From the mountains of Greece all the way to the mountains of regional Victoria in Australia, Macedon Distillery has formulated a unity of cultures to create authentic small batch spirits based on recipes passed down through generations of family history.
No other beverage is as uniquely Greek or as closely linked to a culture as ouzo is to Greece, the production of which has a long history, dating back to at least the 19th century. Whilst ‘ouzo’, an anise-flavoured liquor produced from grape must (the remnants of wine-making), can only be made in Greece and Cyprus, Macedon Distillery has perfected a formulation for ‘Anison’ – distilled and bottled in the Macedon Ranges, a region known for its expansive native forests, vibrant arts scene and thriving food and wine industries.
A traditional Greek alcoholic drink that is popular both in Greece and around the world, the clear, anise-flavoured spirit is typically consumed as an aperitif before a meal, and it is often served with small plates of meze, or Greek appetisers. In addition to its distinctive flavour and aroma, the popular beverage is also known for its cultural significance in Greece. It is often consumed during celebrations, such as weddings or festivals, and it is a symbol of Greek hospitality and conviviality. In fact, it is not uncommon for Greeks to share a bottle of ouzo with friends and strangers alike, often accompanied by lively conversation and laughter.
Founders of Macedon Distillery Jim Koutsougeras and Eleni Lambropoulos are both from second-generation migrant Greek families with distillation ingrained into the traditions of both families for generations.
Hailing from southern Greece, in the Peloponnese region Jim’s parents were from a village called Vlaherna while Elenis’ dad was from Manna and her mum from Mazeika, with both families migrating to Australia in the early 1960s.
“Dad was a distiller in the village and so was my father in-law,” explains Jim.
“It’s been ingrained in me from a young age - I’ve always been doing it because I love it, but as a hobby, not as profession.”
Not as a profession, that is, until about 12 months ago when he and Eleni established Macedon Distillery to celebrate and share the special and unique family recipes that had been passed down to them.
Their journey began in 2019 when Jim decided to further explore and to formally educate himself, obtaining a distillery licence and completing a distillery course at Adelaide university.
“When covid hit I suddenly had more time to do what I really love doing and our plans really took off,” says Jim.
It was then that Jim mastered the formula for his final recipe.
“I’m really excited about it - it’s a pretty smooth drop.”
Although he can’t give away his recipe, he is able to tell us this much: “I’m really excited about it - it’s a pretty smooth drop.”
“I spent a lot of time with dad and perfected the distillation with his knowledge so I’m really pleased I got to do that with him,” says Jim, explaining that his father in law also played a massive part in the formulation of the perfected Anison recipe.
It’s a small world as the idiom tells us and is once again proven in the story that Jim tells about how he met his partner Eleni. Their families happened to originate from neighbouring villages in the South Peloponnese – “You have to pass through mine to get to hers,” explains Jim – and by chance both families migrated to the same region in Australia and in another amazing coincidence Jim and Eleni ended up attending the very same primary school together.
Although the memory of primary school may be dim, the couple met randomly at a school reunion year later. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Just like their families, who years ago back in Greece grew up in the village mountains around five to six hundred metres above sea level, when looking to create a home Jim and Eleni wanted space and so moved to the country - a move which gave Jim the opportunity to build his distillery.
“Macedon Distillery is a combination of both of our families playing around with recipes and taking it to a new level which I think will do well in our market,” says Jim.
“It’s important to us that I use grape as the base, as this is how it was made by our families."
“It’s important to us that I use grape as the base, as this is how it was made by our families. I can’t say for sure that commercial distilleries are still using grapes as the base spirit, as ethanol can be made from almost any sugar based produce. The most economical option is used these days,” says Jim, as he explains what makes his Anison so special and unique.
“Anison is hand crafted by me as the distiller in the Macedon Ranges, Victoria, using traditional distillation methods and recipes passed down through generations of family distillation.
“We also produce in small batches to keep true to quality and not mass production.”
Growing up in Australia with Greek migrant parents the importance and richness of culture was deeply ingrained in both Jim and Eleni and is now so very present in their Macedon Distillery brand.
“One element of this includes the stories of the Ancient Gods and Goddesses and how they formed our beliefs and traditions, how each individual God celebrated the importance of life,” says Eleni.
“When we started this venture of distilling we looked to what inspired us in life and what we identified with. We found ourselves going back to the rich stories of the Greek Gods and Goddesses and how listening to their stories as kids took us away to a magical land and built our connection to being Greek.
“As we know Dionysos was the god of alcohol, but his companion was Methe.
“We selected Methe as the goddess that represents Macedon Distillery as we wanted to highlight the importance of women in family, celebration and alcohol."
“We selected Methe as the goddess that represents Macedon Distillery as we wanted to highlight the importance of women in family, celebration and alcohol.
“Methe played a vital role in highlighting the importance of celebration when consuming alcohol. She highlighted the unity that occurs when we sit and drink with family and friends.
“Our story is similar. We grew up understanding that the coming together of family and friends was strongly linked to our culture and identity. So we want people to enjoy what we create and have it at the centre of their table and surround it with celebration and unity.”
"We want people to enjoy what we create and have it at the centre of their table and surround it with celebration and unity.”
When serving, Greeks typically pour a small amount of the liquor into a glass and then add water until the glass is about three-quarters full. The ouzo will then turn cloudy and the aromas and flavours will be released.
However, perhaps lesser known, is the fact that the spirit can also be enjoyed as a key cocktail ingredient, a feature highlighted by Macedon Distillery who have thoughtfully created a collection of delicious cocktail recipes such as the ‘Lemon Ouzo Spritz’, ‘Ouzotini’, ‘On The Rocks’ and ‘Ouzini’.
But however you choose to enjoy Anison, enjoy it you will!
“The life and soul of the Mediterranean is family, friends and hospitality, and Macedon Distillery lives by this tradition.”
A unique spirit that is beloved in Greece and around the world due to its distinct flavour, aroma and association with hospitality and celebration, all of this Greek culture and sentiment is encapsulated within the Macedon Distillery brand and echoed by its company ethos: “The life and soul of the Mediterranean is family, friends and hospitality, and Macedon Distillery lives by this tradition.”
For more information go to www.macedondistillery.com.au.
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