It’s well known that Cycladic islands are spilling over with traditional sweets, made by passionate local people and based on old recipes that pass from one generation to the next one. “Loukoumia”, “halva pies”, marzipan bites, sesame bars and fresh fruit that are being transformed to juicy compotes, jams and preserves, are the ideal gastronomic souvenirs that fill in our suitcases as we depart from our dream islands and keep us sweet company during the winter, while we anticipate the next trip, the next destination. Naturally, the best and tastier picking of each land is being harvested every year and, in most cases, old methods and techniques are being modernized, creating more and more quality products that bring out the characteristic flavours of every corner of the Aegean islands complex.
In Naxos in particular, the Promponas family that owns citrus fields on the island’s most fertile parts, has elevated the creation of citrus products to a state of the art, whether it’s their aromatic, sweet liqueurs and traditional drinks, or their ever growing variety of top quality, delicious sweets and desserts. The distillery business that was founded in 1915 and has completed more than a century of continuous history, is being run today by the 3rd and 4th generations of a family that keeps alive the same love and devotion to tradition as the one that the founder, Dimitrios Promponas, had. And this is evident not only in the superior quality of their products, but also in their constant presence in their shop, in the smile, the courtesy and the way they welcome each customer. Speaking by experience, it’s their attitude that leaves the best impression.
A visit to the Promponas shop in Naxos’ Chora
Doubtlessly, one of the prettiest stores in the town of Naxos. With wonderful window-shops, arranged by the owners themselves, with every corner reflecting attention to detail and love for the products they offer. The huge, hand-painted map of Naxos in the shop front shows the location of the family’s citrus and lemon fields and has become a reference and meeting point in Chora.
Inside the spacious, corner shop the tasty temptations are endless. Turkish delights and “ypovrihia” with natural citrus aromas revive memories of our childhood summer, dried and candied citrus peels, sesame bars and marzipan bites accompany you on the island’s gorgeous beaches as the perfect snack and the delicious fruit jams and preserves are the ideal pair for your ice cream, yogurt or breakfast. The best seller is the cherry preserve, so crunchy and juicy, you won’t even realise how quickly a whole jar can empty, so make sure you get the big size! And you should definitely try the fragrant dried citrus peels, that wonderfully complete a cheese platter, garnish a cocktail or add flavour to your homemade cakes and desserts.
But it’s in the 4 kinds of citrus liqueurs where you can really taste the family’s experience and passion. They are being produced in the family’s distillery, purely from local citrus leaves, according to the same method and time-honoured recipe since 1915. White and Green spirits of single distillation, or White and Yellow Special ones of double distillation, are exquisite both enjoyed on their own or added in signature cocktails. Add the new Ariadne liqueur – which comes from the distillation of citrus fruit and not leaves – their Ouzo, the rich, sweet aftertaste of Kitromelo, the unusual Raki with citrus aromas, Tsipouromelo with herbs from Naxian mountains, homemade lemonades and sour cherries drinks and the newest product, a very fragrant Limoncello, made of lemons cultivated on their own fields, and you will realise why the elegant Promponas shop is a top choice for pure, traditional, genuine Naxian products.
The tasting tour experience in the citrus distillery
This guided, tasting visit is one of the most special gastronomic experiences in Naxos, a truly enjoyable tour in the distillery of the Promponas family and a unique opportunity to get to know one of the most loved products of Cyclades. By making your reservation while visiting their shop, you can actually choose between two tours: Along with the distillery visit, in the shorter one you can taste the classic liqueurs and other spirits that the family produces – accompanied by the sweets they make and other tasty assortments – or the longer one which also includes a tasting of the newest addition in their long product list, the wines that the manifold family has recently been creating.
And who would be better to narrate the story of citrus than the Promponas family itself, and especially the youngest members, with all their enthusiasm and love for the precious treasure of Naxian land, but also with a combination of professionalism and genuine Greek hospitality.
The beautiful space of the shady yard between the distillery and the small field of 100 citrus trees is a real feast for your senses. Everything is prepared with attention to details, in order to offer you an intact, complete and very satisfying tasting experience. Starting with a refreshing, homemade lemonade and with your glass in hand, you can wander around the citrus field, observe the trees, smell the fragrant flowers and leaves, about whose processing you will learn latter, hear why the trees’ height is kept deliberately short and why the leaves are being picked up after October’s first strong rainfall.
After having shaped a first idea about the cultivation of citrus, you are now ready to attend the guided tour around the distillery. You will first see the area where citrus leaves are gathered from all of the family’s fields and then put into alembics so that the single or double distillation can begin. Along with the useful information you’ll hear, you can also watch a short but enlightening video about the whole process, but also explore a part of the distillery’s history, through a display of objects carefully preserved in the course of a century of nonstop operating business.
Old bottles and original packaging, a nostalgic journey through black and white photos, posters, portraits of old family members that dedicated their lives in citrus’ designation, but also a moving touch to the collection: a few personal items of the founder.
All these are displayed along recent photographs, happy images of young and old ones participating in various harvesting and production stages, that bring us back to present, indicating it’s time to return to the lovely yard and let the famous spirits fill the glasses.
A true celebration of flavours and scents awaits you, as one after the other the citrus liqueurs and spirits are being offered to you, each accompanied by a special treat that brings out their unique flavours. Spoons dive into jars of juicy, delicious marmalades which are then spread on breadsticks, Greek olives and olive pastes are a great treat along with local Ouzo, beautiful glasses are filled with white, green and yellow citrus liqueurs and assorted by local marzipans, Turkish delights, “halvadopita” pieces, dried figs and flavoursome citrus peels.
In the wine tasting part of the tour, along with white, rose and red wine you have the chance to taste some of the island’s renowned cheeses, a selection of cold cuts and fresh grapes straight from the family’s vineyards. To wrap up the tasting experience, nothing seems more suitable than a glass of chilled Limoncello, aromatic and digestive, equal in quality to the famous Italian one. Without even realising how quickly time passed by, you will have spent two whole hours full of wonderful flavours, interesting information and a joyful mood that spreads all around and makes toasts rise and smiles come naturally, in a genuinely warm atmosphere.
Generally, it all proves that Promponas family is not just a classic choice for Naxos’ genuine, traditional products, but also people who deeply love their island and its unique characteristics, a love that they will surely communicate and get across to you too.