A shot of sotol with Lenny Kravitz
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Food & Drink news every morning.
Sales of tequila and mezcal have soared. By the end of 2023, IWSR predicts, tequila will be the most valuable spirits category in the US. But the flip-side is that the industry is now facing an agave shortage and increased production costs. It’s prompted some to go in search of other spirits that fit the mould. And this has led to greater interest in sotol, distilled from Dasylirion wheeleri, or “desert spoon”, a shrub that thrives in Chihuahua, northern Mexico.
Sotol is not an agave but it produces a spirit with botanical, mineral and earthy notes reminiscent of mezcal. It was these characteristics that first attracted Lenny Kravitz to what would become Nocheluna ($74.99), a brand he’s launched with Pernod Ricard and Casa Lumbre. “The first time I tasted sotol was in the Dominican Republic while shooting Shotgun Wedding with Jennifer Lopez,” says Kravitz. “I was immediately inspired by its elegant smokiness. Whether it’s food, incense, fragrances or a spirit, I love the element of smoke. I then visited Chihuahua to become educated and went to the desert where the dasylirion plant is grown and then to the distillery. The taste, the complexity and also learning so much about a topic I didn’t know about excited me.” Nocheluna is intense and clean, with notes of hot tarmac, leather and wet slate. There’s parched vetiver, sweet mint and a peppery tingle on the finish.
“Many exported sotols tend to be vegetal with some sweetness of fresh-cut grass and tropical fruits,” says Ivy Mix, owner of Leyenda, a bar with one of the best Mexican spirit lists in NYC. “But you can also get walloped with the funk of mushrooms and warm notes of wet terracotta. With sotol more than any other spirit, I can really taste the soil.” A favourite is Sotoleros Mario y Cesar ($99, fiascobk.com). “It has that classic eucalyptus and menthol flavour but also fresh-cut wood, birch beer and barnyard.” She also singles out La Remilgosa Sotol Texanum Ancestral ($82, fiascobk.com) from Durango for its “creamy consistency and earthiness of forest floor, cooked root vegetables and baked nuts”.
Matthias Ingelmann of Kol Mezcaleria in London recommends Flor del Desierto Sierra (£78.90) – “fresh, green, lots of minerality” – and the softly smoky Sotol Ono (£34.32, both casa-agave.com), which has bright spearmint notes. Some producers, he says, make blends of agave and sotol. Sin Gusano’s subscription club, the Mezcal Appreciation Society, showcases some of these.
Headline act or underground hit, this is the year to get sotol on your playlist.