Product of: Mexico
Created in Mexico's Yacatán region in 1936, Kahlùa is the original and world's number one selling coffee liqueur. It is made by blending roasted and ground Arabica coffee beans with water and sugar cane spirit. Vanilla and caramel are added and it is rested for eight weeks before bottling.
Kahlúa was launched in 1936 by Pedro Domecq and the name means 'House of the Acolhua people' in the Veracruz Nahuatl language spoken before the Spanish Conquest. (Incidentally, Kahlúa was Hispanicized as Ulúa, hence the name of the San Juan de Ulúa fortress.)
Kahlùa was almost unknown until the early 1960s when an American entrepreneur, Jules Berman bought the brand and started to promote it in the United States. Berman, who became known as 'Mr Kahlùa', began his phenomenally successful business career by opening the first liquor store in Beverly Hills shortly after the repeal of Prohibition. Berman went on to open five more Llord's stores before selling out and taking a job at the import division of Schenley Industries. After serving in the Navy during World War II, Berman started his own wine and liquor import company 'Berman Enterprises' which popularized brands as Cinzano, J&B Rare, Heineken and of course Kahlùa, which incidentally he acquired from Schenley Industries.
Berman was a keen pre-Columbian art collector and used West Mexican ceramics in advertisements for Kahlùa, employing fellow collector and horror actor Vincent Price to lend artefacts and his own deep voice to one of the brand's early promotions. After successfully establishing the brand Berman sold Kahlùa to Hiram Walker and Sons in 1964 but remained as a corporate officer in charge of brand development until 1970.
In 1994 Hiram Walker and Sons merged with Allied Lyons to become Allied Domecq, which in turn was broken up in 2005 and Kahlùa acquired by Pernod Ricard, the present owners.
In 2004, the alcohol content of Kahlúa was reduced from 26.5% to its present 20% alc./vol. although peculiarly a 21.5% alc./vol. version is still available in Ohio.
Review and Tasting
Sampled on 27/10/2015
Clear, virtually opaque, very deep brown.
Coffee, chocolate and vanilla. Dark chocolate is almost as pungent as freshly ground coffee.
Lightly syrupy and sweet. Dark chocolate and coffee compete for prominence with strong vanilla and faint smokiness.
Mocha espresso and white chocolate (Milky Bar).
A very good, consistent coffee liqueur but Kahlùa is chocolate and coffee rather than being full-on espresso coffee.
Difford's Guide Certification
Allergens and Additives
Contains Caramel colour E150