Greece, Nafplio: Karonis Distilleries

Greece, Nafplio: Karonis Distilleries

Distillery tour and tasting of Ouzo, Tsipouro and Masticha

For the last four consecutive years we have spent our summer vacation in the Peloponnese region of Greece. This region has so much to offer that we are far from bored with it. As always we wanted to visit at least one brewery or vineyard, but this time we stumbled upon a Greek distillery by chance.

Just outside Nafplio

After having spent a couple of days in Athens we headed for the area of Argolis in the eastern Peloponnese region. We booked a room at a small family retreat in the hills surrounding the city of Nafplio, once the first capital of Greece (1823-1834) after the Greek War of Independence. Just a two hour drive from Athens, this romantic city is a popular destination for Athenians.

Port of Nafplio

Nafplio, view from Palamidi Hill

The fortress of Palamidi that dates back to the 18th century is one of the main attractions of Nafplio. It sits on Palamidi Hill, 216 meters above sea level, and the road that leads to the fortress also led to our hotel. We discovered by accident that this road also led to a distillery!

Palamidi Castle as seen from Nafplio

Greek family distillery

We decided to take a day trip and after leaving the hotel our car navigation system soon sent us down a small, narrow road. The kind of a road that when you encounter a large truck there is only one thing to do: shift gears and back into reverse. At a small side road we had some space to let the truck pass and at that moment we noticed a small sign that read Karonis Distillery.

Sign Karonis Distilleries, just outside Nafplio

We love these kind of coincidences! The next day we checked whether we could also visit this Nafplio distillery and to our delight we were more than welcome to drop by.

Starting up a distillery

When we arrived at the distillery we were welcomed by Yiannis Karonis who belongs to the fifth generation of this family-owned business that was officially established in 1869. In those early days not only two stills were installed but they also set up their own unit for producing alcohol.

In search of the best distilling equipment, they ended up with manufacturers in France and Germany where they ordered everything and then had it installed by Italian technicians. Only the best was good enough for the production of ouzo and masticha. Yiannis told us all about the distillation process of the different drinks in the distilling room.

Distilling room of Karonis Distilleries

Ouzo, Tsipouro and Masticha

After the tour in the distilling room Yiannis took us to the small Karonis distillery museum on the property, where his wife welcomed us. Here are some old tools and machinery on display, like the first distiller, and also some old bottles of ouzo. We were invited for a small tasting and that was of course an offer we couldn't refuse.

Old bottles of Ouzo at Karonis distillery museum

Yiannis Karonis, fifth generation distiller

The original ouzo recipe of Karonis has remained unchanged until this day. This is also the Greek distilled drink that most people wil be familiar with. We purchased a bottle of Karonis Special Ouzo, which has a full flavor of star anise, coriander and fennel. Although it has an alcohol percentage of 44% ABV, it still tastes quite smooth.

Karonis Special Ouzo

Fennel seeds, used for flavouring ouzo

Tsipouro might not be as well known as ouzo, it is also quite a different distilled drink. Tsipouro is distilled from mashed stems, seeds and peels of grapes, much like Italian grappa. The Karonis  Tsipouro is double distilled and so smooth that we ‘accidentally’ finished the bottle we purchased before heading back home. We also tasted traditional Greek masticha liqueur. This drink has a slightly sweet taste, quite a unique flavour. It is made from the mastic resin tree on the island of Chios and has been known since ancient times for its ability to solve digestive problems. 

A visit to Karonis distilleries is a must if you happen to be in Nafplio. Not only to be treated to a distillery tour and a tasting, but also to the warm welcome by Yiannis and his wife.

Author: Johan de Ligt / Picture credits: Tasty Tales

Updated: 02-01-2024