Aronia berry liqueur produced in the Llyn Peninsula
PUBLISHED: 13:56 20 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:54 20 February 2013
Purely by chance, Hazel and Gwilym Jones discovered a recipe for aronia berry liqueur. Now it's a growing business Words BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS
When Hazel and Gwilym Jones decided to take part in a farming diversification project in 2006, they werent doing it for themselves.
The couple, who live in Chwilog on the Llyn Peninsula, decided to run a trial growing aronia berries out of idle curiosity and with the wish it could help someone else.
Hazel said: This project lasted three years and was looking at soft fruits and field crops in Gwynedd and, particularly, looking at superfruits like aronia berries. They have incredible health benefits because they are packed with vitamin C and antioxidants.
When the plants came in they were very small and we didnt think wed get much fruit, but they were really successful.
The couple, who also run a hay and straw business from their farm, tried to make things from the soft fruit including jams and chutneys but none of it was particularly successful. Hazel put some in a jar and made a liqueur. It was when she served it to friends at Christmas that she realised it could have potential.
It was in 2010, following years of developing the fruit plants and their product that they launched the Aerona liqueur named after the Welsh word for small, juice making berry. They have gone from having 100 bushes to more than 1,000 on the land.
Each year Hazel and Gwilym, with help from son, Stephen, and daughter, Emma, produce around 5,000 bottles of the fruity liqueur. They have also started producing an aronia berry chocolate. The berries are frozen and sent to an expert chocolatier in Rossett, near Wrexham, who turns them into a delicious treat.
Hazel, 53, said: Its very difficult to describe the taste. The closest things that people liken them to are damson or sloes but it really does have a taste of its own which we love.
The Aerona liqueur is sold in delis and farm shops across Wales as well as at the food festivals and shows. The drink was awarded a silver medal from the Wales the True Taste Food and Drink Awards. Hazel is now looking into developing more associated products.
Hazel said: We want to make the most of those healthy benefits by making products that arent alcoholic. We cant quite believe how quickly its taken off. We have gone from our kitchen to a unit we have built in one of our outbuildings and were now growing out of that.
We never intended it to be business. We thought the research might help other people who were looking at ways of diversifying. But were very happy doing this. We have a lot of fun and its fantastic.