- 11 March 2022
Visit the oldest museum of ouzo in Greece at Barbayannis at Lesvos
The island of Lesbos is home to the production of ouzo, the alcoholic beverage par excellence of Greece. In particular, the area where most of it is produced is around the city of Plomari, where there are various distilleries. I visited the Barbayannis distillery, owned by the homonymous family, which houses the oldest and most important ouzo museum in Greece.
If you have planned your vacation on the island of Lesvos or you are an avid ouzo drinker, a visit to this museum is a pleasant experience to learn how ouzo is made thanks to the tradition of the Barbayannis family, involved in the production of ouzo for the last 160 years.
Plomari, area known for ouzo production but nowadays expanding into hospitality
Plomari is among the most important cities on the island of Lesvos. It extends along the south coast of the island and the surrounding hills, full of pine and olive forests that create a natural boundary. The center is identified by the market square and by the main square at the port. In these two areas there are many coffee bars and fish taverns where obviously fresh octopus is not missing, accompanied by the inevitable glass of ouzo.
Traditional houses are generally built of stone with a roof made of ceramic tiles and a main span surrounded by windows. Plomari is becoming more and more attractive to travelers and because of this many od buildings and factories are being transformed into modern ones, but with respect to their history, an example of which is a five-star resort at its outskirts. Agios Isidoros beach, just outside the city, is the largest and most beautiful in the area. Just along the stretch of road that connects this beach with the city center, that is where you will find Barbayannis distillery.
How was the idea to create a technological museum of ouzo born?
The idea to create an ouzo museum was initially born from the natural need to solve a problem: where should historical tools that were used for many years and now replaced by modern technology be stored? Hence, the idea of Barbayannis family to archive them in a museum, so as not to erase the link with the past and keep the memory of the history of ouzo alive.
The museum is not a professional one, but it well cared for. It belongs to the category of technological museums, since it contains historical instruments that have undergone an evolution over time thanks to the advancement of technology. The museum certifies and documents the long history of the distillery. The Barbayannis museum, as it is officially called, has become the most famous and important ouzo museum in Greece to the point of being mentioned in many tourists guides on the island of Lesvos.
The anise aroma will accompany you at the guided tour
The permanent exhibition area was set up in 1996 on the ground floor of the main building, located just above the distillery. The building is a rectangular structure, clearly visible to visitors from the street, with large windows that allow you to see what’s inside even from the outside. Guided tours can be in Greek or English and you just need to consult the official Barbayannis website to see the opening hours. You can also book your tour in advance.
As soon as you enter the museum you are assailed by a sweet aroma that recalls the glass of ouzo, even if you have never tasted it before, thanks to the fragrances that come from a small basket of aniseed, the basic ingredient of this drink. The piano located opposite recalls the evenings spent in cafes and bars where ouzo was savored.
What can you find inside the museum of ouzo?
You can find jars that were used in the past to transport ouzo, old bottles, jugs and various glasses used for its consumption. You will find books, documents and newspaper articles relating to the history of Barbayannis’ production of ouzo, as well as the original labels of the first bottles produced. You can admire the first alembic built in Constantinople in 1858 as a starting point for subsequent distillation techniques.
The walls of the museum are decorated with framed photographs of the Barbayannis family and moments of everyday life from the past.
The museum is a means of advertisement for the company, but at the same time it promotes the culture of ouzo as a local and national product.
The tour continues through the modern company to show visitors what has changed and what has been left the same in the production of ouzo. You can see the entire production process of ouzo, how they tried it once upon a time once ready in the alembic and obviously you can finish the tour with an ouzo tasting.
The Barbayannis family has passionately pursued the production of an ouzo with a refined taste to the point of being considered among the best national brands. The creation of the museum is a demonstration of love for ouzo and serves to preserve the link between the past and future generations.
There are many travelers who every year combine a visit to the museum with a tour of Plomari, a dip in the sea and a glass of ouzo.
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