In Conversation with Hillhamn Salome of Xila Licor de Agave 7 Notas

In Conversation with Hillhamn Salome of Xila Licor de Agave 7 Notas

We sat down with Hillhamn Salome, founder and owner of Flor de Luna Distillery and Xila Licor de Agave 7 Notas, to talk about life at the Flor de Luna Distillery and her vision for the new Xila Licor de Agave 7 Notas label design.

In 2015, I got this itch to dive into the spirits world. I decided the world needed a Mexican aperitif made with mezcal. I combined this with my need to find and create opportunities for women in the industry. Xila means woman in Zapotec, so it’s a nod to Mexican women, traditions and ingredients.

When I was bartending, I fell in love with one specific spirit: mezcal. Seven years ago, mezcal was not as popular as it is now. I thought it was interesting to propose not just an aperitif made with wine or grain alcohol, but made with something really important for Mexican culture: mezcal. The earthy, green tasting notes of mezcal go really well with the ingredients of Xila. I explored different agaves with different tasting notes. I never really liked the results with other mezcals. One time I tried using mezcal cenizo from Durango. The profile completely changed – the liqueur became much more minerally and much greener rather than fruity and spicy. I tried tobalá, but that was not cost efficient. I liked espadín – it wasn’t overly smoky or overly strong.

Our producer is Edilberto Bautista, located in Oaxaca. He and his wife manage the palenque. I continue to buy from him because he gives me the excellent quality I need for creating Xila. It is an artisanal mezcal made with the horse, the tahona, the conical oven.

Xila is made with roasted pineapple, ancho chile, cinnamon, pepper, clove, hibiscus and lavender. We hand pick our botanicals because when I was building the recipe, I only worked with small quantities that I counted by hand. I tried to replicate that in bigger batches, but all the ingredients are small and come in different forms and sizes. I noticed that if we don’t hand pick them and have that quality control, the flavor is going to change.

We take about one week before the mezcal arrives to the distillery to hand count each of the notes. There’s one person for each nota. It is important to keep that quality control because otherwise it’s going to be too spicy or too floral. We then macerate the botanicals in the mezcal for seven days. Next, we create a homemade simple syrup and add it to the vat. Our mezcal comes in at 50% abv and we lower it down to 20% abv. Finally, we let it rest for another seven days. You will see the color change – it will turn a murky red. When you mix it with water and syrup, it turns an amber red. The color is all natural – it comes from the ancho chile and the hibiscus flowers. Then we filter it with a cheese cloth seven times.

At the distillery, our favorite way to drink Xila is on its own. We love to drink it with a piece of fruit. We put it on the rocks – my favorite is with a slice of orange or peach. We have this other cocktail which I personally love. It’s equal parts Xila and dry vermouth with tonic water. It creates the perfect spritz that is easy to make with ingredients that are easy to find. Our intention is to drink it as an aperitif on the rocks or as a spritz with simple ingredients. At the end of the day, you’ll find all the seven notes however you drink it – on its own, with ice, in a margarita. You can mix it with everything. I tried Xila cocktails with wine, sake, whiskey. When you put Xila in a glass with something else, Xila hugs that ingredient and makes it it’s own. But at the end you can taste all the notes. It doesn’t compete with the other flavors. It doesn’t overwhelm the drink. It refines the cocktail and gives it a different spicy note.

We just launched a new label for Xila. I really connect to this new label – it represents what I wanted it to be. The new label is much more fun and much more bold. The old label never communicated that. The new label explains what Xila is to me and the vision I had for it five years ago. The label represents all those feelings and all that love. We wanted to create something that would be very eye catching at a bar or store. The colors are girly but it’s what represents us as a team. Everyone on the team got to say what they thought, and we all agreed – everyone connected with the pink and red. It’s pretty new on the market, so having a much more friendly and welcoming label will help people who are undecided on whether they will try it.

Xila is unique because it’s made in Mexico with mezcal by women. Seeing the girls produce it, counting the ingredients by hand, and the artisanal process make it unique. We’re creating safe spaces for women in the industry – from production to brand ambassadors. Women are empowered by working with a brand that has a bigger purpose other than selling another spirit or aperitif. Our main goal is to help empower other women across the world.

Watch the entire interview on @craftspirits Instagram

This letter was sent from the Fellows at Xila

Hillhamn Salome founded Flor Du Luna in Mexico City in 2015 as the country’s first female-powered distillery - her production team consists of five women including herself. Fittingly, Xila means woman in the Mexican indigenous language of Zapotec, while Flor de Luna references the fragrant and mysterious moon flowers endemic to Chiapas and the Yucatán peninsula.

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