The Zufanek distillery is located in Borsice in the Czech Republic, and has been around for a long time. Officially however, only since 2000. This distillery is a true family business: Martin Zufanek and his two brothers run the place together, and in the past along with their father.
Typical specialties by the Zufanek distillery are traditional, Czech brandies such as their very popular Slivovitz, a Hruskovica pear brandyand some liqueurs of which some are aged in barrels for special editions and such. What makes this distillery special is that all spirits are made by hand (artisanal production) but the Zufanek’s grow the most part of their ingredients on the family orchards themselves!
The Zufanek Distillery: Organic certified Orchards
Just metres away from the Zufanek distillery, where all three brothers live with their families, one finds the famous orchards. Trees as far as you can see: Plums, cherries, pears and apples – all of which are cultivated under strict organic regulations. In between all of those trees you find numerous bee hives, they’re essential to pollinate the trees. Since those bees produce quite a lot of honey, the Zufaneks found a way to even use those resources for producing honey wine, or to use it for the distillation of their Mead Base Absinthe.
Even some herbs used for the distillation of their Czech absinthes are cultivated here. However, some ingredients such as the renowned Pontarlier wormwood which only develops nicely on a high altitude, are bought from external suppliers.
The Zufanek Distillery – a tour
Martin Zufanek appears like a very organized and well structured man. Even before entering the distillery property, impressive iron gates suggest that things are a bit more serious as they perhaps would be with other family businesses. All areas of the distillery are extremely clean and tidy. In the stock room, where all bottles are labeled, packed and prepared for transport, all items and tools are put aside in a neat manner.
All other rooms (or halls as you might call some!) are just as clean and organized as the others. It feels as if everyone has adapted a state of mind which says: “Keep your surroundings clean and tidy in order to do your best work and to deliver the best product to the buyer.” A very interesting philosophy which I imagine isn’t just easy to implement in a small, family-run business. The three Zufanek brothers seemed to have managed though, and most of their few staff have been around for years and watched the business develop and grow continuously.
Gorgeous little details are spread across the whole complex, alongside modern interior and technology (yes, Martin Zufanek is not only a master distiller and a great salesman, he’s also a Tech-Geek!). Apart from the detailing on the gates outside, you find beautiful metal artworks for example on staircases or on walls – all creations of Martin Zufanek’s brother, who used to be a blacksmith. One thing becomes very clear here: The Zufanek business offers many opportunities to expand on individual passions and interests.
From 700 l to 80.000 l per year
Spirits production at the Zufanek distillery have increased constantly, and rapidly. From 700 litres per year when it was founded in 2000, to eighty thousand litres per year. Obviously that didn’t happen over night, but it still is a very impressive accomplishment. Zufanek built an entire new building to accommodate his distillery, dispatch and stock rooms only in 2016 – which has already reached its maximum capacity of how much the family is able to distill per year. They simply can’t produce any more!
The government is always watching
Something tragic happened in the Czech Republic in 2012: Almost 44 people died of methanol poisoning after counterfeit spirits landed on the market. It was naturally a scandal. The Czech government reacted drastically, and enforced 24/7 surveillance via video cameras in every single distillery throughout the whole country. The cameras are installed in all significant rooms that are part of the production process – the stills, the stock room, the transport area. Everything is monitored and recorded. The government watches the distillers closely in terms of what they distill, and how much.
What can be considered as somewhat extreme, has reasons, say Martin Zufanek and doesn’t seem bothered by the extent of this surveillance. “You can see it as a good thing, and as some sort of seal of quality or approval. We have nothing to hide here, and it can only be reassuring for importers from outside the Czech Republic.”
Martin Zufanek serves the whole country
His Slivovitz is everywhere. His absinthe is everywhere. His Gin is everywhere. The Zufanek concept and lifestyle of his family has proven very successful since they founded the business in 2000. Martin Zufanek’s absinthes are among the most popular in the whole Czech Republic, and by far the ones of the highest quality standards. If you’re as lucky as we were and you’re able to shadow Martin Zufanek for a couple of days, one thing becomes very clear: This guy is bloody popular, and this isn’t fake! After we visited his distillery, we went to Brno and Prague for the weekend. We had to stop almost every three steps to greet someone he was friends with, or in some sort of business arrangement.
Czech absinthe by Martin Zufanek
Martin began distilling absinthe in 2007. His first absinthe was Absinthe St. Antoine, which celebrates its 10-year-anniversary in 2017. Martin’s Absinthe St. Antoine became the symbol for high quality absinthes made in the Czech Republic. Before, mainly or only non-authentic absinthes which are macerated rather than distilled were available. But Martin Zufanek didn’t stop after having developed a high standard traditional absinthe. He collaborated with renowned absinthe experts and other distillers, and created amazing recipes such as the La Grenouille, or his latest specialty: Justifée & Ancienne. This absinthe is only distilled twice a year and uses a very special, secret recipe.
Only Martin knows the recipes for all of the Zufanek absinthes, and how they’re made. His two brothers focus more on the production of their fruit brandies, so Martin took over the absinthe and gin (and other spirits) department and developed both from scratch.
The Zufaneks purchased new stills in 2015, which were made by a very well-known still-maker in Germany: Arnold Holstein. Just like all other business decisions, the Zufanek family took their time to evaluate and calculate their needs. They traveled to Markdorf, Germany to meet up with representatives from Holstein and discussed the requirements for their new stills in excruciating detail. These impressive 300l stills enable Martin Zufanek to distill roughly 250l of 80% spirit in just a single day.
Click here for all available absinthes by Martin Zufanek.
OMG Gin by Martin Zufanek
A personal passion of Martin is gin. A very lucky coincidence, as gin has been uprising on the market for the past couple of years and is high up the list among the most popular spirits worldwide. Using a very clever and catchy name for his first gin “OMG” (Oh my Gin!), he managed to achieve the ultimate break-through for his family business. His OMG is so popular in the UK, in Singapore and many other countries of the world, that people are basically whipping the bottles out of Martin’s hands. Why? Because once again, Martin Zufanek has done everything right. His OMG is a perfect combination of a classic London Dry Gin, paired with a distinct aroma of pepper seeds and lemon. There are 16 botanicals in this recipe, all of which create a nice, dry, subtly refreshing gin. Its unique taste and its lightness makes it perfect for cocktails – and there you have it. This is why you can find a bottle of OMG behind almost every cocktail bar in the Czech Republic, probably in the UK or Singapore, too.
And of course, Martin Zufanek didn’t stop there, he decided to create a special version of his gin, “OMFG” (Oh my finest Gin) which is only distilled once per year, and has a changing, rare botanical. One year it was leaves of the Ginko tree, the other year it was catnip.
You feel like you can slowly grasp Martin’s concept: Order, structure, quality, family. Paired with the constant aspiration to improve oneself and to expand one’s horizon. This is how I think Martin inspires his family and his business every day. His friendly and outgoing personality makes it easy for others to speak to him and even do business with him in a relaxed and fun manner.
Click here to see all available Gins by Martin Zufanek.
What’s the secret to Zufanek’s success?
Of course nobody will reveal their ultimate secret to their success, but I have an idea: If you’re as friendly and open-minded as a Martin Zufanek, and at the same time keep a close eye on market developments on a both national and international level, and have similar skills in marketing your products, I believe you can be as successful as the Zufaneks one day.
I’m proud of what his family has achieved for themselves, and hope they continue to craft amazing and unique spirits as they do now.
Click here to discover all spirits and liqueurs available by Martin Zufanek.
Watch the official Zufanek Distillery clip