“No two herbal recipes are the same”

Fernando Ferrer (Vila, 1955) dedicated his life to making liqueurs in the factory his uncles founded almost a century ago.

-Where were you born?

— I was born in a place that no longer exists: in the Ibossim building, in Vila. This is where my parents, Fernando de s’Anisseta and Catalina de Ca na Tura, lived after leaving Casas Baratas. I am in the middle of three siblings, the eldest is José Luis and the youngest, María.

“What did your parents do?”

“My father was a teacher. He studied in Barcelona and, since his return, he has always dedicated himself to teaching. First to Corona, then to Sant Antoni before going to Sant Joan. He stayed there for about nine years, living in the house above the school. He lived there with the priest and the Civil Guard. It was another era and Sant Joan was very far away. You had to go and come back by car, so he moved to Sant Jordi. A teacher, named Mariano Torri, gave lessons in Vila while my father gave them in Sant Jordi. So, when my parents moved to Vila, my father proposed to Torri to change and, from that moment, he taught at Sa Graduada, where he became director. Also, when he was done there, he would go to refresher courses (imagine how far he had to finish as a child). His brother, Manolo de s’Anisseta, also taught there. On my mother’s side, she came from a family of pastry cooks and she helped when needed in the bakery. She was the daughter of Lluís de Ca na Tura. In fact, it was quite a saga, one of my mother’s cousins ​​founded the Can Manolo oven in Formentera.

—He tells me about a time when not everyone had the means to study abroad.

“It’s true, and not only did my father go to study abroad, but my uncle, Manolo, also went there. They were there, in a boarding house, studying. I can’t tell you how they did either, even though it was a time when there was a lot of work and when my grandparents, María and José, had a shop in front of the Mercat Vell. A “grocer” from the time when we had oil, sugar, roasted coffee and even charcoal. That’s why they called it Sa Carbonera, although I can’t tell you for sure the real name of the store.

“Have you been able to study too?”

—I studied until I was 13 at Sa Graduada (I turned 14 in August, at the end of primary school). One year my father had me as a teacher, as I was very talkative, it always hurt me to sit in the back rows, but he, who understood me, made me sit in front of him and, if the least thing happened to me, he silenced me with the stick I had. In the “old school” way. I’m telling you, I was a little weird. Once, when I was 11, he caught me smoking a cigarette as I was going to the Yacht Club for coffee. When I got home, he touched my ass with his belt, like we did back then (laughs). At the age of 13, before finishing my last year, my father asked me if I wanted to continue my studies. I told him that I wanted nothing to do with further education, that I preferred to work. So he put me in my uncle’s factory.

“Which factory are you talking about?

—At the factory founded by two of my father’s brothers, Juanito and Vicent, in 1925. Before that, they were dedicated to representing products, like the Martini, from my grandparents’ shop. They were also among the first to sell stand-alone insurance for seniors. It was a different time and in a way they saved the retirement of many people who otherwise would not have been able to receive a pension. A Catalan gentleman was the one who taught them all about making drinks and liqueurs and they were encouraged to buy the premises next to the Port. They belonged to a tough, old-school generation. We had constant battles. At the time, we worked differently, we produced small quantities, people came to buy anise to make the herbs or tablets to look for bottles of cognac or other. All kinds of liqueurs were made: cognac, rum, gin, vodka, coffee creams, cocoa creams, cassava, absinthe…

— How was a working day in your uncle’s factory?

— We had to clean the bottles, which arrived in big bags filled with straw so that they wouldn’t break. They were filled one by one with the taps of the barrels, they were labeled by hand, first with glue made with apricot kernels, the capsules were placed, then the seal of the hacienda, which was already in place at the time.

“Your uncles, were they ‘old school’ too?”

-I think so. In fact, the factory was also a kind of social center, where his friends came to sit by the stove and meet. The mentality of my uncles was quite closed, every time I proposed something new they opposed it. They had the philosophy of “anyone who wants something, they’ll come and get it”, but I was planning on trying to expand it a bit. So, with the first salary they paid me, I bought myself, for a thousand pesetas, a bicycle with a luggage rack to go and distribute boxes of bottles and jugs. Don’t believe I never let them go, with what they weighed! At 16, I did the same but with a Mobilette and at 18, the same but with a car. I would have preferred another model, but I bought a 4L to be able to transport the equipment.

What was the most common drink at the time?

— From the morning, I remember bars like the Metropol, the Rubió, Can Mestret, Cas Bagaix or Sa Canal, where the workers, sailors and others were already drinking a casserole or an absinthe. We took it in bottles until bulk was banned. Also, at that time, liquors like absinthe were unregulated and made with an absinthe distillate that literally made people hallucinate. Over the years it has been regulated and since then you can only put part and a half per million. Before, it was discretionary. It was very strong and there were a lot of very addicted people. There was a time when it couldn’t even be called an absinthe, so we gave it another name: pastis.

“Have you worked with your uncles since?

‘Well, my uncle Vicent died shortly after I entered. Juanito lived to be 98 and I worked with him until he retired. Since then I have set myself and to this day. Over time we changed location and moved to Can Bufí in 2005.

“From the factory, did you notice the arrival of the hippies?”

—Yes, there was an artist, Will Faber, who came very often with his wife. The peluts also came with their empty bottles of anise, which they would have bought from some peasant and, when they had finished it, they came to fill them. Some of the bottles came with the branches inside the bottle. This gave me the idea to do the same thing and sell the bottles with the branches inside. It was a lot of work to get the plants and put them in the bottles. We were the first to do it, now we and most manufacturers continue to do it the same way.

What was the most common drink at the time?

—Although I have been in active retirement for two years, I still work but not as much. The truth is that I already want to process everything so that my son David, who has been brilliantly in charge for a few years, takes it fully. Thanks to him, we started selling in countries like Italy or Switzerland and he had many initiatives such as the manufacture of gin, lemon liqueur or caleta coffee. My other children, Marc and Fernando, devoted themselves to other things, INEF and industrial engineering in Barcelona, ​​respectively. I also have three grandchildren.

—What would be the original recipe for Ibizan herbs?

—Everyone has their own recipe, one puts herbs, the other others. One will put 13 different ones, the other 15… There will not be two identical recipes.


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