is a distilled spirit made from the Dasylirion wheeleri
(commonly known as Desert Spoon or, in Spanish, sotol
), a plant that grows in the wilds of Northern Mexico
and West Texas
and New Mexico
. It is known as the state drink of Chihuahua
. There are few commercial examples available. It is produced in a manner similar to the more common artisanal mezcals
of central Mexico.
At the Fate Bell Shelter, which is on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, sotol is depicted in paintings on the rock walls. Sandals, baskets, ropes, mats, and many other items of sotol fiber show it was a highly important resource to people of the Basketmaker culture. These artifacts date to around 7000 B.C.E.
The base of a cooked sotol stem may be eaten rather like an artichoke leaf (by scraping across the front teeth). This remnant, called a "quid", resembles a spoon and can be used as one. Archaeological sites where "Desert Spoon" was eaten in this way are full of discarded quids thousands of years old.
Sotol and lechuguilla flower-stalks used as atlatl dart hindshafts were found in Ceremonial Cave (Hueco Mountains, near El Paso, Texas). Sotol may also have been affiliated with fire because the sotol stem was used as a fireplow
A humanoid figure with a spray of spiky leaves for a head and a black stripe down the middle of its body may represent the magical spirit of sotol. Sometimes it appears in connection with hunting scenes. Sometimes it appears surrounded by orange ochre flames and black smoke.
The presence, at these rock shelters, of troughs a half meter long and four centimeters deep and mounds of quids suggest production of spirits using sotol as far back as 9000 years ago. The Fate Bell Shelter murals may, in part, be a tribute to the remarkable usefulness of sotol.
Local Chihuahua Indians fermented sotol juice into a beer-like alcoholic beverage as early as 800 years ago. In the 16th century, Spanish colonists introduced European distillation techniques to produce a spirit. Sotol is now beginning to achieve international recognition like its cousins, mezcal and tequila.
The Desert Spoon takes approximately 15 years to mature, and creates only one bottle of Sotol per plant. It typically grows on rocky slopes in the Chihuahuan desert
grassland between 3,000 and 6,500 feet above sea level. Unlike the Agave
, which flower only once in their lifetime, Sotols produce a flower stalk every few years. Once the plant matures, it is harvested similar to Agave plants when making Mezcal or Tequila. The outer leaves are removed to reveal the center core, which is taken back to the distillery. The core can then be cooked and/or steamed, shredded, fermented, and distilled.
- Plata – Un-aged, straight from distillation to the bottle.
- Reposado (rested) – Aged several months to a year.
- Añejo – Aged for at least one year