Sotol is a distilled spirit similar in vein to mezcals and tequila that has been sourced from the dasylirion plant. Although previously classed as an agavaceae the dasylirion is a small genus of 18 semi-succulent species in the Nolinoideae (a subfamily of the Asparagaceae) family. The dasylirion is also known commonly as the Desert Spoon. This plant is common to northern Mexico, New Mexico and parts of Texas.

Dasylirion wheeleri. The sotol plant.

Pic By Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Similar to artisan mezcals, which can be made from a range of different magueys, sotol can be sourced from a variety of dasylirions although the most common species used seems to be D.wheeleri. Sotol has a Denominacion di Origen (Denomination of Origin) (1) comprising of three states in northern Mexico – Durango, Coahuila, and Chihuahua (2). The name Sotol is said to be derived from the Nahuatl word “Tzotolin,” meaning “palm with long and thin leaves.”

  1. Or Appellation of Origin. An appellation of origin is a special kind of geographical indication generally consisting of a geographical name or a traditional designation used on products which have a specific quality or characteristics that are essentially due to the geographical environment in which they are produced. Another famous AO is that of Champagne which is a type of sparkling wine which can only be produced in a certain area (in the northeast of France) from grapes grown in that area
  2. The states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, Zacatecas, Durango, San Luis Potosi and selected areas in Tamaulipas, Michoacán, Guanajuato and Puebla carry the DO to produce mezcal. In Oaxaca the distilled spirit of the dasylirion is called cucharilla (little spoon). Jalisco, Michoacán, Guanajuato, Nayarit and Tamaulipas carry the DO to produce tequila.

Similar to the agave it takes between 12 – 15 years for the plant to become mature enough to harvest. Unlike the agave the dasylirion can produce a flower stalk every few years and still remain alive while the agave will die after it flowers, flowering only once in its lifetime.

The Rarámuri, people, indigenous to the region of Chihuahua fermented sotol juice into a beer-like alcoholic beverage similar to tesguino (1) and the baked heart of the plant was eaten as a foodstuff.

  1. A mildly alcoholic drink made by fermenting sprouted corn kernels.

Once the plant matures, it is harvested in a manner similar to that of the agave. Like the agave the outer leaves are removed to reveal the piña which is then cooked (1) or steamed (2) then shredded, fermented, and distilled. The dasylirion plant will produce less spirit than the agave. Only a single bottle of sotol can be produced from the dasylirion while the agave can produce several.

  1. In an underground pit as for mezcals
  2. Similar to tequilas
Cooked dasylirion piñas
For comparison an agave piña (top) and the piña of the dasylirion (bottom)

Sotols produced from different varieties of dasylirion.

A sotol liqueur.
This one is labelled as an agavacea product.

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