My Agave pick for August – Senor Ernesto Delgado
This month, I chose to share Cielo Rojo Bacanora with friends. Bacanora is one of the lesser-known Agave spirits, yet like Sotol and Raicilla, has its’ own distinct flavor profile.
Cielo Rojo, or Red Sky, comes in an intriguing bottle. It’s made from hand blown recycled glass with a pattern like an inverse hobnail – or if you prefer, thousands of little dimples. The bottle is pleasing to look at, and pleasingly heavy to handle. The tiny indentations in the glass feel good in your hand. As soon as I picked it up, I felt I was holding something substantial; something worthy of carefully bottling. The label depicts the sacred Rancho Tepua Mountain in the Sonoran Sierra Madre region of México.
Bacanora is produced from wild Pacifica Agave, called Yaquiana (A. Angustifolia), which grows in the mountain range that frames the State of Sonora. This is the only region where Bacanora may be produced. Interestingly, Bacanora was illegal in both México and the US from 1915 until 1992.
Cielo Rojo was the first Bacanora to be imported to the United States. It’s still produced on the same ranchero where it’s been made for four centuries. The wild Agaves are harvested from steep canyons in the Sierra Madres and packed out by Burro to the 25,000 acre Rancho Tepua of Roberto Contreras.
The Agaves are roasted in traditional rock and clay ovens in the ground, then given a long fermentation with wild yeasts before being double distilled in very small copper pot stills.
As you know, I’m partial to Blancos. I love the crisp, clear taste and appreciate that it allows me the luxury of tasting the skill of the Master Distiller and terroir without the addition of flavors imparted by barrel aging.
Here are my impressions:
Aroma: The aroma is sweet and mild, with hints of black licorice and herbs. A very slight smoky touch, very subtle. Just after opening the bottle, close your eyes. You’ll envision yourself standing on a steep hillside overlooking hundreds of sweet-smelling wild Agave plants on a hot summer afternoon.
Flavor: This Bacanora tastes pure and smooth. It’s elegant in its simplicity. Sweet agave dominates, with a very pleasant black licorice spice. The flavors tingle on the tip of the tongue and become more pronounced in the throat.
This Bacanora gets sweeter and more inviting as you sip, but it’s a natural sweetness like pure spring water.
Pairing with food:
Unlike most delicate and smooth Agave spirits, Cielo Rojo stood up to strong flavors in food without getting lost. We tried it with Esquites and found that it complemented the flavors of the sweet corn and spice – making us want to take a bit and a sip over and over.
We also tried it with house-made corn tortilla chips and fire roasted tomato salsa. Cielo Rojo was a lovely contrast with the strong flavors of tomato and peppers – it added a clear note of flavor.
This Bacanora is also well-suited to sit and sip with a friend under the stars on a warm summer evening.
I invite you to come in for a taste! ~ Señor Ernesto Delgado