Traditional souma alembic in Kostos Village, Paros Island, Greece

Σούμα καζάνι, Πάρος | © Νίκος Ευστρατίου | Φωτογράφος

The once peaceful and hospitable island of Paros is rapidly being overrun and overtaken by mass tourism, real estate and big corporations. The traditional way of life is scarce and you have to look hard to find some of its remaining fragments, one of which is the traditional production of a local spirit made from grapes, called souma. Souma can be met with different names across the country like raki or tsikoudia and is also very similar to the famous Italian grappa.

Souma can still be found easily across the island. However, its traditional way of distillation and the role it played within the community is in rapid decline. In the end of October or beginning of November each household would bring its fermented grapes to the village’s kazani. One family after another would place its grape pulp to boil in a traditional alembic shown in the pictures below and the liquefied steam would be collected in tanks. The final product, a colorless and clear spirit with ABV around 45-65% depending on each producer’s taste, is souma. The production of souma was of great importance for the village community because it brought its people together in a big gathering and festivity which combined food, music, dance and solidarity. Everyone would bring some food and a good vibe in order to dance and drink for hours, even for days.

If you happen to be on the island around October or November do ask around in order to experience this unique event.