There is no denying the wonderful people that you meet in the distilled spirits industry. When the opportunity comes along to meet a namesake individual; I revel in the chance.
Last week I met Franco Luxardo, and it was my honor to dine and discuss Luxardo’s new and old over a little breakfast. Here is a glimpse into the man who bares the bottles name.
Luxardo has survived war, theft, and three empires, all while remaining patriotic, pragmatic, transparent and never more relevant.
When we talk Vodka; Poland and Russia fight for supremacy, with Rum, the islands of Martinique, or Guatemala might claim ownership for the cane liquors best.
When we talk liqueurs, Italy rains supreme, since the dawn of distillation to today’s, adulterated, synthetic, cold compounded bubble gum flavoured messes…
Italy has been doing it longer, better, and more authentically than we have records for. (a great story I will come back to).
When I meet a man with his name on the bottle, I get a little nervous. I am usually overwhelmed with questions and ideas that I want to discuss. Franco was calm, ready and I left him wanting to hear a little more.
We started by just lightly talking pasts, stories and common stops along the way, had a bite to eat and then got down to business.
I have always said that I learned the history of any country I visited through it’s distilleries and it’s wars. Luxardo’s history is riddled intrigue. As we delved into the history, myself and the entire table was enamoured with the tales.
In 1817, Girolamo Luxardo from Genoa moved to Zara with his family. It was customary at the time for people to make liqueurs at home and Girolamo’s wife Maria Canevari was no exception. She dedicated herself to creating a delicious rosolio maraschino, a traditional Dalmatian liqueur often made in convents. Hers was of such high quality that it caught the attention of connoisseurs. Her husband Girolamo founded a distillery in 1821 to produce Luxardo Maraschino. After eight years perfecting the product, he won an exclusive and much prized acknowledgement of the superior quality of the Luxardo liqueur from the Emperor of Austria. Today, Luxardo continues to be proud to bear the “PRIVILEGIATA DITTA MARASCHINO EXCELSIOR”.
Pioneering, in 1913 the third generation Michelangelo Luxardo built an extremely modern distillery, one of the largest in the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the end of the First World War, Zara became part of Italy as 85% of its population were Italian. Luxardo then became the most important distillery in Italy, but unfortunately the distillery was destroyed in the Second World War and many of the family suffered.
In the 1940s, during the occupation by General Tito’s communist partisans, Piero Luxardo, Nicolò Luxardo and his wife Bianca, were killed and it seemed that after more than a century of activity, the Luxardo firm was destined to disappear. The only brother of the fourth generation to survive was Giorgio Luxardo. He fled across the sea to Venice where he had the courage and vision to rebuild the distillery in the Veneto region, at Torreglia (Padova), together with the young fifth generation Nicolò.
Today, many members of the sixth generation of the Luxardo family are active in the company, lead by Franco Luxardo. Guido Luxardo is the creative director, and Mateo handles the globe-trotting.
It is a rare pleasure to sip on a spirit with a man like Franco. The romance of each product came so naturally, historical stories mixed with practical information. Read on for some quick and covert Technical and Trivial information on the products below;
Steeped in history, Luxardo is a true brand of brands in a sea of copy cats. Try them for yourself and read the world of information on the internet, but never discount a moment with a man with a great story.
Technical – Unknown to most, this is s product that is fermented in wood, with all of the branch, cherry and pit, then pot distilled.
Trivial – The bottle is modeled after the Italian Flag. It was made as a private win for the Luxardo’s during the occupation of the Austria-Hungarian Empire.
Technical – Little known in Canada (until now), the robust fortified cherry liqueur is the second in the line of Luxardo Spirits (liqueurs). Luxardo Cherry Sangue Morlacco is a liqueur obtained from Marasca cherry juice, a sour cherry variety exclusively cultivated by Luxardo fermented and matured for two years in oak vats.
Trivial – Italian poet/patriot Gabriele d’Annunzio christened the liqueur “Sangue Morlacco” (Morlacco’s Blood) in honor of the Morlaccos, fierce warriors of Dalmatia who fought for the Republic of Venice and defended their homeland against the Turks.
Luxardo Cherry Sangue Morlacco is a liqueur obtained from Marasca cherry juice, a sour cherry variety exclusively cultivated by Luxardo fermented and matured for two years in oak vats. “Deep ruby hue. Sour cherry aromas follow through on a lighter palate with sweet red cherry flavors showing a trace of natural tartness.”
Technical – Amaro means bitter. In this Amaro are infused 7 herbs and roots including cardamom, cinnamon and bitter orange peel.
Trivial – Amaro Abano is a medium bitter, popular in Italy; it is drunk straight after a meal with or without ice to help digestion.
Technical – The bottle was designed in 1999 by a student at an Italian National Glass Design contest. Arguably the most distinct element of the look on the shelf.
Trivial – Unknown to most, No almonds are used anymore, Cherry pits replace them. With its well-rounded taste, it is distinguished from other amaretto because it’s slightly dryer with a hint of vanilla.
Technical – A traditional 40% liqueur made commonly in the North of Italy. Franco himself, says that this is a brand that any serious Italian Liqueur company MUST have.
Trivial – Not your grandmothers plum juice. Strong and delightfully sweet, this plum based liqueurs, rivals the Sloe gins of the world.
Technical – All the countries of the Mediterranean basin embrace the age old tradition of having an anise based national liqueur. Italy is no exception with its Sambuca. Luxardo Sambuca is strictly Italian and produced with the infusion of elderberry and green aniseed.
Trivial – This is the Top Selling product in the portfolio. The anise plant, originating from China became known in ancient times for its therapeutic properties. Throughout the centuries, it became widespread through the Mediterranean coast, where it became widely used in preparing traditional dishes and desserts. Most commonly, the oils obtained from anise were used by liqueur firms to produce a selection of liqueurs such as French Pastis, Spanish Anis, Turkish Raki and Greek Ouzo. The word for Sambuca was derived from the Arab word for anise,‘Zammut’. The word ‘zammù’ still exists in the Sicilian dialect, meaning an anise drink diluted with water. On the front label is featured the Arch of Constantine in Rome (315 A.D.)
Technical – Luxardo Passione Nera is a black Italian liqueur based on Sambuca, created through the infusion of green aniseed, Elderberries, and spends 6 months in Oak Vats.
Trivial – In the tradition of Luxardo Sambuca dei Cesari, the Passione Nera family recipe entails several levels of successive infusions to ensure a natural licorice aroma and anise flavor. The flavor is different from traditional Sambuca, owing to a special blending of the spices focusing on cardamom, seeds of East India.