Ouzo Veto is unreservedly recommended by the best ouzo connoisseurs, namely the residents of the island of Lesvos. The history of Ouzo Veto begins in the refugee notebooks of Georgios Spentzas, the great-grandfather of the company’s current leadership, who had been producing rose oil and Turkish raki with anise and coriander since 1892 in his hometown of Kinik near Pergamon in Asia Minor. Spentzas came to Lesvos twice, each time chased there by the Turks, once in 1914 and once more in 1922, when he settled permanently, bringing with him two suitcases and a recipe for ouzo. A little while later, he managed to bring his family over as well; they traveled in a fishing boat from Ayvalik. Spentzas, however, could not bear having been driven from his birthplace, and died shortly afterwards.
Today, the family’s ouzo is still produced according to that recipe from Pergamon, which his son Dimitris Spentzas used when he founded the Spentzas Distillery on the island of Lesvos in 1948. Bottling began in the 1950s and, about twenty years later, his son Giorgos joined the business, upgrading and improving processes and adding an alembic still.
In 2013, the fourth generation of the family, Dimitris and Myrto, took over. Together, in a first for the company, they bottled two ouzo labels that are 100% distilled. Today, the distillery remains small in size. It uses a 600-liter French cognac still, and the anise that is added is exclusively local seaside anise from Skamnioudi, which has a unique aroma.“Compared to Turkish anise, ours has a superior aroma and a very strong taste; thus, a minimal amount is needed to flavor the ouzo. They grow the anise from local seeds, which they care for like a rare treasure,” explains Dimitris, who is also the president of Lesvos’ Distillers Association, adding that, in recent years, they’ve cultivated more as the demand increased. The anise fields are coastal, and are cooled by the meltemi winds, keeping the plant clean and dry, with vibrant aromas. Ouzo Veto produces about 30 tons of ouzo per year and exports to five European countries. Their ouzo is a balanced spirit, with a rich body, and a dense and spicy flavor. For the ultimate culinary experience, pair it with salted papalinas (sardines sourced exclusively from the Gulf of Kalloni) when they are in season.
This article was previously published in Greek at gastronomos.gr.
Ouzo Veto was awarded at the Gastronomos magazine’s 15th Quality Awards in December 2022 – an evening in honor of the culinary heritage of Asia Minor, and the producers and businesses run by the children and grandchildren of Asia Minor refugees.