Craft distilling is all the rage these days, creating small batch high quality spirits from fresh, often local ingredients. This is a return to the way spirits used to be made before mass production. So while I enjoy finding a new venture returning to the traditional ways, I also really enjoy when we find a place that still makes spirits in the traditional way, as it has all along. The traditional distilling of citron liqueur on Naxos has been going for 120 years!
The Vallindras Distillery in Halki
So we were very intrigued when we found the citron liqueur distillery in the village of Halki on Naxos. Here you will find a museum from the Vallindras Distillery, a traditional distiller that began commercial production in 1896. Citron is quite a unique spirit, made using the leaves of the citron plant which grows on Naxos.
Citron Liqueur carries the European Protected Designation of Origin (P.D.O). label. P.D.O. is a classification given to certain products indicating a product is unique in both its production method and geographical location. For other examples see Prosecco or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
In the distillery museum you can have a look around at the original machinery and glassware used in the distilling process. The old, black and white pictures help to tell the story in more detail. When you are done having a look around you can try the spirits.
The Citron Fruit
Citrons were called median apples in ancient times. They are used in Middle Eastern countries to flavor food and often to replace vinegar due to their high acidity. On Naxos the fruit is used to make spoon sweets. Citric acid and citron oil can also be produced from the fruit.
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How Citron Liqueur is Made
Using the leaves of the Citron tree, which is grown on the island of Naxos, the spirit is distilled. The temperature to which the alcohol is heated impacts the color of the final liqueur. At 30°, the drink is green, at 33° it is clear, and at 36° it is yellow.
Demand for citron liqueur has been increasing in recent years, but the growing of citron trees on Naxos has been declining since the 1960’s. Efforts are underway to encourage more protection of existing trees and planting of new ones.
The distillery also makes some lovely cherry liqueurs and other spirits. All are for sale in the very old fashioned shop at the front of the distillery.
All and all this is a quick and enjoyable look around with a great chance to discover a new craft distilled spirit.
Look for the sign in Greek:
If you can’t make it to the village of Halki on your visit to Naxos, you can taste and buy Vallindras Distillery products, and try an original Citron Cocktail, in their Citron Cafe on the waterfront in Naxos Town or Chora as it is also known.
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