Vicario Liqueurs and Spirits opens tasting room

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Vicario Liqueurs and Spirits has opened its new tasting room at its farm in Greer. Photo by Evan Peter Smith

Five years after it first began selling its specialty liqueurs, Vicario Liqueurs and Spirits has opened the doors of its new tasting room in Greer.

The company has already made a name for itself in the competitive craft spirits scene of New York City, having won two Good Food Awards and three double gold awards from TheFiftyBest.com. Now company founders Janette Wesley and Vicario Renato are looking to give the local community a taste of their 15 handmade liqueurs, which are bottled right here in the Upstate.

“Come and visit,” Wesley said. “We think people will be surprised by what they experience here.”

The distillery is located on a seven-acre farm at 840 Old Jones Road in Greer. Reservations are welcome, as are walk-ins 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays.

Upon walking into the doorway of the tasting room, you’ll be greeted by a home-like atmosphere: hardwood floors, a brick fireplace, leather armchairs and a granite countertop bar atop which bottles of Vicario liqueurs have been carefully arranged.

The distillery has 15 unique creations ready for tasting, from Dragoncello to Coffee to SavageCherry. Photo by Evan Peter Smith

The flavors are varied. Some are familiar, others less so. Coffee liqueur needs little introduction, unless you want to know the details of how the Arabica beans, that are the foundation of the spirit, are carefully roasted and utilized to get the best flavor profile possible — information Vicario himself will gladly provide. SavageCherry is yet another familiar flavor made far more complex and nuanced by the degree to which its creators have gone to use Cantiano cherries, an antique and rare variety of wild sour cherries grown in Italy, which must be plucked just at the right time before birds descend to gobble them all up.

The company operates two farms: one in Italy near Cortona, and one in Greer.

Janette Wesley, who co-founded Vicario Liqueurs and Spirits with her husband, Renato Vicario, said the processes they use in certain liqueurs date back to ancient times. Photo by Evan Peter Smith

Some of the techniques and combinations they use to create the liqueurs are old-school in a drastic way; Vicario said his language abilities — he is proficient in about 15 languages — allowed him to read ancient distillery texts that had been scanned and uploaded to online databases as a means of learning methods to improve his creations.

The secret to many of their creations can be found on the farm, just out the door of the tasting room. Just follow Veedo, the family’s three-legged dog and unofficial mascot, who will lead you out into the rolling greenery of the land where herbs are grown.

Veedo, the family dog, lost his leg after suffering severe fractures while “on some kind of adventure,” according to Vicario. But he doesn’t let the impediment slow him down much. Photo by Evan Peter Smith

Out in the fields, Wesley can point out the different herbs, each with their own unique smells. Vicario said most customers in the local community aren’t experienced when it comes to more balanced, nuanced liqueurs.

“Everybody has this preconceived notion that they are to taste like candy,” Vicario said. “The kind of mass-market liqueurs lack that depth of flavor, and so they cover it up with sugar.”

That’s not to say that the liqueurs created at the Vicario farm aren’t sweet; many are. But instead of cheap sugar syrup or artificial flavors, they use pure sugar cane, which is then evaporated in the sun, making it the cleanest form of sugar possible, according to Vicario. This, coupled with the hand-plucked herbs, allows them to use about a third to a sixth of the amount of sugar found in a typical liqueur.

The hand-picked herbs make the creation of each bottle an arduous but loving task. Photo by Evan Peter Smith

The task of making each bottle is a family affair. Wesley’s daughter Lindsay works with distributors and other aspects of the business, while Vicario and Wesley share a wide range of responsibilities, often taking trips to the company farm in Italy. Once the liqueurs are finished, they end up in bottles designed by Wesley herself, using a collage technique that incorporates art by the 15th century painter Hieronymus Bosch.

“We try to let people know there’s something new to experience if they come on down, something that’ll open up a whole new area for most people,” Wesley said. “I think they’ll be glad for it, and it will be the start of something really wonderful.”

Find out more: https://www.salutellc.com

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