Tuaca shake up causes little stir in Livorno
Today, 31st March 2010, marks the definitive closure of Livorno’s historic Tuaca plant – Distillerie Tuoni e Canepa - in Via Cimarosa, as well as the loss of jobs for 12 full-time Livornese employees. It is the end of an era for a company founded in Livorno in 1938 by Alfredo Neri for his two sons-in-law, Gaetano Tuoni and Giorgio Canepa. But not many people seem to be aware of this.
To begin with, Tuoni e Canepa produced a number of liqueurs including Sambuca and Ponce. After the war they introduced a new product, originally known as Milk Brandy, made with fresh milk. Later, the milk was taken out, and the liqueur became known as Tuoca, changing again to Tuaca in the 60s when exports to the USA began.
The company was taken over by Kentucky-based wines and spirits giant Brown-Forman in 2004, and from then on marketing concentrated on Tuaca alone. At that time, production was continued in Livorno. Only a few months ago employees learned that the plant was to be moved to the United States
Brown-Forman is a leader in the bourbon industry, employing 1000 people at its Louisville headquarters in Kentucky. Producers of big names like Jack Daniels and Southern Comfort, they made the decision to move Tuaca to Kentucky because most sales of the drink are made in the USA. Clearly, freight costs will be reduced for them by moving production to Louisville. As for the Livorno staff, Brown-Forman are providing “financial compensation, job placement services and any other assistance [they] can make available.”
Up to now Tuaca has been marketed as “a unique Italian liqueur with hints of vanilla and natural citrus essences, crafted in the coastal town of Livorno, Italy…”. From now on this selling point will have to change. The popular drink – “best served icy cold” – will be sold as “Italian-styled”.
Off it goes then, our very own Tuaca, recipe and all; off to the mid-west city of 1.7 million, where it may be overshadowed by its big bourbon cousins. Home to other giants like Tom Cruise and Mohammed Ali, Louisville is a far cry from Livorno, and Livornese Tuaca may find it difficult to blend in with its American counterparts. Or will it be a question of ‘move over Jack Daniels?!’ Let’s hope Tuaca can stand its own and preserve its true Italian – and particularly Livornese - essence rather than ending up as just another Brown-Forman label.
Livorno’s last Tuaca stocks
The greatest irony of all, however, is that Tuaca will no longer be available to buy in Italy. It seems it is found in other parts of Europe as well as in the United States of course.
If you would like to own a bottle of Tuaca, the last few remaining in Livorno are available from Salatti in Via Mentana at 17.99 euros. Get it while you still can!
And, please, let’s drink a solemn toast to wish the 12 now unemployed Tuoni e Canepa staff the very very best of luck for the future.
Related article: Poncino, a new version of the classic Livornese liqueur