How Bacanora is Made

The Original Outlaw Spirit™

Produced and distilled using only artisan methods, Sunora Bacanora is carefully hand-crafted in small batches to assure it meets the high standards set forth by its original makers.

It’s been handed down from generation to generation and is exclusively made using a seven-step process.

Growing Agave Pacifica
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Growing Agave Pacifica

Bacanora is made specifically with the agave Pacifica, native to the Mexico's Sunora region. Agave Pacifica plants take approximately 6 years to reach maturity. The arid Mexican climate conditions are harsh, but the agave Pacifica plants are extremely hardy. The fibrous leaves of the agave Pacifica can sometimes reach lengths of over 60 inches. At maturity, piñas weigh on average between 44 - 88 lbs.

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It Takes Approximately 22 lbs. of agave Pacifica
To make 1 liter of Sunora Bacanora
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Harvesting & Leaf Removal

Agave Pacifica is harvested through a process known as jimar (hee-mar). Using a tool called a Coa, the pointed leaves of the plant are removed by hand to expose the pineapple shaped core, or piña. The person performing this function is called a Jimador. Harvesting the agave is difficult work and the Jimadores are known to be strong.

Harvesting Agave
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Splitting The Agave Piña Cores

The harvested piñas are then split by hand, and placed into specially designed underground ovens for roasting.

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Roasting the Piña Cores

The split piñas are then placed into specially designed underground ovens for roasting. These ovens, called mallas (ma – yas), softens the piñas and makes it easier to facilitate the juicing process that follows. As a result of the wood used in these underground ovens, Sunora Bacanora takes on a smoky flavor. Some bacanora producers choose to use autoclaves or boilers, as a substitute for the underground roasting process. This process produces a less smoky profile.

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Piñas are Roasted for 48 Hours
This yields a wonderful smoky result
Roasting the Pina Cores of Agave in underground oven
Tahona Grinding Wheel used to make bacanora
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Extraction / Juicing

Following methods used for over 300 years, the cooked pinas are crushed - traditionally in a ``tahona`` - which is a giant, circular grinding wheel. Modern techniques utilize mechanical crushers to separate the fiber from the juices. Once the piñas are minced they are washed with water and strained to remove the juices.

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Fermentation

The agave pulp is placed into barrels, combined with fresh water and covered air-tight, which begins the fermentation process. The process takes anywhere from 6 to 12 days, depending on temperature.

Fermenting process for bacanora
Distillation of Bacanora
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Triple Distillation

The fermented juices are placed into pot stills then heated directly over mesquite charcoal fires. The vapor created by the heat from the fire is conducted through an inverted funnel, sealed at the top of each still. As the vapor condenses in the tube it flows into the barrel. This process is carried out three times, for triple distillation, which gives Sunora Bacanora it's premium quality. At present, aging bacanora in oak barrels is unheard of. However, Amigo brands through its innovative, highly skilled team plans to create Reposado and Anejo iterations of Sunora Bacanora.

These simple, old-world artisan methods are the secret behind Sunora Bacanora’s alluring flavor: dry, complex, and peppery with a smoky, earthy finish.

Bottles of Bacanora

About The Bacanora Industry

Officially, bacanora is currently produced by approximately 38 licensed distilleries with each having its own private label and flavor profile. These labels produce limited batches of artisan bacanora on a small scale and sold are locally. Very few labels are imported to the United States and have limited distribution.

Sonora is hot and arid with little annual rainfall. This dry climate offers optimum growing conditions for agave — which usually takes approximately 4-5 years to mature. During the last decade over-harvesting of agave in the wild, coupled with unusually long and  deep freezes, damaged or destroyed most agave found in the northern part of the state. Efforts were underway by different entities to replenish agave in the wild. These programs are no longer in place; however, agave is currently being made available through the bacanora regulatory council annually for use in commercialization. It is speculated that with modern agricultural techniques the maturation rate can be reduced to approximately five-year to six-year cycles for agave Pacifica plants.

The bacanora industry in Sonora is in its early stages of commercialization and only a  few scientific studies either governmental or from the private sector have been identified. There are private scientific studies currently underway to fully identify and develop the best growing methodology for achieving the highest sugar yields in the shortest amount time. One such study was started from seed in June 2017. There is a renewed interest in bacanora production, which has created lots of excitement and a “boom” in the number of agave plants being commercially planted.

Denomination of Origin

As a final tribute to the hard work of many residents of Sonora, the Mexican government bestowed bacanora with the Denomination Of Origin (NOM) in December 2005. So now, just like tequila, bacanora can only be produced within a specific region of the state of Sonora, Mexico. Any agave spirit produced outside the region is simply mezcal. According to the NOM, only the Angustifolia Haw agave, commonly known as, agave Pacifica, can be used to produce bacanora. In 2006, the Bacanora Regulatory Council was created in the state of Sonora to regulate, standardize, and commercialize the industry.

The executive team of Amigo Brands has an excellent working relationship with officials of the regulatory council who shared much of the information contained in this text. Essentially the NOM defines the thirty-six municipalities or counties within the state of Sonora where the Angustifolia Haw agave must be grown. These municipalities are equivalent to county governments found in the United States. The NOM further states that the Angustifolia Haw agave must be grown, harvested, and distilled within the region to receive a certificate of authenticity from the Sonora Bacanora regulatory agency.

IS BACANORA ILLEGAL?

Discover the History of The Original Outlaw Spirit™