Raicilla La Reina gets its name, The Queen, from the saying that Mezcal is the King and Raicilla is the Queen. Raicilla La Reina has been produced in the Sierra de Atenguillo for over 100 years. The brand prides itself on its focus on traditions, the need to support the families of producers, and the expansion of the culture surrounding Raicilla (the name means “small root”), a distilled spirit made by raicilleros (distillers) in the western part of Jalisco from pit-roasted, fermented agave piñas, the heart of the agave plant. Considered for decades as mezcal moonshine, it was the drink of choice for miners who worked in the mountain towns of the Sierra Madre. It has enjoyed a revival and in recent years, and it received its own D.O. in 2019.
“Raicilla was granted Denomination of Origen status within Mexico in 2019. The DO is comprised of the municipalities of Atengo, Chiquilistlán, Juchitlán, Tecolotlán, Tenamaxtlán, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo Corrientes, Tomatlán, Atenguillo, Ayutla, Cuautla, Guachinango, Mascota, Mixtlán, San Sebastián del Oeste, and Talpa de Allende in Jalisco, as well as Bahía de Banderas in Nayarit state.
It should be noted that the raicilla DO is quite new, is not yet supported by any Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM), nor any regulatory agency. What follows are the categories and classes proposed in the declaration of protection for the raicilla DO. The DO is controversial, and these issues are very much contested and in flux. All raicilla is 100% agave.
The DO breaks all raicilla into two geographical types – coastal raicilla (raicilla de la costa) made primarily from Agave angustifolia and A. rhodacantha, and mountain raicilla (raicilla de la Sierra) made primarily from Agave maximiliana Baker, and A. inaequidens. These types are each divided into categories and classes.”
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Located at 1655 meters above sea level, Atenguillo is a small town in the state of Jalisco, about 355 miles west of Mexico City. Since ancestral times Mexican people have cultivated a profound relationship with agave. La Reina uses for their rancilla the agave maximiliana, a variety which prefers hilly and shady areas. The region’s regulations stipulate that only 10% of the local agave can be harvested, which is done from October to May, once the rainy season is over and the agave plants are no longer gorged with water. Agave maximiliana solely reproduce from the seeds of the quiote (stalk); they do not produce hijuelos – clones that sprout from the roots. From June till October, the work takes place in the tabernas (raicilla distilleries). The seeds are placed in the nursery and watered often, until the plants are 4 to 5 months old. They are then replanted. Maximiliana agave takes 7 to 9 years to grow its quiote. It is then left for a further 2 years to concentrate its sugars further before harvesting.