by Hillhamn Salome, Founder and Owner of Flor de Luna Distillery and Xila Licor de Agave 7 Notas
It all begins at 7:30 am, when we gather around the table to enjoy a delicious breakfast, Mexican style. Carmen, the owner of the little fonda just across the street from the distillery, prepares flautas, chilaquiles, molletes and sopes de longaniza for us to enjoy, accompanied by the vital café de olla, of course.
As soon as the clock strikes 8:00 am, it’s show time. The girls change into their black working uniforms, put on their favorite reggaeton playlist, and get on with their first task of the day, along with the distillery’s main operator, Juan. They check today’s production orders and map out the schedules.
Usually production for Xila takes one week to plan. The team, led by Yesi— my right hand and Xila veteran— starts compartmentalizing and counting all the botanicals used in the recipe to prepare a new batch. The hibiscus flowers and lavender buds are first. Once they are put into separate bowls, we move on to the “heart” elements of Xila: the pepper buds, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Every single botanical is counted manually and separated in its own container.
Last but not least, we move on to Xila’s base ingredients. The pineapples are cut in slices and then put into a burning hot comal to caramelize. We devein each ancho chile and subsequently flatten them by hand.
Once all the ingredients are counted and separated in individual bowls, we make sure our Mezcal— freshly arrived from Oaxaca—is at 50% alc./vol. We then throw all the ingredients together in a gauze-like cloth, creating a sort of massive tea-bag which is inserted into the mezcal container. The maceration is left to infuse for seven whole days. Diana is in charge of stirring the mixture every day in between, so the mezcal can really absorb all the flavors.
Meanwhile, Lupe and Josefina concoct a special homemade syrup that will later be added to the infusion that will become Xila. The nectary syrup, along with a little bit of water, is incorporated into the mixture and then left to rest for another seven days.
As the liquid rests and amalgamates, the team makes sure the bottles are clean and prepped to be filled.
Logistics are led by Juan and Denisse. They are the ones that do the heavy-lifting tasks, like moving boxes, assembling the pallets and moving them around the distillery.
When the day finally arrives and Xila is ready to be bottled, a production-line leader is randomly selected to direct the rest of the team in the bottling, labeling and boxing processes.
Somewhere in between the work day we take a lunch break. Carmen makes delicious chicharrón tacos for us, and we accompany them with salsa, guacamole and queso fresco. During lunch time, banter and laughter livens the distillery.
By 5:30 pm, it’s check-out time. We gather around in a circle and do a quick, informal meeting, where we review what we did that day. We also end the day with a fun little dynamic that varies each day. Each day a different person of the team gets to choose what it’s going to be. It can be as deep as What is something you feel really proud of? or as goofy as Share two truths and a lie about yourself.
Each member of the team takes turns to say a one-liner about that day’s theme. It encourages us to end the day on a fun, positive note!
Each month, we throw a gathering for everyone in Flor de Luna Distillery to celebrate our accomplishments. We choose a particular type of food to cook together, we decorate the distillery, we play music and eat cake. In October, the girls created a spooky haunted house in the free spaces of the distillery. They also adorned the ceilings with the classic papel picado, just in time to welcome the Day of the Dead festivities.