Review: Casa D’Aristi Huana, Kalani, and Xtabentun
I realize that the headline of this review looks like I just hit some random letters on the keyboard, but I assure you that’s not the case. Casa D’Aristi is a Mexican liqueur brand based in the town of Merida in the Yucatan. The Aristi family produces spirits that “reflect the authentic flavors of the Yucatan” and the region’s Mayan heritage. All products are free of artificial additives and flavorings.
The brand has three liqueurs under its umbrella. If you’re familiar with any of them, it’s probably Xtabentun, which shows up sometimes as an absinthe substitute in Latin-themed bars.
Let’s dive into this trio and see what’s what.
All are 60 proof.
Casa D’Aristi Huana – Huana is a rum-based liqueur made with Mayan guanabana fruit (aka soursop), a spiny fruit — it looks like a prickly avocado — that grows in the Mexican jungle. The nose of the spirit is difficult to describe, part Meyer lemon, part coconut water, part apple cider vinegar. The palate clears some of this up. Quite sweet, it’s rich with honey that tastes like it’s been doused with cinnamon, applesauce, and a touch of citrus (especially lime). Fairly sharp on the back end, with that vinegar note kicking in (and helping to balance the sugar). All told, it’s interesting stuff, though not immediately apparent how one would use it. Exotic triple sec substitute? B+ / $30
Casa D’Aristi Kalani – Rum-based liqueur made with fresh coconut milk drawn from “Malayan dwarf coconuts,” a hybrid breed imported to the Yucatan by the Aristi family. A very pure, clean coconut character — this tastes a lot like Malibu, with the sweetness dialed back. Notes of vanilla and some milk chocolate give the liqueur a bit more nuance, but on the whole this can be used as a solid replacement for any coconut-flavored rum or coconut-heavy sweetener. A- / $30
Casa D’Aristi Xtabentun – An ode to Mayan “Blache,” an ancient drink of fermented honey and bark. This version (pronounced “ish-ta-ben-toon“) is made with only Yucatecan honey and green anise. Unlike the above two spirits, this one pours thick and syrupy like a real liqueur. Anise is clear on the nose, so sharp it’s almost like black pepper in the nostrils. That syrupy character is a tough one to push past. It really is like sipping on slightly watered-down syrup, to the point where you can visibly see ripples in the glass when you pour it. Again, sweetened anise is the name of the game, giving this a candylike licorice character that tastes perfectly pleasant, though the texture makes things quite medicinal. B+ / $30