Regionalarte 5717 (by Charlotte Cockayne)
Jorge and Esmeralda, owners of Regionalarte Photos: Charlotte Cockayne/Open Media Group

A taste of the Algarve

From generation to generation, one family continues to pass on the traditions of locally produced regional liqueurs

It is in the heart of the mountains that some of the region’s most flavourful liqueurs and firewater are born, produced by a couple who have collected centuries’ worth of knowledge for their production. For this family, it is a tradition to provide those who enjoy a drink at the end of the meal with the most distinctive flavours, a ritual that started with the current owner’s great-great-grandfather.

Jorge Lima and his wife Esmeralda, both from São Marcos da Serra in Silves, are the owners of Regionalarte, a company that was born in 1999 with only three drinks and has not stopped growing since. At the moment, they sell 17 liqueurs, which means there is something for everyone.

From the typical flavours of the Algarve region such as carob, fig, almond and honey to the more unique creations like the Folar liqueur, made with milk, herbs and sugar; the Aphrodisiac, made with ginger, ginseng and pau de Cabinda (yohimbe bark); and the Devil’s Breath, with a spicy kick.

Regionalarte 5669 (by Charlotte Cockayne)

The range of options is wide, whether for a more refined or casual occasion, with cinnamon, pennyroyal and lemon liqueurs also available as well as a special one called Licor da Serra (Liqueur from the Hills) made with port wine flavoured with cinnamon. But it doesn’t stop here.

Jorge also produces gin, firewater (aguardente), ‘melosa’ (medronho and honey liquer) and honey. Like the liqueurs, the Caesar’s Gin, Hibiscus and Cobiçado brands are also exclusive products born from his creativity.

Many of the products are a result of experiments, together with the curiosity of the owners, friends or customers, with special requests always welcome and enthusiastically received. The Aphrodisiac liqueur, for example, was created in response to the owner of an aphrodisiac restaurant, in Faro, who idealised a signature drink for the establishment.

From this order, two drinks were made with the same ingredients, a 17%-proof liqueur and a 42%-proof firewater. “People liked it, and we ended up selling thousands of bottles,” recalled Jorge, emphasising that “the priority is to please the customer”.

Regionalarte 5670 (by Charlotte Cockayne)

Currently, they are developing a special order called Apple Fire, a firewater of apple and cinnamon flavour, which will be exported directly to Spain. Companies and individuals both national and international appreciate Regionalarte products, which are distributed all over Portugal and even in the islands.

The biggest foreign buyer of these liqueurs is from the Netherlands, after a group stopped by the premises in São Marcos da Serra and sampled the drinks. Four months later, an article was published in a Dutch magazine about Regionalarte liqueurs.

Also, the fact that there is a camping site, whose owner is Dutch, with about 90% of the customers also Dutch, means that many visit Jorge and end up buying bottles to take to their home country.

In spite of that, their biggest fans are the locals. “Our drinks have sweet and intense flavours, just as Portuguese people like them,” Jorge commented, explaining that “some are stronger than others”, but all are “great at the end of a meal”.

Regionalarte 5699 (by Charlotte Cockayne)

Another of the Algarve company’s specialties is the aged firewater with a woody aroma and flavour, after fermenting in barrels for about seven months – a meticulous process since if the fermentation time is exceeded, the drink will have too much wood flavour.

This production differs from normal firewater for being more flavourful and stronger as well as for its browner colour. Because it is so unique, it has been made in honour of the owner’s mother, Dona Inácia, part of the fourth generation of distillers in the family who has always been linked to the medronho harvest and is considered “the inspiration behind the business”.

The place where the liqueurs are sold carries history and emotion; even the decoration was thought out in detail. The wood used to make the shelves is over 100 years old – it came from the distillery of Jorge’s great-grandfather, grandfather and father. “It was not only a way to save and recycle wood, but also to bring everyone’s presence here,” explained the owner.

Regionalarte 5705 (by Charlotte Cockayne)

Therefore, it is a family business where everyone helps. Jorge’s eldest daughter, Rute Lima, with a degree in Public Relations, is the one who promotes the liqueurs at craft fairs and makes their flavours known.

Although the present is bright and the future looks promising, Jorge revealed that “the goal is to grow, but always with the feet on the ground”. By this, he means that to maintain the quality of his products, he will not produce large quantities as “the quality and essential characteristics of the liqueurs could be lost”, so he will keep producing through traditional methods in a small distillery. “We will do our best to keep growing. We want more and more people to take our liqueurs home,” he stated.

By Beatriz Maio