Nor-Ibérica de Bebidas (Maside, Ourense), is specialised in the production of Galician spirits and liqueurs, and is one of the companies in the sector to have committed to giving Galician distillated spirits prestige. Its offer has two brands as quality benchmarks, Felipe Saavedra and Marquis of Marialva, covered by the Galician Spirits and Liqueurs Regulator, which last year also obtained, the Galicia Calidade seal.
The production of the liqueurs marketed with both brands is characterised by the care taken with the product. The base is a spirit distilled from the marc of Galician grapes, which is macerated in cold for 90 days with 100% natural Colombian coffee, in the case of the coffee liqueur, or with a combination of 36 herbs, obtained from the Allariz area (Ourense), in the case of the herbal liqueur. Then sugar, with a minimum of 100 grams per litre, in accordance with the rules of the Regulatory Board, completes the preparations and provides them with their characteristic sweet taste.
“The problem abroad is that they do not know about Galician liqueurs. Italian grappa has a positioning that we lack”
Juan Carlos Saavedra heads up Nor-Iberica de Ibérica, and has worked in the denomination of origin wine sector since the mid-1980s, a facet he has complemented with the production of distilled spirits for more than a decade. “We can define Nor-Ibérica de Bebidas as an industrial distillery that looks after the product in a traditional way,” he values.
The company handles a stock of around 200,000 litres, of which 10% corresponds to products covered by the Geographical Indication for Traditional Galician Spirits and Liqueurs. “They are liqueurs that are widely accepted, especially in the communities of the Cantabrian Coast, and of which we can boast of their exceptional quality,” says Saavedra.
Outside Spain, Nor-Ibérica de Bebidas has tested markets in Germany, Switzerland and Japan, by attending international trade fairs and investing in commercial work, although the results have been limited for the time being.
“The problem abroad is that they do not know about our products. Italian grappa, for example, has a international positioning that we lack, but it is like a dog biting it’s own tail. We do not sell liqueurs abroad that are covered by the Regulatory Board because there is no promotion, but there is no money for that promotion because we do not sell,” explains the manager of Nor-Ibérica de Bebidas.
The same situation also partly affects the Spanish market, where Galician liqueurs have to compete in price in the majority of the communities, with the paradigmatic case of Madrid, with regards to the German herbal liqueur, the Jägermeister, selling around 1.5 million litres a year in Spain, with a positioning oriented at the nightlife scene with an audience of under 40.
“There will come a day when the consumer will ask for a coffee liqueur by its brand name”
One of the major problems facing Galician liqueur companies is the proliferation of unlabelled drinks. “Much of the goods sold in the hospitality are unlabelled,” Juan Carlos Saavedra recognises. “It is a lack of awareness, by both the consumer as well as by hotel and catering professional. They are selling a product, even if this is with the best will in the world, without knowing what is inside the bottle. There is no sanitary control on these liqueurs,” he argues.
According to Saavedra’s valuation, the way to change the situation is by creating social awareness in the hospitality industry. “A few years ago, when you went to a restaurant you were sometimes offered house wine without labelling. Today this situation does not happen very often and the same will happen with the liqueurs,” says Nor-Ibérica’s manager. “The final consumer wants quality products and is curious to try them out. “There will be a day when the consumer will ask for a coffee liqueur or herb liqueur by the brand name” he forecasts.