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D’Aristi Factory: Xtabentun Tour

Everyone knows that Mexico is famous for its tequila. And while not much tequila is produced here in the Yucatán, the area is known for producing beer, rum and a local liqueur, Xtabentun. If you live in Mérida, you can visit and, more importantly, sample the products of one of the most prominent producers of these drinks, the D’Aristi rum and liqueur group, run by the Aristi family.


Probably the most famous of the D’Aristi liquors is Xtabentun (pronounced ish-tah-ben-TOON). Xtabentun is the most famous alcohol of the Mayan lands and is made from honey and anise. The name comes from a Mayan legend about two women from the same village, Xtabay (also called Xkeban) and Utz-Colel. Xtabay lived a lustful life and gave freely to the poor, while Utz-Colel was cold, haughty and acted superior. When Xtabay died, her true nature was revealed by the sweet-smelling Xtabentun flowers that grew on her grave. When Utz-Colel died, the odor escaping from her grave was quite the opposite, or so the legend goes according to Wikipedia.

A fairly recent article in the San Francisco Gate had this to say about Xtabentun, the liqueur: "The producers of D’Aristi Xtabentun say that the drink is based on balche, a magical potion said to have been consumed at ancient Mayan rituals, though balche was made from water, honey and tree bark, so honey is the only ingredient common to both beverages. Nonetheless, D’Aristi Xtabentun is a fairly stunning liqueur". We hadn’t heard the "fairly stunning" description, but we had heard that this miracle beverage cures everything from a sore throat to menstrual cramps. If you don’t need the Xtabentun cure, fear not. Aristi also produces guanabana, lime, orange, banana, mocha and coconut-flavored rums, and nance liqueur, another sweet after-dinner drink made by fermenting the local nance fruit which is a favorite with locals.Peacock at the Aristi Bottling Plant Tour

The factory is located in beautiful Hacienda Vista Alegre, right across from Bancarios, the gym and sports center east of Plaza Fiesta on Avenida Correa Rancho (on the way to the Altas Brisas Shopping Center). If you weren’t looking for it, you would never even know it’s there! Hacienda Vista Alegre is set back from the road a bit, with a liquor store and parking lot camouflaging the entrance. Enter the gate, and you’ve stepped through a time portal, leaving modern Merida behind for a quiet paradise, complete with a peacock roving the grounds, huge iguanas and many flowers and fruit trees. Miguel, our guide for the tasting tour, showed us a tamarindo tree, and gave us one of the brown pods, which we broke open to eat the fresh, fruity paste inside. He also pointed out the mango and sour orange trees and some basil growing on the grounds.

Miguel began our tour in the distillery. There we saw huge plastic and metal vats of alcohol where they begin Materia Prima for distilling rumthe process of distillation. Our guide explained to us that they produce two different qualities of rum; one for national consumption that is only aged for 30 days (sorry, Mexicanos), and another for export, the Special Reserve, which can be aged up to ten years and shipped to the United States and Europe. Why, you ask, do Mexicans get the short end of the sugar cane? The local rum is a simpler process, and is therefore cheaper to make and cheaper for the consumer. The more expensive drink is still sold in Mexico, but it is just not as popular. Really, local residents get both ends of the sugar cane and are free to choose which one they want!

We continued with the tour, entering a second distillation room where samples of unprocessed honey and anise seeds, the raw materials to make Xtabentun, were set out on a table among the distillation vats for visitors to taste and smell. This liqueur is made by naturally fermenting honey and anise together, filtering the result, and adding more honey.

barrels for distilling rumA third room in the distillery houses huge, wooden barrels which have been used for 100 years to hold the different flavors of rum. In fact, for them to stay in working condition, the barrels have to be in constant use or they will dry out. See how important it is to keep making and drinking that rum?

The tour continued to the bottling and packaging room, where workers in masks and hairnets fill, cap and label each individual bottle by hand.

The last part of the walking tour took us to a building where barrels of White and Special Reserve rum were stacked to age. The company uses old Jim Beam barrels for their rum storage. Apparently whiskey makers Bottling the Rumcan only use a barrel once, but a barrel has a life of up to 20 years. Instead of wasting the barrel, they put it to good use and sell it to the rum manufacturers. A good example of reuse and recycling! Miguel dipped a special type of ladle into one of the barrels and took out a sample of rum in the process of being aged. This rum had been in the barrel for about five years and was at about 120 proof. He poured it into a glass and let us smell it and taste it. Before it even hit our lips, our eyes were burning from the vapor of the alcohol. 120 proof rum probably works wonders on a bad cold!

The last part of the tour was the best part of the tour… we got to taste everything! Miguel led us to an outdoor bar where all the bottles were set up in a row, begging to be poured into the tiny plastic taster cups. If you have never seen a bottle begging before… well, it cannot be described. You’ll just have to take the tour.

Bottles of LiquorAfter sweating out most of the liquid in our bodies walking on the tour on a hot day and tasting all those different rums on an empty stomach, we were feeling a bit of a buzz by the time we got to the Xtabentun. We saved the Xtabentun for last because of its sweet flavor… the same reason it is usually saved for last at a meal. And the Xtabentun did not disappoint us. It was indeed a sweet ending to a fun tour. By the way, if you take this tour, and you enjoy what you taste, you can buy a bottle right on the spot (at wholesale prices, of course, which makes that low-priced Mexican rum really inexpensive!).

Already explored Mayan ruins and looking for something different? Or have you been living in Mérida for a few years (like us) and have a free afternoon? Are you a Meridano who has never been here before? Consider the D’Aristi tour at Hacienda Vista Alegre. The tour is interesting, a great way to learn about some local culture and of course, there’s that tasting room at the end! We took our tour through Orbitur, a travel agency that can be reached by calling (999) 920 3085 in Merida. They can set you up with a tour of the D’Aristi Bottling Plant for $295 MXN or a combined tour of the plant and Hacienda Teya for about $500 MXN.

Editor’s Note: Christine, the author, was a visitor to Merida for a few years as an English teacher, exploring the Yucatan.

In Merida, D’Aristi Xtabentun is made by Grupo AAMSA. The headquarters is located at Calle 16 #240 in Colonia Vista Alegre. Their phone number is 999-943-0218. Probably the receptionist does not speak English, so if you don’t speak Spanish and want a tour, it is probably best to go through a tour company or just show up. The D’Aristi website can be found at www.xtabentun.com


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54 Responses to “D’Aristi Factory: Xtabentun Tour”

  1. A wonderful article and a wonderful drink. I’d like to put a plug in for
    Sosa on Calle 42 in Valladolid who also make a great Xtabentun. In his novel Los Ultimos Cupules Dr. Raul Mendoza Rejon of Merida delightfully shows how Xtabentun is an integral part of the maya social fabric. The english translation of his novel can be accessed on the Internet. Tom Jones

  2. What a wonderful “narrative”. I almost felt I was there….! would love to try Xtabentun promise I will not get muy borracho !!! is there a local “yucateco dish” to accompany Xtabentu ???

  3. Almost any dessert seems to go well with Xtabentun…

  4. Great article! Next time I visit Merida, I’ll be sure to go to Hacienda Vista Alegre.

  5. I’d go just to see the “begging bottles!” Great article, Christine!

  6. Re: "psychoactive honeys"…

    Yes, and no…. I know The FOG… which is a wild Yeast that grows on the Hea……

  7. The best spirit EVER. Mix one part D’Aristi, lemon juice, orange liquor & a dash of Agave nectar and shake with ice. Pour into a tumbler w/ice and enjoy.

  8. That´s right folks !
    Xtabentún is a great yucatecan delicacy that can be drank all year round with ice on summer and straight during “yucatecan winters”. Some national or international dishes containing brandy or anyother liquor can be switched to Xabentún for a sweeter flavor, including my alltime favorite “mayan crepes suzette with flaming Xtabentún”.

  9. I am looking to purchase this liquer and I can’t find it anyware.

  10. I Love xtabentun and can’t find my old recipe that came on the bottle for a “Mayan Sacrifice” Does anyone know it???

  11. Hola! Where in Yucatan do you live? I used to live in Merida and Sotuta (where my wife is from); we now live in Louisiana. Lord willing, we will be in Yucatan this coming summer.

  12. we took a tour thru valla dolid and then to a ranch that i believe made it. it was a fantastic tour and an equally fantastic libation. our tour then went to the ek balam ruins. exceptional tour. don’t miss it. if you are in the playa del carmen area take the day tour…it’s simply called the ek balam tour.

    p.s. you also get to swim in an underground cenote on this tour. muye beuno

  13. tengo mucho tiempo buscando a una gran amiga si la conoces porfavor dale mi correo su nombre es bader gaber aristi,el cielo te lo va a agradecer.

  14. Do they sell Xtabentun in California? Where can I find it?

  15. Not sure where in California you live, but on the central coast, we’ve found it at a chain called Bevmo.

  16. Anyone know where in Playa or Tulum you can find Xtabentun?

  17. There should be Xtabentun in many places in Playa… even in Costco. In Tulum, there is a new Covi store on the main drag on the north end of town (on the beach side of the street). Covi is a chain of liquor stores in the Yucatan, and a good source for anything more exotic than Absolut vodka. Covi carried Xtabentun, as well as an assortment of wines and other liquors and liqueurs.

  18. Quisiera saber como o donde podria comprar este licour..gracias Ariel.

  19. Ariel,
    You can buy Xtabentun at any liquor store in the Yucatan, as well as in a lot of gift shops. It’s easy to find here, not so easy to find outside of Mexico.

  20. I am from Australia and when in Merida I purchased a bottle of xtabentun i loved it so much, I would like to buy some bottle of xtabentun how can i purchase a couple of bottles as it is not available here, my e-mail address larrainel [at] shoal [dot] net [dot] au. I did e-mail gaamsa [at] pibil [dot] finred [dot] com [dot] mx but the address is not correct has this been change
    i would very much appreciate your help in obtaining a few bottles
    Kind Regards
    Larraine

  21. I would like to know the hours to tour the distilling process, and better directions from centro. thanks

  22. We will look into the correct address and shipping options, and publish it here as soon as we have the information.

  23. I have been in the Liquor business for over 25 years. I have done some engineering consulting work and currently work with the processing and equipment end of the business. I would lke to try this heavenly product. Looking to move to your area and would love to stay busy.
    Ricardo

  24. We have talked to the people who sell Xtabentun and they tell us that they do not yet have a distributor in Europe. They do sell Xtabentun in the United States. In California, we know you can find it at the liquor chain store called BevMo.

  25. Recently, I bought a case of Arista Xtabentun from DrinkUpNY.com
    It was about 19.00/fifth (750ml). If you buy a certain amount they have free shipping it. It was heavy! I live in Tennessee.

    Hope that helps!

  26. I discovered D’ Artisti Xtabentun about 5 years ago on a trip to Key West Florida. Believe it or not, the bartender got to know us and pulled out her “extra special” liquor. My family and I who were traveling together FELL IN LOVE with it. Subsequent visits to the Keys…. lead to it’s shortage ;( There is none to be found down there. I’m heading to RIveria Maya and plan on bringing as much as I can up with me, on friends whoever will be willing to bring it up. We can only get 2 bottles per customs ;( Anyway. Always looking forward to trying to find it. This stuff is the best liquor in the world.

  27. Hola soy M Dolores y quisiera un poco de historia sobre la bebida Xtaball. Deseo poner un restaurante mexicano en Barcelona y quisiera que fuera este el licor que de nombre a mi empresa. Quisiera mas detalles y cuantas combinaciones se pueden hacer con el. Tambien me gustaria saber los precios y la forma de entrega aqui en España
    un saludo
    M Dolores Gimenez A

  28. My Wife and I fell in love with Xtabentun in 2002 on a holiday trip to Chichen Itza. My request to Christine is…? Can I have the address of the D’Aristi factory (or any other for that matter…) so that I can buy some. We brought several bottles home to the UK and have done on subsequent holidays to Mexico, but as the stuff is addictive, we’ve run out and want to get some more! So Christine, please, please, please, pretty please can I have the address so I can get some more.

    Many thanks in anticipation,

    James Fitzpatrick

  29. I was in Mexico 2007 and went to Chichen Itza, on our travels we found a place that let us sample this D’aristi, I bought a bottle and have been loving it since, every year I manage to get 2 or 3 bottles brought from the US to the UK from very understanding relatives!

    G.

  30. awesome

  31. My mother brought XTABENTUN back from Yucatan which I remember having only a taste when I was 12 and now 38. I had asked her to bring back the taste of Mexico that I loved so much and am enjoying with pineapple juice now!!! I want so much to go to the rum factory and learn the history there!

  32. What a fantastic article!! We will probably not be visiting Merida this trip but we will be in Valladolid. Both Tom Jones, and Ian and Hana mentioned visiting somewhere in Valladolid. Could anyone help me to find out about Xtabentun produced in Valladolid?

  33. where can I buy it in Canada?

  34. While visiting Cozumel years ago a small local restaurant (which was lost to a hurricane) served us Licor de Guanabana. Ummm Ummm Good! We will cruise to Progreso and Cozumel next week and would like to purchase this wonderful licor. The manufacturer is D’Aristi.

    Can you tell me where I can buy this?

  35. good evening
    I would be interested xtabentun.
    I live in Italy, how can I buy it?
    sincerely
    Tiziano Bonati

  36. Hello all! I am mexican and i have family in Yucatan. But i had never heard of this liquor until last year. I live in Canada now and when i went to visit Mexico last christmas i thought this liquor would be a great gift for my husband, who sadly stayed home in Calgary. I first saw it in Chichen Itza, in one of the gift shops but i thought i would better give it a try in Valladolid (pricewise) and i was right. I found it in a liquor store just across the Main Zocalo, and it was way cheaper! So, i bought a 500ml bottle (soooooooooo bad! now i think is should have bought 2 of the biggest bottles!) Of course, my husband loved it! And now i am trying to find out if i could get a precious bottle here in Canada. That would be the perfect Christmas gift! I checked the Preiss Import website but i couldn’t find this product =( Anybody have any ideas??? Thank you!

  37. As far as we know, Xtabentun is not available in the US or Canada. We get inquiries here all the time, and have spoken to the company, but they are more focused on exporting to China at the moment :-) , according to our sources. So for now, it will have to remain as one of those things that are only available in the Yucatan… there are fewer and fewer of those!

  38. Love to do this tour while in Merida Dec. 16. Do you have to arrange through the tour operator or can you visit as a drop in?

  39. We believe it is okay to drop in and tour on your own…

  40. Fell in love with Xtabentun in 2008. I have been trying to get it in Australia but no luck. You can buy it in the U.S.A. from Wineland off the net $19.50 bottle 750ml. Also type in Xtabentun onto Amazon.com, and the link leads to other suppliers in USA. Still trying to get it in Australia. Will be back in Yucatan Sept 2012. Can anyone give me the factory address so i can visit?

  41. I have learn so much by your articles, I’m studying all I can to be aware of my future surroundings and intrests that I will gobble up through out my day to evening in the Yucatan ! love it thx.

  42. I recently took a tour of the D’artisi Factory and had a good time. How can I purchase a few bottles of their Guanabana Rum?

  43. I recently took a tour of the D’Aristi Factory and had a good time. Can anyone tell me how i can buy rum from them?

  44. You can purchase most of their products in Merida at the mercado and at most liquour stores. Outside of Merida? Probably not…

  45. We used to be able to buy Xtabentún here in Cozumel. In the last three months the liquor stores stopped carrying the D’Aristi liquors brand. This brand is the best tasting of all the Xtabentún labels. I guess a trip to Merida is in my near future!!

  46. i would be interested in xtabentun.
    I live in Italy, how can I buy it?
    sincerely
    laura

  47. Laura, as far as we know, Xtabentun is not available in Europe. You are not the first one to be disappointed about this :-(

  48. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit the factory. Our guide Jerry was great in his explanation of the workings of the factory. I enjoy the tasting and am looking forward someday to visiit again.

  49. wish i could get it in uk !

  50. My wife and I were introduced to D’Aristi Xtabentun when we visited a spa in Mexico. The owner suggested we each have a shot before our massage, and we really loved it. Since then, we’ve tried other brands, and agree with previous comments that D’Aristi is the best. If you ever come across Xtabentun, definitely buy a bottle just for the experience — you will really like it. If you ever come across D’Aristi, buy as many bottles as you can.

    Thanks for the article — we’ve only visited Merida once — the next time we vacation in Merida, we’ll definitely do the tour.

  51. I love your Xtabentun and stock it regularly when I am in Cancun. Please let me know if you have a distibutor in the Michigan area or anywhere else in the U.S. where I can buy you delicious products.
    Thank you

  52. Bob, as far as we know, there are few distributors of this product in the USA. We have brought this to the company’s attention, but they seemed more focused on working to get into China and other countries. We have found Xtabentun occasionally in the USA, but its not easy. Good luck! Or just come back to Merida for more :-)

  53. Xtabentun can be purchased in the U.S.A. A company in New Jersey has a site called wineoland.com. They mail to your door via Fedex.

  54. Thank you… good to know! We have also found Xtabentun at BevMo on occasion…

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