Senior & Co.
- Willemstad, Curaçao
Their history started in the year of 1896 when the firm Senior & Co, founded by Haim Mendes Chumaceiro ( also known as Shon Inchi) and his business partner Edgar Senior, operated a drugstore on Curaçao called ‘Botika Excelsior’. The walls of that botika witnessed the beginning of it all when Chumaceiro started producing an “aperitif” or “digestive”, using the recipe of his family and naming it Senior’s Curaçao Tonic. They quickly changed the name to Senior’s Curaçao Liqueur.By the year 1900, After the passing of Chumaceiro, his widow continued his legacy at her home but in modest quantities. It was not until 1945 that the company started getting its shape. The present firm of Senior & Co. was incorporated, and the descendants of the Senior and Chumaceiro families, plus several of the larger business enterprises on the island held its shares. At the same time, the new company purchased the recipe from the widow Chumaceiro.
So, what’s the difference between Curaçao Liqueur and Triple Sec? Or is it all just Orange Liqueur? Basically, we are talking about Orange Liqueur as a group name. These are liqueurs, where citrus orange peels are used as a base ingredient in the distillation process. Between the different brands, there are differences in types of oranges used, the combination of different oranges, what kind of alcohol is used, and of course all the other ingredients (sugar, herbs, spices etc.). All these factors play a role that ultimately comprise a recipe for an orange liqueur.
In 1896, Senior & Co. started producing Curaçao Liqueur with the Laraha orange peel.
Shortly after the conquest of the island in 1499, the Spaniards planned for the agricultural development of Curaçao. One of the plants they carried with care on their long sea voyages from Spain was the so-called “Valencia” orange. Historical records show that someone named Pérez Maestre brought the first seeds from Hispaniola in 1527. When the Dutch arrived, they found small groves in some areas of the island. The sizzling sun and arid climate, however, were too much for the colorful sweet oranges, and this once juicy fruit then turned into a kind of bitter, almost inedible product.
The project was forgotten and the “misfits” of the once proud Valencia oranges grew wild and abandoned. Not even our infamous goats would touch them. But this was a blessing in disguise because decades later (the exact date is lost in history), planters discovered that the peels of this unique Laraha orange, thoroughly dried by the sun, contained etheric oils with an extraordinary pleasing fragrance. In order to not let the crop go to waste they started developing their own recipe to share with friends and family. The unique Laraha orange had found a new purpose.
Distilling their world-famous liqueur is a craft that they have mastered in every step of the way.
Located in the Eastern part of Curaçao. each Laraha tree on the plantation produces between 150 to 200 fruits, which result in 25 to 35 kilograms (55 to 77 pounds) of dried peels. The trees are harvested twice a year. The Laraha trees are 3 meters (9 feet) talll and taking one fruit requires a special technique.
When the Laraha orange is green, right before ripening, our farmers take a tall ladder to take the fruit from the trees. Each Laraha orange is pulled with a piece of the sprig of the tree. This is because pulling only the fruit would cause the knot to dry up and make it impossible to yield more fruit.
They hand-cut the peel of each Laraha orange into 4 sections, which are roughly triangular. The rest of the fruit itself is used as food for the Kabritunan (goats).
After cutting the fruit, the Laraha peels are then dried in sunlight for 5 days. This is done on a large concrete floor. Under no circumstance can the peels become wet, so great care must be taken to cover the peels at night or if it’s raining.
The distillation & bottling process is completely done by hand and takes about 17 days. The peels are put in a gunny bag, spices are added and then hung in a heated copper still with 250 liters (66 gallons) of 96% pure and Kosher alcohol (derived from sugar cane) for 3 days at 150 degrees Celsius (302 Fahrenheit).
After 1-day cooling, the gunny bags are removed from the kettle, water is added, and distillation takes place for another 3 days at a constant temperature of 250 degrees Celsius (482 Fahrenheit).
With 1 distillation, 208 liters (55 gallons) of distillate are produced. Then, we add 400 kg (828 pounds) of sugar and more water. The product is then filtered for 3 days to produce the clear Curaçao liqueur. To create their colored liqueurs, they add certified coloring.
When speaking of an official Curaçao Liqueur, the liqueur has to be made with the dried peels of the unique Laraha orange. To this day, Senior & Co. is the only brand in the world that uses the dried peels of the unique Laraha orange to produce a Curaçao Liqueur.
For a Curaçao Liqueur to be named “Curaçao” it does not have to be distilled on our island, unlike other drinks such as Champagne or Tequila, but we are proud of our island and proud to be the only Curaçao of Curaçao.