How did I get here? 350 miles from
the US border in the heart of
narco country Blazing hot.
No water bottle. No sun protection.
I was out harvesting the legendary
Desert Spoon plant…
The locals fondly call it Sotol and it
makes you forget Tequila was
Mesh & Bone Sotol
Sotol plant (Dasylirion wheeleri) nectar
Sotol is an alcoholic drink obtained from the distillate of the fermented nectar extracted from the sotol plant (Dasylirion wheeleri), also known as sereque. Sotol is a 100% all-natural spirit, with no other ingredients other than filtered water. Sotol is certified kosher and 100% organic.
The sotol or sereque plant grows naturally in the high sierras of the Chihuahuan Desert in northern Mexico. Each plant must mature for 15 years before it is ready for harvesting, which takes place in the wild, and is a very arduous process. Highly-trained jimadores (harvesters) select only the best and largest plants. Their judgment is critical; only the proper selection of plants will guarantee a consistent final product of the highest quality. Since the sotol plant only grows wild, the harvesters must establish their camps in the same remote waterless deserts where the plants grow. All food and water for the harvesters must be trucked in during the harvest.
Using a special razor-sharp tool called a coa, the jimador expertly cuts the plant loose from its roots, then trims the spiky leaves from the plant’s core. This trimmed core is called the piña (pineapple) because of its pineapple-like appearance, but it is, of course, not a fruit. A piña normally weighs between 25 and 40 pounds. The harvested piñas of sotol are transported by truck to the distillery in the town of Delicias, where they are washed, processed, and unloaded manually onto a conveyor that feeds directly into a series of ovens.
Cooking the piñas makes the natural sugars of the sotol plant available for fermentation into alcohol. Naturally occuring bitter-tasting compounds in the sotol plant are eliminated in the hot, humid cooking process, which softens the piñas. After cooking, the piñas are shredded to make nectar extraction easier, using a high-speed blade mill.
The cooked and shredded plant fibers are then pressed between large rollers to extract the sweet nectar. The pulp left behind in the pressing process is discarded. The nectar then ferments in wooden vats. Fermentation is complete when all the sugars in the nectar have been converted to alcohol and the natural production of carbon dioxide halts. The now 22-proof liquid (or mosto) is then allowed to settle.
Distillation takes place in a continuous two-column still. Undesirable compounds form at the beginning and end of distillation, so only the distillate from the middle of the process is retained for the final product. After distillation, the undiluted sotol is 160 proof, or 80% ABV. Filtered water is then added to achieve a final ABV of 38%, after which the sotol is bottled, labeled, and shipped.