Jaen is one of the largest olive oil producing areas in Spain and in the World. In it's heart, we were welcomed by Castillo De Canena, one of the top producers. Here is the exchange we've had with Isabel Alameda from Castillo De Canena.
Meet The Maker: Can you tell us more about Castillo de Canena? The story, the people behind it?
Our company takes its name from the family castle nestled in the hills of the township of Canena, in Spain’s Jaen province in the region of Andalusia.
Our olive-producing history dates back to 1780. But it is in 2004 that we began to produce top quality olive juices. It is also the story of a brother and sister who wanted to live their own dreams…
Rosa Vaño was general marketing manager in Coca-Cola Spain. Paco Vaño, her brother, was a reputed banker. Rosa quit her job when she was 40. She gave up a real good job to come back to the roots and work on her father’s olive trees. She decided to make the best EVOO in the world and put it in the best places. Some months later Paco quit Banco Santander and joined his sister... And they are living their dream on their own.
Rosa is in charge of marketing, strategy, sales etc. Paco Vaño is in charge of quality, the mill, get the best technology and processes, etc...
Soon they hired good professionals who have developed their careers inside the company.
Understand the Region: Jaen is probably the world capital for Olive Groves and you are located in the middle of it, can you tell us more about this region, your olive grove and how you are preserving the biodiversity?
For 3000 years, olive oil has played a leading role in our culture and economy, with Jaén at the very centre of it. Our olive groves are cradled in the Valley of the Upper Guadalquivir River, between the Cazorla and Mágina mountain chains.
Jaén was the biggest supplier of olive oil to the Roman Empire. Since then, Jaén has been seen as the main source of olive oil in the world.
Some examples we have to preserve the biodiversity are:
- We use no insecticides or herbicides, contributing to a better environment and allowing us to produce completely residue-free oils.
- Trees are pruned every two years by specialists using electric saws and respecting the form of each tree and the characteristics of each varietal.
- Farm machinery is continually kept in top condition to guarantee the effectiveness of its use and the safety of its users.
- Pest-control treatments (basically the application of foliar fertilizers and fungicides) are carried out when the temperature, wind speed and atmospheric humidity are ideal.
- Establishment of 37 hives of Iberian bees, hotels for green lacewings, and introduction of a flock of 600 indigenous Segureña breed sheep allowing for biological pest-control.
- Reforestation of various parts of the property with 18 native Iberian species of trees and shrubs.
- Custodianship agreement with the organization SEO-Birdlife to support bird nesting and refuge.
- Carbon and Water Footprint Certifications.
- Solar panels that generate 120 kW of clean energy for pumping water.
- Pruning waste is used as natural biomass in an energy generating plant.
- Plant cover is used throughout the property, reducing erosion, improving rainwater penetration and sheltering auxiliary fauna. This also enriches the soil and increases its levels of organic matter.
The Vision: Castillo de Canena is an actor in the local community, what is your vision about it? And how do you contribute to the local community?
All our workers belong to this region. Jaén highly depends on olive oil business. That is why we prefer to work with the same families year after year contributing to the local community.
Moreover, most of our managers are women with flexible timetable so that they can manage both their jobs and families. We also have created a Social Responsibility department to be aware of all those important matters that affect our people in the company.
The Varieties: Can you tell us what are the main varietals you are using & in your opinion what do they bring to the oils?
We produce early harvest monovarietal EVOOS. We have 3 main varieties: Picual, Arbequina and Royal.
Picual is the most extended variety in Andalucía. Our beloved Picual had before very bad reputation. But in the last few years some farmers like us began to produce beautiful Picual olive oil. Nowadays, our Family Reserve Picual has been named BEST EVOO in the world in several prestigious awards such as Mario Solinas, Ministry of Agriculture Award and also leads the Flos Olei Guide (the most important olive oil guide in the world) year after year.
Arbequina is another nice varietal. It is sweeter than Picual. Normally it is the one that foreigners prefer when they are not used to olive oil. It is a perfect match for the Picual. Our Arbequina is different from other Arbequinas that are grown in the North of Spain. The altitude we have, the type of soil, the extreme temperatures that we reach give to our Arbequina and in general all our EVOOS a greener, fruitier and more intense taste.
Royal is an endemic variety from our región. You can only find it here. It was on the brink of disappearing. We were the first ones to recover this varietal and to harvest it in early harvest. Nowadays it has a very high demand and we are planting more trees of this varietal to cover this demand.
The Future: Castillo de Canena is working together with the University of Jaen to find out which species of Olive trees are the most suitable to your land, could you tell us more about this project ?
Well, in the project is also collaborating the Official Agronomic Research Institute dependent of the Andalusian Regional Government and was started in 2009.
The scope was to plant in a plot located in our Estate more than 30 varietals of olive trees coming from, virtually, all countries of the Mediterranean basin.
Along the years, and counting on the technical support of the scientists from the official organisms, we have been analyzing rigorously each of these cultivars: how were they adapting to climatic circumstances, local pests, nature and composition of the soil, altitude, level of irrigation, etc. Finally, it was important to determine whether the EVOOs obtained from these 30 different varietals had organoleptic characteristics clearly differentiated from the juices that Castillo de Canena traditionally produced. The idea was to find varietals that would adapt perfectly to our local environment, producing EVOOs sensorially complementary to ours.
The first phase of the project is already finished, and we have chosen 6 varietals from the Experimental Plot which we will begin to plant in our Estate from the beginning of 2019.
The Market: Castillo de Canena is available on a global market, how did you approach different cultures that are not traditional consumers? In your opinion how can EVOO perform in such cultures?
We study their culture and cuisine. We want people to include EVOO in their everyday life. We cannot and do not want people to substitute their fats only for EVOO. They can use half and half for instance. Moreover, there are dishes that admit EVOO better than others. For instance, Japanese food that mainly use raw fish and meat, here our EVOOS match perfectly. Also in tartars, ceviches... But there are plenty of possibilities: cocktails, cakes, seafood… We do not want people to think of a good EVOO for cooking paellas, but that they use it in their local cuisine.
The Success: You are consistently awarded as one of the best EVOO in the world, could you reveal your secrets?
EXCELLENCE. Excellence is a habit and working daily with this motto makes our team increasingly stronger. All of us are extremely motivated in developing our jobs. We are all proud to belong to a family company that has reached recognition all over the world.
if you want more information about Castillo De Canena, you can click here.