Sotol is technically not a Mezcal (it is not made from agave) anymore but… still an alcohol worths trying for its delicate aromas and subtle taste.
Sotol was said to be a Mezcal for a long time but as it is produced solely from the Sotol plant (a.k.a. Dasylirion wheeleri) which is now classified as a member of the Nolinaceae family, Sotol is NOT made from an agave, therefore, not technically a mezcal.
However it has been in this category for so long, that we leave it that way here….
So… Sotol is made from desert spoon, a plant similar to agave that grows in the northern Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Durango. And it can only be produced in the Northern Mexican States of Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Durango
It grows at higher and therefore cooler altitudes than Mezcal and Tequila. It reaches maturity at around 10 years but pinas are 1/3 of the size of the blue agave.
Sotol is 100% Sotol agave, no mixto are produced.
Some Sotol are aged in barrel, under the same categories than Mezcal and Tequila (blanco, reposado, etc).
Sotol has a Mexican denomination of origin since 2004.
A sotol plant takes 15 years to mature. It generally takes one plant to produce one bottle of sotol (compared to tequila or mezcal where one plant can produce 5-10 bottles, though there are exceptions)
Like Raicilla, the pinas are cooked in above ground ovens and distilled in column stills, so it does not have the smokiness of mezcals.
Tastewise Sotol is drier and earthier than Mezcal. At 38 percent alcohol, it is milder than tequila and mezcal, with a toasty, nutty aroma and a flavor of licorice and chamomile.
The good brands
Hacienda de Chihuahua