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Joven Sotol

When it comes to Mexican spirits, tequila and mezcal often command the limelight. However, in the northern states of Mexico, another spirit, both ancient and distinctive, has been gathering aficionados – Sotol. Specifically, the 'Joven' (meaning 'young' in Spanish) variant of Sotol offers a fresh, clear and unaged version that captures the essence of its source plant and the terroir in which it thrives.

Origins and History

Sotol has roots that go back centuries, with indigenous peoples of northern Mexico, such as the Rarámuri, Toboso, and Anazazi, having utilised the sotol plant for more than just spirit production. From building materials to a food source, the sotol plant was integral to their daily lives. However, its distillation into a spirit gave it a ceremonial and communal importance.

The Distinct Plant: Dasylirion

Unlike tequila, which is made from the blue agave plant, or mezcal, which can be produced from various types of agave, sotol is derived from the Dasylirion plant, commonly referred to as the 'Desert Spoon' or 'Sotol' in Spanish. This wild plant, which takes 12 to 15 years to mature, grows predominantly in the arid regions of northern Mexico, particularly in the states of Chihuahua, Durango, and Coahuila.

Production Process

Joven Sotol provides an unadulterated look into the spirit's production process due to its unaged nature. The production begins with the harvesters, or 'sotoleros', extracting the core or 'piña' of the sotol plant. This piña is then cooked, traditionally in earthen pits lined with stones, to convert the plant's starches into fermentable sugars. Once cooked, the piñas are crushed and left to ferment, usually in open-air vats. Following fermentation, the mash undergoes distillation, typically twice, in either copper or stainless-steel stills.

Being a 'Joven', this sotol variant does not undergo any ageing process, ensuring that the final spirit is clear and embodies the raw flavours and aromas of the Dasylirion plant and its unique terroir.

Flavour Profile

Joven Sotol is a testament to the environment where the Dasylirion grows. Its flavour profile can range from grassy, earthy, and mineral notes to more complex flavours like green peppers, pine, and even a smokiness, reminiscent of some mezcals but distinctly its own. The spirit's texture can be described as silky or velvety, with a finish that lingers, evoking the vast desert landscapes of northern Mexico.

Cultural Significance

Sotol, especially in its joven form, represents more than just a spirit. It's a cultural touchstone that recalls the history and traditions of northern Mexico. With the burgeoning global interest in artisanal and craft spirits, Joven Sotol has found a receptive audience beyond its traditional boundaries.

Many contemporary bartenders and mixologists, captivated by Joven Sotol's distinctive taste profile, are experimenting with it in cocktails, finding it a versatile and intriguing ingredient. This has further elevated its status, transforming it from a regional drink to an international sensation.

Challenges and Sustainability

The rise in Sotol's popularity comes with its own set of challenges. The wild nature of the Dasylirion plant and its long maturation period mean that sustainable harvesting is crucial to prevent over-extraction and ensure the spirit's long-term viability. Recognising this, many modern sotol producers are actively engaging in sustainable practices, including reforestation efforts and controlled harvesting.Joven Sotol is a vibrant expression of northern Mexico's landscapes, history, and culture. While it shares a kinship with its more famous cousins, tequila and mezcal, Sotol stands distinct in its flavour profile, production process, and the story it tells. The unaged 'Joven' variant, in particular, offers a pure and unfiltered experience of this unique spirit, making it a must-try for enthusiasts looking to expand their horizons in the world of distilled beverages. As Sotol continues its journey from the deserts of Mexico to the bars and homes worldwide, it carries with it the essence of a region and the spirit of its people.

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