In the Playias plain, some 4 km before you reach Plomari on Lesvos you’ll see on your left the impressively large, modern premises of the Isidoros Arvanitis Plomari Distillery.The best known and commercially successful ouzo brand, it along with some other big names made the town of Plomari synonymous with ouzo.
There we were told about the impressive course of development of the Plomari distillery which has made history. Initially a small enterprise, founded in 1894, it was bought by the Nikos Kaloyiannis family in 1993, who turned it into a market leader in record time.Alone, it is responsible for 35% of national production,more than the total of the next three brands combined, exporting 50% of its liquor to 38 countries.
At the entrance of the distillery, the visitor steps into a splendid hall and is greeted by a most ingenious presentation on two screens, one where Isidoros Arvanitis ‘tells the story’ and the other which recounts the extraordinary history of ouzo.
There you are introduced to the production process, the role played by the anise of Lisvori, 3.5 km from the coast of Kalloni bay – reputed to be the best in the country – and why it is preferred by Ouzo of Plomari. And you learn some key ingredients: the soft spring water from the Sethounta river, fennel from northern Evia, star cinnamon, nutmeg, extract of Chios mastic, various other Lesvos herbs and salt from the Kalloni salt-pans. The proportions of these ingredients are of course a closely guarded secret,as is the recipe handed down from Isidoros Arvanitis.
The visit to the distillery is an interesting experience because it combines traditional distilling practices as well as the most technologically advanced. The first is represented by 18 small stills from the last century, the second by state of the art methods of distillation (four rows of the bottling process, one 120 m long) under constant electronic and natural supervision. Production is thus carried out as it would be in any traditional distillery, whereas the bottling and standardization are subjected to hundreds of rigorous daily quality controls.
When to all these advances (in product quality, new production lines) the company’s marketing tactics are added — such simple but clever touches as replacing the old aluminium screw-top with a cork – and an excellent advertising campaign, you can well understand how the Nikos Kaloyiannis family’s ‘Ouzo of Plomari Isidoros Arvanitis Distillery’, a 100% Greek firm, came to be the pride and joy of Lesvos as well as opening the way of ouzo to the whole world.