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Bourbon boost: Aztec Spirits makes over Dire Wolf after initial disappointment

Not happy with the initial batch of its newest bourbon, Dire Wolf, Santa Fe’s Aztec Spirits went back to the drawing board and recently released a better-quality product.

“We actually did put it out, and then we weren’t happy with the liquid and brought it back again, which is called Dire Wolf bourbon, which is a tad more expensive but it’s only $19.99 on the shelf,” said Aztec Spirits co-owner Rowland Hill. “We actually aged this in oak barrels rather than our normal process, and we’ve been stunned with the success of it in Arizona, Texas, here and soon to be launched in California.”

If the wolf on the label looks familiar, it is not a coincidence.

“By luck, 10 years ago, my partner, who is George Schurman, got the trade rights on the Dire Wolf that is in ‘Game of Thrones,’ so obviously we have utilized that with a ‘Game of Thrones’ connotation,” Hill said. “The wolf is our logo. … Once we’ve sold our first 25,000 cases, I’m going to have the wolf tattooed on me.”

“Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin, who lives in Santa Fe, has tasted the product. However, Martin’s thoughts on it are unknown, according to Hill.

Aztec also makes a vodka under the Dire Wolf brand. The idea behind the Dire Wolf brand was to appeal to a larger market.

“We brought Aztec out as such initially to be a millennial drink,” Hill said. “That’s because of its slightly funky tattoo artist labels. It had that Hispanic connotation. It had a millennial connotation, but in places like the northeast of America, it didn’t really work, which is the reason our next product we brought out, (is) our Dire Wolf.”

Aztec’s mission is to make its products accessible to the masses.

“We decided we would rather go for volume and to appeal to a particular genre of people where they can afford to drink a good product,” he said.

Aztec’s vodkas are five times distilled and four times filtered, including chill-filtered and charcoal-filtered. The vodkas finish smooth and mix well. The bourbons are corn-based and filtered four times. The bourbon is aged in oak barrels and oak chips. It is a good sipping bourbon but also mixes well, according to Aztec’s website.

Aztec’s distiller, Steve Jarrett, has the capability to produce in high volume at the Santa Fe facility.

“The operation that we started here is relatively unique in that we are able to produce a vast amount of product that is inexpensive but good to taste, good quality,” Hill said. “… We can do 150,000-200,000 cases a year at our facility in Santa Fe off of Cerrillos Road.”

Aztec is considering making a gin.

“All things go round in cycles,” Hill said. “Vodka continues to grow. Whiskey actually worldwide has dropped. Apparently, maybe because of the gin explosion, which is not apparent in New Mexico because it’s either tequila, brown spirits or vodka. (It’s a) very simple equation here. … I went to a bar recently in London that has 1,000 gins on their shelves. Like everywhere, everyone is looking for the next big rage.”

Aztec products, which are distributed by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, can be found at locations including O’Niell’s, Scalo, Brickyard Pizza, Imbibe, Isleta Resort & Casino, Billy’s Long Bar, Applebee’s, Walmart, Walgreens, Albertsons and Total Wine. For more information on Aztec, visit