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Rancho Tepua Bacanora tasting notes


  • Location: Rancho Tepúa, Aconchi, Sonora
  • Agave: Agave Angustifolia Pacifica
  • Maestro Bacanorero: Roberto Contreras
  • Quantity: 480 liters
  • ABV: 43%
  • Tasting keywords: Mineral, roast agave, cinnamon.
  • NOM: 168
  • Buy it today


This sings a sensory song of rich and wide cut of sweet agave.


A mosaic of nuanced flavors that include sandalwood, cinnamon, lemongrass, and a mineral tang which are all supported by a center beam of roast agave. This is something to contemplate that really brings a bouquet to the table and reflects all the elements of its creation.

What’s going on here flavor wise opens the argument about how close the Pacifica – as its called on the label – is to the Espadin. Some argue that it’s the same plant, some that it hybridized, some that it adapted to the local environment and be considered a distinct plant. The flavors are clearly distinct from espadins in Oaxaca and other areas so I’m looking forward to figuring that out.

Method / Background Notes

Rancho Tepua is the OG bacanora in the US. The Contreras family’s original label was Cielo Rojo which was the first bacanora legally imported to the US so they can lay claim to a pretty incredible heritage.

They roast their agave underground for about 36 hours, ferment in stainless steel for 8-10 days with local spring water, crush with small mechanical shredders, and then twice distill in a classic Arabic alembic which has a stainless steel pot and copper alembic.

Like many Bacanora producers the Contreras family are cattle ranchers first, the agave spread across their rancho and the distilling came later. And they have a significant rancho, it’s 2,500 hectares or more than 6,000 acres. Previously all their bacanora was made from estate grown agave but after the hard frosts in 2011 and 2012 they’ve been sourcing agave from further south. They’ve been in the business for five generations now and have lasted through the prohibition that consumed most of the 20th Century.

While the quality and nuance on display in the main Rancho Tepua label is pretty amazing, prepare yourself for three new expressions which should be arriving later this year/early next. There will be a Puntas from wild estate foraged Angustifolia Pacifica, a Lechugilla made from wild estate grown A. Shreveri, and a wild estate grown Palmilla which is the local name for Dasylirion Wheeleri. This will be the first Shreveri on the market in the US. All three of these expressions won’t be certified as Bacanoras for differing reasons: The Lechugilla and Sotol aren’t part of the Bacanora appellation while the Puntas is above 55% ABV which isn’t allowed within the appellation. All of which contributes to the ongoing discussion about agave spirits appellations.

Max co-founded Mezcalistas with Susan way back in 2012. Before that he was a journalist at Salon.com and The San Francisco Chronicle.

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