Afonso Pereira and Marieke Devillé are the winners of the last edition of the Portuguese Newbie competition for new entrants, with their company Alma Organica. Having lived abroad for some years, they decided to move back to Portugal and settled in Odemira, Alentejo with a project focused on sustainability, agrotourism and valorisation of local resources.
They have created the brand Junior Jacques for their distillery that focuses on the production of spirits from the berry of the strawberry tree, aguardente de medronho in portuguese. This transformation is almost exclusive to Portugal and strongly engrained in the local culture. There was a strong investment in branding and quality to add value to this traditional product that is often under appreciated.
The production is organized in an orchard, and the strawberry tress are irrigated and fertilized which is uncommon in the region, where these shrubs are natural occurring. They also have two testing fields in partnership with The University of Coimbra. The orchard are under organic production and follow principles of permaculture and syntropic agriculture. The production area is inserted in a forestall area managed for fire prevention and the preservation of local fauna and flora.
They aim to place their product as an alternative to already well-established spirits, working to introduce aguardente de medronho in mixology and culinary. Currently, their main challenge is to increase production without losing quality.