Sunday, July 14, 2024

Tales of the Cocktail: “The Making of Liquors”

August 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Spirits Events

A Workshop “The Making of Liquors” (a.k.a. Franco-Italian smack talk)

This was an amusing and spirited exchange between Alain Royer of Pagès and Matteo Luxardo on French and Italian traditions of distilling, maceration, and flavoring. Like many Tales seminars, you really had to be there to enjoy the show, but I can at least relate some of info which you may or may not know about the personalities and the distilleries.

Pagès began in 1859, now has several distilleries in different parts of France. Their distillate is grape based, and having tasted their 96% alcohol pure distillate, I can attest to their high quality control. This may be because of the steam-heated stills they prefer.

Pagès uses rotating vats to make sure that the fruit does not oxidize and does not ferment. And pressure from an inflatable bladder in the tank gives different results based on fruits being used. Do you want the flavor of the pits, or no? You simply adjust the pressure. Also, depending on the fruit you are macerating, you must use different strengths of alcohol, or you risk cooking the fruit, like lime “cooks” ceviche.

Luxardo is an older family run business, which began in 1821 in Zara (now part of the republic of Croatia). The family fled Tito and the communists in 1947, and the 22,000 cherry trees they use for their flagship products are all clones of the first tree brought from Zara with the original recipe book, back in 1947.

Matteo Luxardo described only the process of making their maraschino. The notable takeaway was the the aging which is performed in huge larch wood vats, for 3 years, and few “flavoring” liqueur makers can afford that much time. Also, Luxardo uses their maceration/distillation leavings as compost, feeding the next cycle.

Differentiating their higher end brands from the inexpensive mass-produced ones, Alain Royer commented “your customers want to know what is in what you make, if you use a $6 or $7 liqueur.” And having tasted rather artificial attempts at some liqueur flavorings I agree. Matteo Luxardo put it more bluntly, regarding the less expensive brands: “you should be ashamed!” to which I also must agree. The Pagès and Luxardo products are definitely worth the premium.

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