Ranulfo García Pacheco
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.
Ranulfo works his palenque only once a year, fermenting and distilling in the hot months of April and May when the consistent ambient temperatures result in more stable fermentation and a higher yield. When it comes time for production, he and a 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.
Though the maestro will often distill small lots of a single type of agave, he generally combines several varietals to create what is known as an ensamble. The different agave are roasted, macerated, and fermented together — true ensambles are never composed of blends of finished spirits. Producing this way is one of the oldest methods of agave distillation. Working with the perfectly ripe agave of any number of species, this traditional approach to crop management and distilling helps sustain a healthy supply of maguey and produces a complex and flavorful spirit
Unlike the palenqueros of Lachigüizo and most other villages in the region, Ranulfo continues to use a refrescadera with his copper pot still. 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 agave liquid boils in the pot below, the vapors rise and, with the help of the cold refrescadera, condense, falling 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. Ranulfo fills his refrescadera four times and carefully selects multiple cuts from each run of the still. With his cuts, he is separating the perla-rich “cordon” 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. Distilling with a refrescadera is an old and now slightly unusual technique, but it yields a chemically clean spirit with an array of robust flavors. Every sip lends a remarkable sense of place and could not be more Miahuateco.
Soil types: colorada, roja, and cascajo
Oven: 10-ton capacity conical earthen oven
Mashing: Ox-drawn tahona
Ferment: 4 Montezuma cypress sabino wood tanks. 1000 and 1200 - liter capacity. Well water
Distillation: Ranulfo uses two 300-liter capacity copper pot stills with a refrescadera, a type of cooling jacket, that allows for a single distillation.