Neta Ranulfo Madrecuixe/Espadin
Born in 1957 and raised in the community of El Sauz, Ranulfo García Pacheco makes some of the finest agave spirits in Miahuatlán. Ranulfo and his wife Carmela are farmers, dedicated to cultivating the criollo varieties of corn, beans, and squash that make up the backbone of the Oaxacan diet. Oranges, limes, lemongrass, and passionfruit surround his palenque in El Sauz, and on nearby family land, Ranulfo cultivates the Espadín, Bicuixe, and Madrecuixe he uses to produce his exquisite spirits. In typical fashion, the agaves are generally mixed to compose each batch, but every year sees one or two “single” maguey productions. After recently marrying and having a baby girl, his youngest son, Ranulfo Jr., has returned to the ranch with his family and assists his father around the palenque.
Ranulfo works his palenque only once a year, fermenting and distilling in the hot months of April-June, before the heavy rains arrive and when the consistent ambient temperatures result in more stable fermentation and a higher yield. When it comes time to work, the family and trusted assistant roast just a single batch of homegrown agave in his conical earthen oven, which they then craft into the 600-800 liters of high- proof spirits they will produce that year. The family built an ox-drawn stone mill tahona in the early 1990’s which continues to be their preferred method of macerating the cooked maguey.
In the final week of May and beginning of June 2019, the family made two different and nearly identical field blends using both Espadín and Madrecuixe in equal proportions. Working four vats in pairs of two, the batches were split according to when the guarape, or fermented mash, was ready for distillation. The contents and recipes are essentially the same, varying only in slightly different fermentation times with a marginally different final ABV and total yield. In preparing this 200-liter batch, the first of the two, Ranulfo and his son selected a mix of 20 capón Espadin agaves and 25 capón Madrecuixe from their tierra blanca and tierra colorada lands. After resting the freshly harvested maguey in the sun for over a week, the piñas were pit roasted with local mesquite wood for four days. The unearthed maguey was set to rest for eight
more days before being crushed by a massive ox-drawn stone mill. The collected juices of sweet, cooked agave miel, along with the fibers, were left to ferment for 48 hours in two 1,200L capacity sabino wood tanks before being mixed with around 400 liters of well water. Wet fermentation continued under watchful eyes and finished after ten days.
As is custom in their village, Ranulfo and family continue to use a refrescadera with their copper pot stills. Distilling with a refrescadera- a stainless-steel cylinder which is placed around the cap of the still and filled with cold water- can yield a high proof spirit in a single distillation. Doing it well, however, demands a well-learned palate and significant experience. As the fermented guarape and fibers boil in the pot below, the vapors rise and with the help of the cold refrescadera, condense and fall back into the boiler pot below. There they are heated again before they finally pass through the copper condensing coil and, now liquid, fall into the containers the maestro has set to capture them.
Part of a family recipe, Ranulfo fills his refrescadera four times and carefully selects multiple cuts from each run of the still- known as a postura. With his cuts, he is principally separating the perla-rich “cordón” liquid from the tails which he calls shishe or colas. This shishe is in turn mixed into the next postura of ready to be distilled fermented agave juices and fibers. To compose each batch, the maestro uses only his senses and the classic palenquero utensils – a jicara and venencia.
This ensamble is another exemplary representation of his craft and a tangible reflection of the lands where it was made. With the exception of a small amount that has stayed in the NETA reserve, the entirety of this batch has been available exclusively through our partners in California, Pueblo de Sabor.
Neta Ranulfo Madrecuixe/Espadin