I was recently given a sneak peak at Solbeso, a spirit being distilled from fair trade fresh Peruvian cacao fruit. It’s the first spirit of its kind. It’s not a chocolate liqueur, but a clear spirit with a consistency like that of pisco. It is said to have the same the chemical benefits of dark chocolate, yet none of the sweetness or flavor. On tasting it, I smelled chocolate notes immediately as soon as I brought the glass to my nose.
Solbeso is the brainchild of Tom Higbee, who, while tasting chocolate in the highlands of northern Peru at Tingo Maria, noticed that cacao farmers simply threw out cacao fruit after obtaining the beans for chocolate. Seeing the potential, he reclaimed the tossed fruit and began fermenting, then distilling it into the spirit. By buying the fruit local growers, who harvest the cacao by hand and split the ripened pods by machete to extract the fruit, are provided with a previously unrealized source of income. This is of particular interest in Tingo Maria, a place where coca farmers are switching to growing cacao in droves because of the growing demand for Peruvian cacao.
The fruit is naturally fermented, macerated, and then distilled in artisanal copper stills, first in Peru and then in Washington State. It has a crisp, clean finish with hints of orange blossom and honeysuckle.
New World Spirits will release Solbeso in New York, Miami and other select markets this fall. Suggested retail price is $39.99per 750ml bottle. Official website is www.solbeso.com.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.