Batuq is a producer owned Bacanora from Rafael Adelberto Encinas Molina and family who make it on the family ranch outside of San Pedro de la Cueva in Sonora. It is yet another fantastic example of the greatness of the Bacanora space.
A history of family ownership
The Encinas Molina family has a long history in Bacanora. There’s some evidence that the family was producing in 1910 while Rafael’s father and mother had the Don Beto brand in Mexico for quite some time. Altogether the family has been in the business for four generations and the fifth is already involved.
Rafael Encinas Molina owns the brand and the agave that goes into it. While he manages the agave side of the equation another Rafael, Rafael Quijada, manages the distillation process. Encinas and Quijada have had products in the U.S. market before, they worked with Cecilia Murrieta on both of the Bacanoras that she has imported, the La Niña del Mezcal Bacanora and the OME Norte.
This is a rare example of a mezcal made from estate grown agaves and one that is the fruit of such old agaves. The Encinas family are ranchers first: They sell a range of items produced from their cattle. But they also farm agaves and have been for quite some time. Some of the agaves in the current reserva were planted in 1999 or 2000. Obviously it’s very expensive to keep plants in the ground for that long. The reserva plants were all caponed which requires plenty of work. And then they were left to sit for one to two years to deepen their flavor. That level of planning and devotion isn’t something that your average agave farm is going to invest in even if they found a very well heeled client. None of this is to disparage distillers who buy their agaves on the spot market or through longer term contracts; it is just very rare to see this sort of operation and Batuq deserves to be lauded for that commitment.
But what type?
The label says that Batuq is made from A. Yaquiana (Pacifica) which opens a round of questions that we’re not going to resolve here because even biologists aren’t settled on what that means. Clearly the agave is a type of angustifolia: It could be A. angustifolia haw adapted to the local environment or a separate variety like A. angustifolia haw var Pacifica or even the completely different species of A. Yaquiana or A. Pacifica. In the highly regarded reference guide for agaves from the area, Howard Scott Gentry’s “The Agave Family in Sonora” from 1972, he calls them all Pacifica. It’s clear that angustifolia hybridizes readily so it’s been a very difficult question to resolve.
Right now the question of what to call these agaves is open which means it’s a personal choice. The Encinas Molina family call their agaves Pacifica and for their importer Michael Hurley, “Yaquiana was a personal choice – Yaqui means something to me and the Southwest – and the town of Batuc was on the Yaqui River so the name represents geographical meaning and sense of place more than biological correctness.” Hurley noted that Gentry identified two angustifolia subspecies for Sonora, A. Yaquiana and A Pacifica, “so I use both.”
Bacanora is a synthesis of the old, distillation in the area dates back hundreds of years, and new because the production methods pull in influences from the past, present, and individual sensibility of their distillers. Batuq reflects that as much as any brand with a hybrid roast of some agaves in autoclaves, some in the wide circumference underground oven locally called a “malla.” Why? Because Rafael Encinas Molina doesn’t like a prominent flavor of wood and smoke so he uses the autoclave to moderate the furfural from burnt sugars and focus on the sweet roasted agave flavors.
The agaves are crushed first by axe then run through a mechanical shredder. Fermentation is wild in large square plastic containers and then distillation is a two pass affair in custom made square stainless steel and copper stills. Then it is rested in stainless steel tanks for two months in order to integrate the spirit. All of this is powered by fire because the distillery doesn’t have electricity.
Where to buy it
Batuq is being imported by Borderland Spirits, a tiny Arizona based importer which has very limited distribution. Right now you’ll need to track Batuq (and Borderland’s other import Mazot – more on that later) through select bottle stores like the following. Hopefully the distribution scene will change in the near future.
Flagstaff – Grand Canyon Spirits and Majestic Marketplace
Phoenix – Loyds Liquor, Sun Devil Liquor, and Cellars Fine Wine 1 and 2
Tucson – Plaza Liquors, Liquor Dan, Westbound, and Rum Runner
Coirti Bros (Sacramento), Gemini Bottle Co (SF), and Silverlake Wines (LA).
Downtown Liquors (Eugene), Highland Liquors (Beaverton), and Pearl Specialty Market & Spirits (Portland).