The long road to bring bacanora from Sonora to the United States

By: 
Linda Trest
Staff Writer

Making a dream come true is never easy, but Ruben Lopez is close to making his dream a reality. 

After cutting through much red tape, Lopez’s company is finally marketing bacanora in the United States. 

Bacanora is a liquor popular in Lopez’s former home of Sonora, Mexico. When Lopez decided to market the liquor he formed Amigo Brands, LLC and uses his home north of Gerald as his headquarters.

Lopez has a partner in California, his webmaster lives in Florida and their graphic artist resides in St. Louis and their bottling facility is in Nevada. Through the marvels of the internet, the company can work together, while being spread across the country. 

The company’s headquarters is  registered at Lopez’s home, north of Gerald. 

Strictly speaking, bacanora is a relatively new liquor to the Mexican government. And it is so new that it is not even recognized by the American government. This has created some unique obstacles for Amigo Brands. 

Many wines and liquors are strictly regulated as to how they can be labeled. 

For example cognac may only be produced from grapes grown in a certain region in France. Tequila may only be produced from the blue agava plant grown in specific portions of Mexico. Bacanora can only be labeled as such if it is produced from the pacifica agave grown in the Sonora region of Mexico. 

Indeed, bacanora is an ancient drink in that region, but was outlawed in 1915. Of course, that didn’t stop production, it only drove it underground. 

When bacanora was legalized in 1992, there were new regulations in place that didn’t exist in 1915. So it had to be treated as a new liquor. 

The first step is giving it a Denomination of Origin, or NOM. 

Lopez says, “In my own terms, NOM is a legal document which defines the identity of a pure alcohol beverage. The intent of the NOM is to fully describe the specific plant, region, process, and bottling requirements for the spirit to be certified as bacanora.”

The Bacanora Regulatory Council is Mexican government agency which oversees this industry, according to Lopez. If the beverage does not meet the strict standards, it is considered a distilled spirit made from agave, not bacanora.

In order to import the bacanora into the U. S., Lopez must deal with the The Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) which is a part of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“Amigo Brands is embarking in a venture that is so new, the legal portions have not caught up with the speed and success of the business. The US Government, (through the TTB) does not yet officially recognize bacanora,” Lopez explains.  

Lopez found that the label and recipe for any alcohol product needed TTB approval. 

“When we went through this process, the TTB, the Bacanora Regulatory Agency, and Amigo Brands discovered the Mexican Government had never officially registered this spirit. Amigo Brands brought this to their attention and the process is now underway by the Mexican government to officially register it in the U. S. with the TTB,” Lopez says. 

The Sunora label was approved and Amigo Brands began marketing their Sunora Bacanora label in March. It is now available in six states with plans to distribute across the country and then around the world.

When bacanora becomes a household word, as Lopez hopes it does, remember you read it here first.

For more information on Sunora Bacanora, including tasty recipes for refreshing drinks, visit www.sunorabacanora.com.

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