisan Revival, joined forces with the Master Distiller, Manuel Salcedo Gutierrez to bring you a small-batch agave spirit called Raicilla De Una. For generations, traditional raicilla has been considered moonshine for its underground, homemade, drink-out-of-any-bottle-you-can-ﬁnd origins. In recent years, she’s nudged between elders Mezcal and Tequila for a seat at the tasting table.
Produced for over 500 years, raicilla (“little root”), got her name in the 1780s to avoid being taxed as alcohol by the Spanish crown. “Raicilla is Mexico’s best-kept secret. It’s an agave spirit rooted in folklore and tradition. Artisans that produce raicilla are a part of a community that celebrates the drink they call ‘medicina,’” says Raicilla Imports.
Just after Hurricane Patricia in 2015, Ethan delivered Waves For Water filters to those impacted. Before flying home, he ventured out for a taste. Taken by its crisp, smokey hues and accompanying ambiance, Ethan contacted Amber about the possibilities of importing. They raised funds, took a scouting trip, bootlegged samples for blind tastings and chose Manuel’s distillery amongst many strong contenders.
Racilla De Una, meaning raicilla “of one,” is made solely of Maximiliana agave grown and spring-fed on Manuel’s land. Contrary to tequila and mezcal, raicilla is made of only two ingredients: agave and water. Add anything else and it’s no longer raicilla. Raicilla De Una’s unique profile has been perfected by roasting the agave above ground in volcanic rock or wood ovens and fermented in environmental elements such as airborne yeast (think San Francisco sourdough bread) of Jalisco's Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains.
Grace Gaboury, Certified Sommelier of Chi Spacca restaurant in Los Angeles, describes Raicilla De Una as “raw and complex, what one expects from the mountains of Mexico. Grapefruit pith mingles on the nose with fresh herbs and wild underbrush making it hard to ignore the dusty earth tones of this traditional agave spirit. Caramelized fruit hits the mid-palate at first taste, followed by a spicy kick that ultimately leaves the drinker with a long, pleasant finish of creamy and slightly smokey cacao.” As it turns out, wild underbrush and caramelized fruit set hearts on fire. In March 2019, Raicilla De Una won Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It’s the highest accolade the competition awards.
Since 2017, Manuel’s made as many repairs to his distillery as the economy will allow. To bottle for 2019’s May harvest, Raicilla Imports launched a GoFundMe campaign to help finish upgrading the essentials: tanks for fermentation, distillation and storage, copper coils and a gas heating system with regulating temperature gauge for the distillation and bottling system, plus the legal fees and permits. To learn more and help, visit Raicilla De Una’s GoFundMe.
In talking to Amber and Ethan, gratification comes in bringing an above-par product to the USA and establishing Manuel as a lower-yield producer in Mexico, sustainably, for decades to come.
Tonight, there’s a party happening under the stars of Jalisco.