Just as the Portuguese know the difference between a liqueur and Licor Beirão on the tip of their tongue, also the world acknowledges that Licor Beirão is not, in fact, merely a liqueur, but it is a special and unique drink, and that it has conquered not only the Portuguese but the rest of the world.
Licor Beirão, commonly simply known as Beirão, is a Portuguese liqueur from the Beira region of Portugal. Originating in the 19th century, and nowadays it is the most consumed alcoholic spirit in Portugal.
Its production began in the 19th century in Lousã, in the Beira region, from where it got its name (Beirão means “from Beira”).
The Licor Beirão headquarters are located on a family estate, named Quinta do Meiral, in Lousã. The factory and the family residence are all located there. The land is over 12 acres in size, where are produced some of the ingredients used in the liqueur’s secret recipe, the lavender and mint for example.
After being bottled, the liqueur is distributed to Portugal, and to all foreign markets which make up about 25% of the sales.
The company of J. Carranca Redondo, Lda, the producer of Licor Beirão, was founded in 1940, but the history of the liqueur dates way back. The liqueur was already produced in Lousã before being named Beirão, in a pharmacy, for more than a century.
Let’s know the liqueur’s history!
At the end of the 19th century, a Port Wine salesman, passing through Lousã, fell in love with the daughter of a pharmacist, and they ended up getting married. In the pharmacy, apart from the usual drugs, they sold “natural liqueurs” which were made with secret ancient formulae. The liqueur was produced as a medicinal product for stomach aches.
Meanwhile, a law forbidding the claim of medical properties for liqueurs came into force, the alcoholic beverages were no longer qualified as medicinal. The young man from the North took this opportunity and started producing the nectars independently, with the same craftsman’s processes, in a small factory.
In 1929 the liqueur entered a contest on the 2nd Beirão Congress where it earned a gold medal and its name of Beirão.
The problems caused by World War II caused the sale of the factory and the secret receipt, in 1940, to a young man from Lousã, José Carranca Redondo (1921-2005), who had worked there for some time. In his twenties, and then married, he decided to invest his savings and bought the house and the secret, dedicating himself body and soul to the liqueur that started to be produced by his wife.
From that moment on, sales started growing and it became a liqueur of great success. In the 1960s Redondo drove Beirão to nationwide success.
Redondo understood the importance of advertising so he launched the first Portuguese advertising campaign using billboards.
Until he died at the age of 89, on 15th June 2005, José Carranca Redondo could be found in Quinta do Meiral on a daily basis and actively participated in the wide range of activities of the company.
Licor Beirão is currently produced in Quinta do Meiral, in Lousã. With more than 12 hectares, some of the plants and aromatic seeds are produced here allowing greater quality control. The remaining ingredients are brought from distant zones like India, Sri Lanka, Brazil and Turkey, among others.
The liqueur is still produced by double distillation of 13 different carefully selected aromatic seeds, herbs and spices.
After being weighed out and being mixed in correct proportion, the plants and herbs are mixed with alcohol and remain in maceration for a minimum of about twenty to twenty-five days. The resulting contents are then twice distilled in copper stills.
Then the Licor Beirão is filtered and stored in stainless steel vats for a few months during which time every ingredient is slowly releasing its characteristic properties and fragrances until it attains the ideal flavor., and is then nestled into thousands of bottles. The vats have a storage capacity of 25,000 to 100,000 liters.
Today, the average production capacity of the factory is 30,000 bottles a day. A decade ago the capacity was 10 times less!
The yellow ribbon embellishing the bottles of Licor Beirão (bottled in different sizes of 70 cl, 50 cl e 5 cl) is tied by hands. This means that each one of the millions of bottles scattered around the world has had at least one human touch!
This national brand today exports directly to 40 countries in the four corners of the world. Apart from Portugal, the region of the globe with the biggest per capita consumption of Licor Beirão is Switzerland.
The usage of natural plants and herbs is one of this liqueur’s main distinctive factors since it doesn’t make use of essences and artificial aromas like in most liqueurs — rather, the aroma used is produced locally, an alcoholate made from the base ingredients.
It is made from a double distillation of seeds and herbs, including mint, cinnamon, cardamom and lavender, from all over the world, including former Portuguese colonies of Brazil, Sri Lanka, and India.
Once the alcoholate is ready, it is then added into a mixture of alcohol, sugar and water. This mixture is then tested to ensure it fits the secret recipe’s parameters.
Some of the spices, plants and seeds which are part of Licor Beirão’s are grown in Quinta do Meiral. Many others come from every corner of the world – India, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Turkey and Malaysia, among others – to get to our factory and shine.
The water which is used to make Licor Beirão is the spring water from Serra da Lousã.
During the maceration, the secret recipe of 13 spices, plants and aromatic seeds is blended with alcohol of agricultural origin.
Licor Beirão is made via a double distillation in copper stills. In these stills, the substances with different boiling points are separated in order to obtain a 72% alcoholate. The stills, which are used for the distillation of the alcoholate, are manufactured in Portugal and are fuelled with firewood and natural gas. These copper stills are a kind of material that does not impart any flavor to the alcohol, is acid-resistant and is a good heat conductor.
The drink has a pale amber color.
Sweet, alcoholic and herbal aromas with a hint of anise and thyme, on the nose. On the palate, it is a very smooth, soft and sweet liquor, having 22% alcohol content. It is like syrup, with notes of anise, orange and caramel.
Refreshing and delicious, especially with some ice cubes!
Licor Beirão is one of the most popular drinks in Portugal. It is usually consumed as simply or with ice. And is also able to be used in the preparation of some cocktails.
Excellent digestive to taste after a wonderful dinner with friends. Also a good aperitif.
Do not miss it on your next holiday in Portugal!
Source: Licor Beirão