The New Spirit of Luz

Three young entrepreneurs have developed a local brand that will have us all saying cheers. As an enthusiastic gin consumer, I am very excited to be invited to a locally run distillery. This hip new drink is giving a fresh ‘spirit’ to Luz.

PHOTOGRAPHY Phaze Photography

It is heartwarming to see that this endeavour started life in a garage. Well, every business has to start somewhere. It is even more uplifting to find out that if it weren’t for COVID, the new Alma gin would probably have taken much longer to get to where it is today. 

I meet two of the three founders, Carl Wilson and Jodi Weijdom. The third partner, João Caetano, is currently on a six-month rotation working as a chef on a superyacht. As we chat, they check the temperature of an antiquated copper pot and rigorously record the rising temperature on a clipboard. 

The best friends all work in catering, Jodi and Carl are adept bartenders who share a passion for gin-based cocktails. Carl has dreamed of creating a gin for over a decade – ever since visiting a distillery in the UK. In 2019, the three friends started the project when they made their first gin, which they describe as “awful but exciting!”

Carl’s father is also to be credited with donating the space for their first factory: his garage, which had been full of junk for years (after all, it’s so passé to keep a car in a garage)! Due to the rigours of alcohol licence production, the space has been re-classified and is now defined as an armazém I am sure dad is very pleased that his junk has gone and his son is making gin on his premises! 

In March of 2020, the three friends found themselves at home without work due to the first lockdown. Carl explains, “My Dad saw an episode of Dragon’s Den where a couple of guys got an investment to develop an artisan gin. He knew it had always been an ambition of mine and told me to follow my dreams.”

So while the rest of the world was bingeing on Netflix series, Carl, Jodi and João were bingeing on gin production information. They studied online and watched videos, talked to other producers, read books and learned everything they could while stuck at home. When lockdown eased, they got together and utilised their new knowledge by starting to develop their recipe. “We drank a lot of gin,” grins Jodi. Their main ambition was to create a flavour that was unique to the Algarve. The initial 13 recipes all shared strong elements of citrus. They whittled them down to eight recipes, creating variations of each one using Jodi and Carl’s mixology skills and João’s taste buds. Eventually, they created the perfect blend.

They then brought in a consultant who advised them on the scientific side of production; Carl reflects, “there is a lot of maths and chemistry involved, which we all hated in school but suddenly becomes interesting when related to gin production.”

The creation of a brand celebrating Luz is reflected in the name Alma, which translates as ‘soul.’ The trio’s souls are definitely in Praia da Luz. Jodi and João were brought up in the fishing village. “Our lives centred around Praia da Luz, so we wanted to shine a spotlight on it for the right reasons and celebrate local produce,” they say. “Our young families were born here and we want them to have a future in the Algarve, so we learnt a craft and believe we have created a great product.”

Carl’s family has been holidaying in Praia da Luz since the 80’s before moving here in 2008. “We wanted to create a beautiful and classy image of Luz for the bottle. We have used the outline of black rock to create a strong visual association, and we think the brand celebrates the area.”

The business technicalities came less easily. Many government departments were shut down due to COVID and despite João and Jodi speaking fluent Portuguese, getting the correct permissions for the production and sale of alcohol is tricky. “We took it very seriously,” says Carl. “We went to all our meetings at the câmara in suits. The ladies at the reception desk started calling us ‘the Alma boys.’”

Sourcing the ingredients was also difficult. Many factories and producers shut down due to lockdowns. But they never gave up. In the interim, Jodi added to his family with a second daughter and Carl also had a baby girl – both have two other jobs each as well as the gin enterprise. They call João their ‘Rain Man’ as he is a whizz with numbers and throws himself into the production and accounts when he returns from his voyages. “We have been friends forever, but working together, we have fallen into roles and play to our individual strengths,” Carl explains. 

Their first bottle was ready to sell in December 2021 and hit the shelves just in time for Christmas. “I have a background in sales so I can talk endlessly about our product, but what is amazing is that distributors, bars and restaurants are now approaching us,” says Carl. “Seeing our product on the shelves is the most surreal and fantastic feeling.”

The creators of the Alma Gin are not messing around. Their sights are firmly set on making their gin a global brand. Currently, they are classified as artisanal due to the licence attached to their premises. Their next step is to find a larger industrial unit as they would like to increase their production from 100 – 120 litres a month to 1000. Their three-year plan is to be distributed throughout Portugal. In five years, they would like to have a large distillery that is open to tours and tastings with a café and shop selling local produce so they can support local farms. They would also like to invest in a catering van that they can take to shows and events. The ten-year plan is to be an international brand.

Although it’s only 11.30 am I am up for having a little snifter! I sample it neat, with a cube of ice and a squeeze of grapefruit to bring out the citrus flavours. I have never experienced gin without tonic, but it is really delicious. I could taste the undiluted flavours and there was a floral aroma which made it really enticing. The boys recommend serving it in a highball gin glass full of ice with a slice of juicy grapefruit or a sprig of rosemary – with or without tonic!

There is no doubt that Carl, Jodi and João have poured their souls into this bottle and the result is a true taste of the Algarve.

Alma retails between 28 and 30€ and can be found in Baptista and Sunny Bubbles in Luz. Or you can sample it at Jodi’s Mum’s restaurant, A Fábrica. It is also stocked by Água Salgada in Sagres and Garrafeira Portos, Lagos in Lagos.

Instagram: almaluzdistillery

Facebook: almaluzdistillery

Steps to Creating Gin

The ingredients

Every dry gin starts with juniper berries, coriander seeds, angelica root, cassia bark and orris root. Alma adds ingredients native to the Algarve, such as grapefruit, lemon, rosemary, lemon and verbena. 


96% alcohol solution is diluted with water to 40% and mixed with the raw ingredients, then left for 48 hours to bring out the flavours. At the end of this process, it is a brown coloured liquid and it is filtered to remove solid particles.

The Science Bit

The liquid is poured into a copper pot called the Alembic Still, which they have nicknamed Sally! Sally is heated to 68˚ to burn off methanol. This is discarded and called the “heads.”

At 78˚, a gas burns off and passes through a “swan” neck, then into a coil where it is condensed by cold water into a clear liquid known as the ‘hearts.’

The Maths Bit

A dilution calculator is used to get the alcohol content down from 70% to 40%. They are required to send samples to Faro university to ensure that they are adhering to the alcohol content required by law.


The gin is pumped into the bottles then sealed with a cork. The cork is then dipped in wax and stamped on top with the Alma logo, giving it a hand-crafted feel. A label is fixed by hand to the bottle and is now ready to distribute.

Did You Know?

The copper pot, or ‘Alembic Still’ which is used in the production of Alma gin, was developed in 800 AD and was brought to Portugal by the Moors. 

They used it to make essential oils, which is a very similar process to distilling gin and medronho. It is derived from the Arabic al-aniq, meaning ‘to distill’.


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