Raicilla is in its essence a Mezcal, created in the Tequila producing state of Jalisco.
It is created in the same way, using wild agaves of various species, commonly using Agave Maximilliana or Lechuguilla. Most alcoholic beverages are taxed and regulated by an authorising body of some kind. Although the production of Raicilla moved underground centuries ago when agave spirits were made illegal and later heavily taxed, most Raicilla production remained hidden to avoid conformities. The name, in fact, translates to ‘little root’ which, when illegal, producers used as a reason why they shouldn’t be taxed or fined for producing their moonshine as it ‘wasn’t using the heart of the agave’ they stated and instead claimed to use ‘the roots of the agave’. The pinas of course were used.
Even today the spirit is very much shrouded in mystery, as a lot are as previously mentioned still produced underground and there aren’t many available outside of the small communities that make the Raicilla. Regulations, more often than not, are seen to restrict production practises and also mean added costs. For many producers who have made Raicilla for generations, and who may or may not have the means or the desire to pay a separate body money, simply to be able to call their product ‘Raicilla’ decide to keep production underground. Raicilla is unlike both Mezcal and Tequila, despite her production being near identical to Mezcal and the area being the same as most Tequila distilleries.
It has even over the years been dubbed Mexico’s native Gin! Despite an absence of botanicals or an infusion of any kind, Raicilla typically has an incredible floral orange blossom and fresh hibiscus flavour, almost grassy and forestal, but very delicate and certainly the most fragrant of all agave categories.
Raicilla embodies freedom and tradition.
There are many debates currently where the spirit may or may not receive her denomination of origin and with it regulations and rules on production methods.
A spirit as natural and beautiful as Raicilla cannot be tamed. It can only be small batch by those truly passionate about her flavours and showing their communities how delicious their own product is. When rules and regulations come in place, so does added cost. This is more often than not not possible for many authentic producers, who may or may not have the means or the desire to pay a separate body money, simply to be able to call their product ‘Raicilla’.
Regulations can be great, as it gives a spirit more transparency for everyone, but at the same time, reduces its rural magic and makes it more reformed. Personally I get excited when I am passed an unmarked plastic bottle filled with a clear liquid by a producer in Mexico, but each to their own I guess!