Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Luxardo Distillery: How the Croats Attempted to Usurp the Brand

(Written by Silvio Maranzana, taken from the newspaper “Il Piccolo”, June 8, 2013.)

First, part of the Luxardo family was exterminated; then their goods were confiscated. This is how the "Maraska Company of Zadar" was created.

The oldest recipe for rosolio maraschino dates back to the sixteenth century and is due to the pharmacists of a Dominican monastery in Zara. The first industrial production began in 1759 by Francesco Drioli. It was in the early 19th century that the Ligurian Girolamo Luxardo was named Consul of the Kingdom of Sardinia to Zara, the capital of Dalmatia under the Austrians. His wife Maria Canevari produced home-made liqueurs which attracted the attention of friends and admirers.

Girolamo took advantage of this family initiative by establishing a maraschino factory in 1821, and after eight years of study and improvements he obtained a privilege from the Emperor of Austria to exclusively produce this type of liqueur for 15 years. In 1913, thanks to the impulse of Michelangelo Luxardo, a new factory was built in the Barcagno section of Zara. It was the most modern factory of its day and one of the largest factories in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Upon the arrival of Tito's partisans in Zara in 1944, the Luxardo family was partially exterminated while all the survivors were forced to flee. Nicolò Luxardo and his wife Bianca were shot dead by a Yugoslav partisan leader on September 30, 1944, despite having been acquitted by a People's Tribunal. Piero Luxardo, who had refused to flee, was murdered by Tito's partisans on November 12, 1944 near the old Austrian barracks where he had been imprisoned along with other Italians. He was never heard from again and his body was never found.

In the second half of the twentieth century the 200-year-old Drioli company, owned by Vittorio Salghetti Drioli, was forced to close down. The Romano Vlahov Company, another distillery in Zara, sold their brand to the Casoni Company of Modena. The Luxardo factory was rebuilt in Zara after the bombings. All of Luxardo's properties were confiscated and the Croats created the “Maraska Company of Zadar”, the most important liqueur company in Yugoslavia.

“One of the most important pieces of property” – Piero Luxardo said recently – “was the client list, which the new [Croatian] owners tried to use between 1946 and 1947 by pretending they were the Luxardo family or their official heirs. For thirty years the new Maraska Company was the object of numerous lawsuits for usurpation of trademarks in Italy, Switzerland, Germany and the United States: my father Giorgio and my cousin Nicolò won every case against them.”