Thursday, 6 October 2016
Cacao Pico: Liqueur from Sherry Country
El Puerto de Santa María is not only home to Sherry bodegas and gin producers, but also to an old liqueur producer called Destilerías Pico, famous for its Cacao. The firm was established in 1824 by Manuel Pico, originally from Alicante, at Calle Pozos Dulces with the stillhouse in Calle Albareda. He mainly produced Ponche and Aniseed and Mint liqueurs. From Manuel it passed to his nephew Federico Pico, being in family hands for three generations. In the early days they even had vineyards and sold wine from El Puerto, Sanlúcar and Málaga, but the popularity of the Cacao liqueur took up ever more of their time.
In 1940 the post-Civil War crisis brought difficulties, not least a lack of raw materials, and the firm became a limited company, Destilerías del Cacao Pico SA. Its new owners included names like Fernando Terry del Cuvillo (whose son ran Bodegas Terry), Ivison, and Manuel Díaz. In 1947 the name changed to Destilerías Pico SA and in 1952 the firm was bought by the Merello brothers, Jesús, Serafín, Francisco and Estanislao, whose family still own it. They moved the distillery to the current lovely premises in the Calle Cielos, site of an old dairy, in the mid-1950s. Serafín bought the others out in 1995 and the distillery is now run by his sons, the current director being Pablo Merello Díez.
Production has changed little in 190 years. The cacao beans, which come from Brazil and Ecuador in sacks, are toasted in a kind of revolving oven over a wood fire, rested, cooled and then milled. The powder is then macerated in alcohol at 96ᴼ for 3 months in glass demijohns. The highly aromatic liquid now goes to copper alambiques (pot stills) which are uniquely fitted with a bain-marie to avoid the distillate scalding and sticking to the inside, which is usually the case with direct-fired stills. Each still is slightly different and individually named, and over a century old. The distillate leaves the stills completely clear and very strong, and is mixed with some sweetening syrup and water to adjust it to the bottling strength of 30ᴼ.
The distillery looks much as it did a century ago, and equipment which is not still used has been conserved, and there is a cupboard with old bottles, including the original. Picturesque and historic though it is, the distillery hasn’t stood still. Here they produce the essences for the top quality Indi soft drinks, also made in El Puerto. They make the famous Cacao, a Coffee version, and various products for other companies: vodka, gin, spirits and liqueurs. This great old brand is enjoying a new lease of life thanks to the cocktail boom and not surprisingly winning various international prizes for sheer quality. This is really delicious artisan cacao, full of flavour with even a trace of the firewood.
Address: C/Cielos, 26 esquina C/Espíritu Santo, 11500 El Puerto de Santa María, Cádiz
Telephone: (+34) 956 871 215
Website: www.cacaopico.esVisits? Can be arranged with a prior appointment.