Although a law prevented it, they created Kalmar, the first gin distillery in Mar del Plata and have already received several awards
no berries juniper there is no gin No gin. But for there to be a Mar del Plata gin, something else had to happen: a couple of entrepreneurs set out to make the city repeal the ban on distilling within its limits. Something that finally happened in mid-2021, in the midst of a pandemic.
Déborah Sábsay and Pablo Apodaca are the creators of kalmar ginwhich has just won two prizes in the competition New York International Spirits Competition: distillery of the year and best gin, for its version with yerba mate. Months ago they also garnered several awards in London, the cradle of gin. Déborah and Pablo share a home, family, work and businesses. “The tradition of distilling comes from my Basque great-grandfather’s side,” says Pablo at the factory, located in the city’s old Industrial Park, where they started with a 250-liter still and where they are producing some 10 thousand bottles per month of Kalmar gin. That inherited passion took on another color during the pandemic when, with their transport company stopped, they sensed a good business opportunity: alcohol consumption was growing rapidly, gin was the fashionable concoction and very good quality copies were being produced in Argentina. On the outskirts of Mar del Plata stood out restabut why not try to shake up old ordinances from the ’30s so that more gin could also be made and made within the city?
Kalmar finished taking shape in December 2020 when in Tandil they met a married couple, Nestor and Sofia Diazwith whom he united his passion for distillation and with whom they ended up associating, each with well-defined roles: Pablo is the master distiller, Déborah is in charge of the brand’s image and sustainability, and the Díaz family (Sofía is Colombian). They take care of the commercial part and open channels abroad. They already sent a first batch of 800 bottles to Mexico and on the near horizon are landing in the United States, Italy and Spain and continuing to grow in production.
The gin is 100 percent national. It is made with raw materials that come from different corners of the country and are finished assembling in Mar del Plata. The juniper comes from Patagonia, the hibiscus and the marigold from the North, the bottles and the alembic are localthe design of the labels is the authorship of Juan Battista from Mar del Plata.
In addition to producing two versions of gin, one of hibiscus with eight botanicals and the other of yerba mate with six (including coriander flower, calendula, cinnamon) they also make fasón, that is, they give up the space and the 250 and 1,300 liter stills so that other entrepreneurs can also make their gin. With Kalmar as the spearhead, little by little Mar del Plata is becoming a hub for the production of white drinks. There are already 17 brands that have begun to produce since the change in legislation. “It is a collaborative distillery that seeks to generate meetings between master distillers, bartenders and chefs and thus enhance local identity,” says Déborah.
Originally from Buenos Aires and Junín, in Mar del Plata they found a place to raise their two children. “The contact with nature and going to the sea every day is something priceless to build a home,” they say. “The city is becoming more beautiful and with more identity, this year it exploded and is going through a great gastronomic moment. It is what you have to aim for so that there is tourism all year round”. 15 years ago they settled next to the ocean and even ended up getting used to it and even loving its characteristic winds.
What is it like to work together? “We are both entrepreneurs and each one has their gift, we complement each other well. I attribute it to our base history, we look very collaboratively. She is more passionate and I am a diplomat”, Paul comments.
On this entrepreneurial path, the next step they aspire to is to be able to systematize and industrialize Kalmar without losing that artisanal aura of the beginning. As before they did with their transport company.