Today we’ll introduce a Czech distillery to you, specialized in the production of fine, artisanal spirits. The Zufanek distillery is a family business, best known outside the Czech Republic for their absinthe. The best kept secret however is their exceptional liqueurs and eau-de-vies. The family started their absinthe production in 2008, after a lot of trial distillations, research and input from experts. From then on, all the absinthe made by this distillery has been a wonderful success!
The history of the Zufanek Distillery
Josef and Maria Zufanek founded the distillery in 2000, together with their sons (Josef, Martin and Jan). The company’s mission is: to specialize in the production of all-natural spirits and liqueurs, especially Slivovitz, that is, plum brandy.
The Zufanek distillery is located in the village Borsice u Blatnice in Czech Republic. All fruits used for the production of spirits and liqueurs are cultivated in the family’s own fruit orchards. These orchards are both close to the distillery, and more importantly, in one of the best locations in the country for growing plums. The climate, as well as the local soil, rich in minerals, are very favorable for growing fruits in this area. All the fruit is certified organic quality.
What distinguishes the Zufanek from other distilleries is the fact that they only use 100% natural products. For the production of their absinthes, the family also uses herbs cultivated on their own fields, climate permitting. All spirits are produced according to traditional recipes and without any artificial flavors or colors added.
At the heart of the distillery, the still room with 2 column stills (each containing 300 liters) can be found. That’s where fermented fruit mash turns into eau-de-vie, and herbs with spirit become absinthe.
Fine Artisan Spirits from Zufanek
Hruskovica is a smoth and soft eau-de-vie, made from high quality Williams pears.
The aging process in oak barrels adds a rich sweetness and a unique, intensive taste to this pear brandy.
Absinthes from Zufanek
St. Antoine was the first absinthe produced by the Zufanek distillery.
It is also certainly one of the best Czech absinthes, based on a French recipe. Its production is natural and not sweetened.
Interview with Martin Zufanek
Martin Zufanek: My first drinking experience was sometime around 2004, unfortunately with the “classic czech absinthe”. I just thought: “Oh damn, that’s some horrible stuff, I am not going to drink absinthe again”. But when our customers, who knew us as a fruit brandies producer, asked us: “Why don’t you try real absinthe?”, I decided to buy real distilled absinthe to discover what all that buzz is all about. So, I bought a bottle of Duplais Verte in 2007 and since then, I’m in the absinthe world.
Absinthes.com: What lead you to the decision to produce absinthe?
Martin Zufanek: The biggest decision and goal was to recover the damaged reputation of Czech absinthe abroad. The first two batches were almost undrinkable (according to my current taste) but at that time, some absinthe drinkers from the Fee Verte absinthe forum to whom I sent samples said something like: “Hey, this is a first attempt to make a good distilled absinthe”! That showed me that I’m on the right path, so I decided to continue even if it is much easier to distill and sell fruit brandies.
Absinthes.com: According to you, what is the right definition of a “good absinthe” and what are the 3 fundamental elements critical to producing a fine absinthe in a distillery like yours?
Martin Zufanek: Good absinthe should be always drinkable and not sinkable. I tried some distilled absinthe which was really bad and also tried some macerated ones that were quite good. Real deal absinthe should be always distilled from botanicals and colored with whole herbs. That’s it. Critical elements lay in the quality of the source spirit, the quality of the botanicals used, and the quality of the distillation process. You can’t make a good absinthe if you screw some of those elements.
Absinthes.com: Do you think the European market should be locked to naturally distilled absinthes only, or on the contrary, macerated and essences-based absinthes have also the right to exist and to be called “absinthe”?
Martin Zufanek: The term absinthe should be reserved just for the real, traditional, distilled, herbal colored and non-sweetened product. I’m aware that macerated or essences-based absinthes are popular among costumers, but they should have their own category. Like “aperitif à la absinthe”. You can very easily ruin your whole absinthe experience for life when you buy artificial oil-mixed “absinthe” as your first one. And chances, you buy another absinthe, even real one, are very low.
Absinthes.com: How do you see the future and popularization of absinthe in Europe in the next years or decades?
Martin Zufanek: Absinthe will be probably always a niche product. The past popularity is gone. Current time is ruled by time, so the fast-food, shots, vodka, rum etc. People are in hurry, gentleman’s way of slow drinking isn’t too much common these days. And absinthe ritual and drinking belongs to the slow-food culture.
Absinthes.com: Don’t you fear a new ban of absinthe if the European consumers, and especially the youngsters, get into the habit of drinking absinthe like vodka or whisky? The internet is full of videos showing young people drinking shots of absinthe or setting it on fire even though it’s 60-70% alcohol.
Martin Zufanek: That is the result of previous thought. We live in a social network, youngsters are taking drinking tour de bars, ordering absinthe as a shots, setting in on the fire, posting crazy videos and shit like that. You have to respect strong alcohol, it is a privilege of an adult to drink alcohol, not kids. And adults should know what they are doing.
Absinthes.com: Last question. Green Fairy: myth or reality? Have you ever noticed effects other than those from alcohol – secondary effects – after absinthe consumption? Some talk about an enhanced view, dreams, mental clarity, or even intellectual improvement which it could be imagined might have somewhat helped artists and writers from the 19th century.
Martin Zufanek: Myth. I am a regular absinthe drinker since 2007 and still have both of my ears and other organs. You are not going to paint like Vincent van Gogh just with absinthe in your blood. But truth is, that your “hangover” after too much absinthe is much smoother than the hangover from other types of alcohol. It is mainly because of the herbs included in the absinthe recipe. So one might say that absinthe is a hygienic and medicinal beverage 🙂
A great thanks goes to Martin Zufanek for answering all those questions and for providing some great photos of the distillery!