One of my favourite experiences in Spain was eating tapas, drinking wine and taste testing a variety of liquors made by the lovely Elena de Armas and Fabian Cercano in the most amazing tiny two-room house, completely lit by dripping candles and a crackling fireplace. We sat around a wooden table, in La Esperanza, a small village in Tenerife, in this secret little bar very rarely open to the public. They also took us on a tour of their distillery next door, equally charming, where they make their own liqueurs for their company La Vieja Licoreria. These are very special to us as Fabian and Elena created our own earl grey tea flavoured liqueur, bottled up as table favours for our wedding with a poem by Fabian attached! Below, they share the story behind their small business, their goals for the future and a few small moments they’ve recently enjoyed.
Little Observationist: Give us your tweet-sized elevator pitch. What’s your business all about?
La Vieja Licoreria: We produce unique premium craft liqueurs, valuing the use of quality raw materials and the idea of bottling emotions.
LO: Now tell us more: What sets you apart from your competition?
LVL: Undoubtedly it is in our elaborate process. We have dozens of glass demijohns with all sorts of fruit, spices and herbs (blackberries, heather flowers, cardamom, cinnamon, coffee, Peruvian bark, orange blossom, sage, etc.) sleeping in alcohol for months and sometimes years, waiting to become part of a final liqueur full of flavours and scents. They are handmade by Fabián, like an alchemist of memories.
We envision our liqueurs as short trips to the past, to those flavours and scents of our childhood.
We produce a product with a strong emotional content. Our liquors carry the history of those fruits, the seasons, the long maceration and all the time required for each one; there is no rush, but we pay very strong attention to detail.
LO: Share a bit about your background.
LVL: We started in 1994 when we opened a small boozer for friends in an old house surrounded by eucalyptus, fruit trees and ivy. This place is still in La Esperanza, a small village in the north of Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands.
In our “Tasca Garabato” we started to serve our homemade liqueurs as a delicacy. During full moon evenings we had storytelling sessions, and every time with a new liqueur. In one way, our starting point in this business was with the idea of extending the life of those fruits (prunes, pears, oranges…) which otherwise wouldn’t have lasted that long.
We had a very bohemian and beautiful start that progressed into what La Vieja Licorería is today. We are not just a liqueur factory, but a lifestyle company.
Our main motivation has always been to pull emotions for those who drink our products, anywhere in the world.
LO: Which social media platforms do you use for your business? Has this been time well-invested? Any tips for newcomers?
LVL: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, although we don’t use them very frequently. We just post once or twice a month, trying to feature our philosophy. We like our posts to have some soul.
Of course we believe that time spent on social media (even though it’s not a lot in our case) is time very well spent. We would advise others to use social media in any way that reflects your their company, as it must be part of any business nowadays.
LO: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve been given that still resonates with you today? And your favourite resources for small business?
LVL: The best advice ever was given to us by one of those people who cross your path and leave a mark: “Never stop dreaming, don’t ever change”
We see blogs as very interesting resources since they can feature businesses and create space for those interested in what the businesses are doing to interact.
LO: What have been your biggest challenges and greatest rewards as a small business owner?
LVL: The biggest challenge has always been keeping the same quality and standards. Also, placing those same liqueurs that we once shared with friends on full moon nights onto the best shelves worldwide.
We have always approached the business as an exportation one and we keep pushing ourselves to innovate and surprise our regular clients.
Our biggest reward was getting into the American market and all the awards that we have received from specialised press and international competitions.
LO: What are your hopes for your business going forward: what would you most love to achieve as a short-term goal? And long term?
LVL: We do hope that the singularity of our liqueurs continues to be recognised as it is now. In the short term, we want to enter new markets and in the long term, consolidate the business as an example of quality.
It is fundamental for La Vieja Licoreria to stop time around a glass of liqueur, sharing it in conversation, over a book or a beautiful landscape. Quoting Machado: “The memories of my childhood are those of the scent of a patio in Seville.”
LO: Little Observationist is all about appreciating life’s little luxuries. Name three you’ve enjoyed recently.
1. A walk on the beach during a winter day.
2. Reading “The man who planted trees” by Jean Giono.
3. The smell of the first coffee in the morning.
Thanks Elena & Fabian!
Thanks to Jorge for translating the questions to Spanish and the answers to English!