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Wednesday
Feb132013

Dulces de Mexico

I've said it before and I'll say it again: no other country is brimming with the potential for spirits production like Mexico is. Fields of agave, sugar cane, fresh produce, and don't forget the coffee beans! The problem with spirits production in Mexico is that most releases are about bulk branding rather than quality. Rich guys from the U.S. go down there, work out the sliding scale economics, and then put cheap slop in fancy bottles. I've been retasting tequila brands lately and I can't believe how bad everything is. It's the one category where the general consumer is getting totally fleeced. One of the most interesting spirits we tasted recently was a charasmatic little Bacanora from the northern state of Sonora. The same importer who brings it into the U.S. has now tasted us on something called Xolotl - an absolutely delicious coffee liqueur from Veracruz.

Xolotl is actually a range of liqueurs produced by second generation master distiller Jose Villanueva Barragan (they have a tasty amaretto as well).  Jose is highly regarded by his peers and is among a select few who work with the Mexican government to develop standard liquor protocols. These bold and nuanced spirits are matured in neutral French, Spanish, Sherry, and American oak casks, many of which are 40 to 60 years old. Xolotl Liqueurs pay homage to the memory of Alfonso Caso, an intrepid archeologist whose contributions to pre-Columbian studies include the discovery of rare artifacts at Monte Alban, an important archaeological site in Oaxaca.

The coffee liqueur is blended with twenty year old rum to add richness. The coffee flavor is what jumps out most, but it's not ever bitter or intense like actual coffee (unlike other coffee labels like Firelit). The sweetness is very mild, however, and the spirit itself is quite lean. It's delicous to sip and should mix very well into something like a White Russian in place of Kahlua. At 19.5%, you can enjoy a few small glasses without getting into too much trouble. The Xolotl is exactly the type of interesting, quality spirit made from locally-sourced products in Mexico that I've been hunting for. It shows what Mexican distillers are capable of producing when taking the time to do something right. I really like this stuff.

A likeness of the mythical Xolotyl Jaguar, an Olmec icon found in the pyramid there, decorates the label and cap of the hand-blown bottles. You could bring this to your friend's annual Anchorman party and bust out a great Paul Rudd line: "it's made with actual bits of jaguar, so you know it's good!"

-David Driscoll