Liquor makes you strong!

The French have champagne and cognac, the Scots have their whisky. Polish spirits that have a chance to conquer world markets could be nalewka and mead. They could be, if the state didn’t make spirits production subject to so many absurd regulations.

Liquor makes you strong!

Several hundred guzzlers of tincture are maturing at Karol Majewski’s company. The beautiful autumn sun gives the spirits a unique and inimitable bouquet of taste, for which someone abroad will pay dearly.

The liquor produced by Majewski can be found in the catalog of a Swiss company selling exclusive alcohols. A specially trained corker comes from Switzerland to Poland to check the taste of the nalewka.

The homemade way

Nalewkas, which are alcoholic extracts from fruits or herbs, are a traditional Polish delicacy. Centuries ago, this beverage stood on almost every nobleman’s, magnate’s or bourgeoisie table. Strictly guarded recipes were passed down from generation to generation.

Today, many people also make nalewkas at home. Every year, dozens of people take part in the Kresy Nalewka Tournament, which has been organized for several years. However, only a few decide to make a business out of it.

– I have been making nalewkas the old Polish way for 20 years,” says Karol Majewski. – It’s a family tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation. It is only recently that I obtained a production permit allowing me to sell my nalewkas. It took me two years of efforts.

But nalewkas are not the only Polish alcoholic specialty. Maciej Jaros has been making meads according to old recipes at the Pasieka company near Tomaszów Mazowiecki for years. The “original” liquors prepared by small Polish plants could conquer Europe. Why is this not happening? The state has successfully prevented anyone from entering the areas reserved for large alcohol producers.

Clerical stairs

Karol Majewski can’t even remember how many corridors of offices, police stations and sanitary inspectorates he passed through before he received the coveted permit to sell his liquor. Among the requirements he had to meet was a certificate from the Ministry of Environmental Protection regarding the storage and collection of fruit, a contract with a licensed receiver of contaminants, and neighbors’ consent to produce nalewka.

– I cannot understand the lack of coordination between the ministries of finance and economy, which could support such an initiative,” says Grzegorz Russak, president of the Polish Chamber of Regional and Local Products, creator of many nalewka recipes. – Apart from obeying a whole bunch of absurd laws, nalewka producers pay horrendous amounts of excise duty on spirits, the same as the big players on the market. While giant companies can afford to produce spirits in Poland, a small producer cannot afford to keep up with the clerical caps that control him.

Maciej Jaros adds: – The state has imposed many absurd regulations on production of spirits. Obtaining permits is an ordeal. And once you have the vouchers in your hands, you have to expect a lot of inspections: tax offices, customs chamber.

The EU can, Poland cannot

In Greece, anyone who wants can pay 10 euros and produce the famous Cretan vodka raki from fruit, a Bavarian can freely distil mash from apples grown in his orchard, in Austria you can make fruit wines, and Poland, although it is already in the EU, has not adapted its national law in this area to the European one.

– The absurd regulations mean that Poles go to Slovakia, where they make distillate from their plums and then sell it in Poland. They are not prosecuted for this, even though they are committing an offence punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment. Among other things, slivovitzka from łąca, which has won awards at trade fairs, is sold illegally in Poland,” says Grzegorz Russak.

– Unfortunately, the excise tax in the country is constructed in such a way that everyone, big and small, pays the same rate. This is not normal,” notes Maciej Jaros.

Unwelcome liquors

Karol Majewski has to pay about 45 000 zlotys of excise tax for each 1000 liters of purchased spirit, from which nalewki will be made. On top of that, there are the taxes paid by each company. – Polmos, which produces vodka, has exactly the same taxes as I do. However, Polmos sells its products on the spot, whereas my nalewka has to mature for 2 years and I have to pay the excise duty right away”, explains Majewski. – I wrote to the Ministry of Finance, but to no avail.

– This type of alcohol production is not welcome in Poland, it is a state monopoly,” says Anna Puzyna-Sobocińska from the Public Relations Office of the Ministry of Finance.

Grzegorz Russak does not understand this argumentation. According to him, small liquor factories could create hundreds of jobs in areas where unemployment is very high. – Liquors are mostly made of forest fruits. Dozens of people would find work at harvesting, purchasing points would be created. Small alcohol production plants could be set up in places where State Agricultural Farms used to be – Russak argues. – But no one gets it. I have repeatedly talked to politicians about the need to change the excise regulations. Before the elections, everyone nods their heads, promises that the problem needs to be solved, and that’s usually the end of the story.

This could be a hit!

Grzegorz Russak, president of the Polish Chamber of Regional and Local Products:
– Nalewkas made using the traditional method may become an export hit for Poland and not only to EU countries, but also to Asian markets and the United States. The reason is quite simple: in the Polish climate the fruit ripens, from which nalewki can be made without too many problems. The Polish apricot is perfect for making this type of alcohol. Making a tincture from a Spanish or Italian fruit is not impossible, but the beverage is not as tasty.

Our specialty

Robert Makłowicz, food critic:
– Nalewki used to be a specialty of Poles, and the tradition of making them goes back hundreds of years. A Pole drinking pure vodka appeared in the history of Polish cuisine only during the partitions. Over the centuries, we have always drunk vodka seasoned with fruit, not “pure” as it is commonly believed. Nalewkas can be made from almost anything. My favorite is from elderberry.

What can others boast about?

Czech Republic – alcohol: beherovka, aniseed, national dish: bun dumplings.
Greece – alcohol: raki vodka, ouzo; national dishes: feta, suvlaki.
Lithuania – alcohol: Lithuanian trojanka (also called grass or three nines), national dishes: kolduny in broth, traditional Lithuanian blinis.
France – alcohol: champagne, wine, national dishes: duck in oranges, French apple pie.
Germany – alcohol: jägermaister, national dish: sausages with sauerkraut.
Portugal – alcohol: Madeira, port, national dish: sardines and cataplana (pressure-cooked seafood and pieces of ham).
Sweden – alcohol: absolut (vodka produced since 1879), national dish: julskinka – ham in pastry.
Hungary – alcohol: tokaj, national dish: goulash.
Slovakia – alcohol: herbal liqueur, slivovitz, national dish: potato dumplings with sheep cheese.

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