Small-batch Mexican spirits are flourishing, and in-the-know drinkers recognize that it goes far beyond tequila and mezcal. This summer, ask your barkeep for a sip of sotol, a non-agave spirit distilled from the perennial evergreen Dasylirion that’s native to the Chihuahuan desert. Regulated by the Consejo Mexicano de Sotol, founded in 2004, the spirit can only be produced in the northern Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Durango.
The distillation process follows that of mezcal: Distillers cook the heart of the plant — or piña — then crush, ferment and distill it into a liquid that is incredibly clean and nuanced. Flavors range from herbaceous and vegetal to earthy and mineralic, and each bottle is a unique reflection of the hand that made it. Here are three worth adding to your liquor cabinet.
Sotol La Higuera Dasylirion Wheeleri
This sotol was distilled from Dasylirion wheeleri in Aldama, Chihuahua by Gerardo Ruelas. The piñas are milled by hand and ax, and then fermented with wild yeast in pine vats. Distilled twice in copper stills, the sotol has a scent that is both smokey and herbal.
Tasting Notes: Herbs, pineapple
ABV: 50 percent
Sotol Por Siempre
Made from Dasylirion wheeleri harvest from the slopes of the Sierra Madres Mountains in Chihuahua, this sotol is double distilled in copper pot stills. Made by the Perez family who have been distilling sotol for six generations, this is one of the most widely available bottles of sotol.
Tasting Notes: Black pepper, earth, smoke
ABV: 45 percent
Sotol Coyote Durango Blanco
Distilled from Dasylirion cedrosanum by Juan Vazquez Gonzalez in San Antonio, Durango. The piñas are ground with stone and fermented in wood tubs coated with stainless steel. Distilled twice in a stainless steel still, this sotol is slightly sweet and not overly intense.
Tasting Notes: Hazelnut, pine
ABV: 43 percent
A version of this story appears in Gear Patrol Magazine: Issue Six, more than 220 pages of guides and reports that put product first. Subscribe Now: $39