Our work means everything to us. It gives us a sense of our size.
Leads us to face challenges every day, provides hope for our children.
Work is community, it is responsibility. It is our future.
Four generations of entrepreneurs
For us at Di Sarno making distillates has always run in the family, it’s in our blood. We have been distillers for over one hundred years, since my great-grandfather Antonio picked up a still for the first time at the end of the 19th century.
But sometimes being good at what you do or knowing the trade is not enough.
You need something more. You need a vision for the future, the ability to take risks, the courage to make a choice. Well, if there is a distinctive feature in my family, a leitmotif across four generations of entrepreneurs, it is the ability to change, to take a challenge, to take risks.
Which is what my great-uncle Guglielmo Di Lorenzo did.
In the 1930s, he had the intuition and courage to emigrate from Sant’Antimo, a village in the Campania region celebrated for its distillation tradition, to Castel Fiorentino in Tuscany.
He then acquired a local distillery and started his own production. He was a modern and enlightened businessman, capable of combining, even then, development and a responsible approach towards the community by opening, for example, a series of orphanages.
Moreover, he laid the foundations for my father’s trade. My father joined him after completing his education at boarding school and learnt the trade.
We arrived in Umbria in the 1950s. My great-uncle acquired a small distillery in the outskirts of Perugia, which had gone into bankruptcy three times. He changed the name: no longer “Distillerie Umbre”, but “Distillerie G. Di Lorenzo” (the current brand).
My father, just 20 at the time, was appointed to run it and when his uncle passed away in the 1960s, he took control over the company.
Under his management, investments begin to be made.
Those of most significance were conducted between the late 1970s and late 1980s. Thanks to EEC funds for the entire wine industry, distilleries were rebuilt, as well as treatment plants, biomass boilers, the production of tartrate was launched and storage tanks were created.
My father laid the foundations for a future development.
However, like all distilleries at the time, we were closely tied to state funding. Choosing to stop receiving this was a brave and far-sighted decision.
It was a decision taken when, with the help of my sister Irma, I took over management of the company, when I was 19, after the tragic death of my brother Guglielmo and the death of my father two years later.
Experimenting new directions has been our greatest intuition.
Since then, we have heavily invested in technology, we have cutting-edge distillation and treatment plants, we have gone from 50 employees in total to almost three times that amount. Opening up to the market meant we weren’t stagnating on one production, but becoming a group capable of adapting to change.
For instance, in the late 1990s we invested in the production of “Italian brandy”, which was regarded as marginal. In a few years in the industry, we become one of the leading companies in Europe, despite the general scepticism of all our competitors.
Processing large amounts of wine, essential to make aged eau-de-vie, also allowed us to obtain its by-products, dregs and skins, at an affordable price and counter, among other things, Chinese competition in the production of calcium tartrate.
And even when new legislation was introduced to the European wine market in 2008, favouring unfair competition from Spain in the production of eau-de-vie, we had the strength to change by investing in denatured alcohol for industrial and cogeneration, thanks to a sophisticated biogas system.
We have been doing our job well for four generations.
A small technological gem
The distillery has always meant everything to me.
It was at the same time a workplace, a refuge, a home – for me and my family – and, as a child, my playground.
At Di Lorenzo’s plant, we have kept the historic home and part of the factory in masonry, as a souvenir of the past.
However, inside, the plants possess cutting-edge technology.
We have one to make neutral alcohol, eau-de-vie and raw distillate.
It consists of air-tight double-effect hydro-selection distillation columns that guarantee a higher quality of alcohol.
One to produce grappa.
It has a series of copper distillation columns at atmospheric pressure that operate according to traditional methods. They enable us to capture the full aroma of the distillate.
Another is simply used to make alcohol for industrial use.
The potential of these systems, whose product is essentially intended for denaturation, reaches 100,000 litres per day.
The denaturation plant is our recent pride and joy.
We designed it to enhance our production of industrial alcohol and create the right mix for our customers. In Italy, there are only three companies with the same production capacity.
Instead, many envy our liqueur plant.
In our bottling factory, we take care of the grappa packaging, both for our brand and for anyone who wishes to produce a bottle under their own personalised brand. You can choose the kind of distillate, among the many available, or distil specific amounts of marcs provided by the customer. We work with all kinds of bottles, which may vary according to the shape or capacity, and we offer customised packaging.
Finally, our warehouses with the finished products.
The distillery has a total capacity of 20 million litres (including the warehouses in Ponte Valleceppi and Ponte Nuovo di Torgiano), with stainless steel tanks suitable to contain and spread the aromas of our products.
Man at the centre
This is Irma, my sister.
Together we have been pursuing business with our distillery for over twenty years. She’s my point of reference in the company, often my lifeline.
As well as the other side of my personality. She is more reflective and composed, I’m more impetuous and dynamic.
With Irma I’ve shared everything. Moments of difficulty, growth, reflection and risk.
At Di Lorenzo we have separate positions. I’m in charge of strategy and investments, while she takes care of the financial side of the business, which is vital for the development of a company.
We chose our staff together and we are proud of them, they are the backbone of our industry. Each of them is fundamental to the distillery’s operation.
We have also formed a young and qualified management team, the average age is about 40.
They are essential for our work. For instance, I am constantly in contact with my purchasing manager, Giuseppe Cristantielli, and the sales manager, Massimiliano Caselli. Irma instead works very closely with Monia Casciari, her most valuable management asset.
The other top figures include Massimo Medri, plant manager, Federico Rossi, technical manager, i.e. previously known as the foreman, Debora Bianconi, head of environment and certifications, and Alessandro Scurelli, the master distiller. And finally, Alessandro Grelli, head mechanic in charge of plant maintenance. He joined us when he replaced his father Aldo, who retired a few years ago.
My and Irma’s job would be more complicated without them.
If there is one thing I am proud of, it is having built a mechanism that focuses on people.
In 1995, we had about 50 employees and people we worked with. Now, after 20 years, that number has trebled.