Spirit drinks
Palo de Mallorca

Palo de Mallorca is a spirit obtained by the maceration and/or infusion of cinchona bark and gentian root (gentina lutea) with sugar, caramelized sucrose and ethyl alcohol. Its name is derived from cinchona bark (also known as palo quina), which originally came from South America and became known in Spain thanks to the Countess of Chinchón. Cinchona bark contains various different substances like quinine, which gives it a bitter, astringent taste but has antipyretic and anti-malarial properties.


In 1683 the Countess fell ill in Lima, was treated with quinine and got better. When she returned to Spain, she brought cinchona bark back with her and it became very popular as a remedy for "fevers", with its use extending to other places in Europe. Gentian is a perennial plant characterized by an intense bitterness. It is invigorating and stimulates the secretion of saliva and gastric juices.

It was also used as a remedy for malaria. The islands had many marshy coastal areas and these were an excellent breeding ground for mosquitoes that gave people what were known as "fevers". As a result, the quinine and gentian extracts were readily accepted, introduced by traders who visited the islands to exchange spices and other products as a cure for the fevers. In time, to improve the unpleasant taste that these extracts had, concentrated sugars from grapes, dried figs and carob beans were added. These sugary extracts were reheated to make a concentrate and, as a result, the sugar became caramelized, growing darker in colour, adding a taste that masked the original bitterness. This syrup had a relatively short useful life as the product fermented very easily, and so alcohol was added. That is how Palo was created and, over the course of time, the quinine and gentian content was reduced, whilst the degree of alcohol and sugar increased. In the end its medicinal value was forgotten and it has become a recognized, much appreciated local aperitif. In 1993 the Regulation for the Palo de Mallorca Geographical Designation was approved, thus protecting this geographical name, whilst also preventing unfair competition and guaranteeing the product's quality.


Its sensorial properties

Palo is very dark (almost black), dense, thick and viscose. When swirled around the glass, a fine caramel-coloured layer sticks to the walls of it. Initially this layer is smooth and uniform, but it quickly forms well-defined thick trails as the alcohol evaporates. These remain there, even Palo de Mallorca - Balearic Islands - Agrifoodstuffs, designations of origin and Balearic gastronomy forming a paste. Palo is aromatic but not excessively so. Alcohol and caramel aromas predominate with a vague hint of wood, which some people associate with liquorice. The sensation, as it passes through the mouth, is complex due to a variety of simultaneous impressions. Initially it has a predominantly sweet taste that is immediately following by an alcohol burn, rounded off by combined bitter flavours from the plant extracts and caramelization of the sugar. Its flavour persists for a long time in the mouth, with the alcohol sensations disappearing first, followed by the sweetness, so that finally the bitter taste remains.

Palo de Mallorca's chemical properties

The regulation for the Palo de Mallorca geographical designation defines it as having the following physical and chemical properties:

  • Alcohol content: 25-36% vol.
  • Sugar content: 300-500 g/l.
  • Relative density (20ºC): 1.1200-1.1780 g/ml.
  • Maximum methyl alcohol content: 1 g/l.
  • Maximum heavy metal content: (40 ppm, expressed as lead)


The manufacturing process Palo de Mallorca is made on the island of Mallorca. According to the regulation for this geographical designation, Palo de Mallorca is mainly made by macerating quinine and gentian in a mixture of ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin and water. The regulation also contemplates the possibility of making it by infusing quinine and gentian in water with the later addition of alcohol. Sucrose dissolved in water is then added to the infusion and the sugar is caramelized by heating it. The raw materials used in the manufacture of Palo de Mallorca are: a) Quinine: barks from different trees belonging to the Cinchona species b) Gentian: dry roots from the perennial plant Gentiana lutea L. c) Alcohol: ethyl alcohol made by a distillation and/or rectification process, following the alcoholic fermentation of agricultural products. d) Sucrose of any kind for edible use. Under no circumstances are essential oils or artificial colorants used. The only colorants that can be used are infusions or macerations of natural products or caramelized sugar.  


The control system

To be able to use the name Palo de Mallorca on their labels, manufacturers must be listed on the register for this geographical designation, which is supervised by the Institut de la Qualitat Agroalimentària (IQUA) del Govern de les Illes Balears.

Palo de Mallorca - Balearic Islands - Agrifoodstuffs, designations of origin and Balearic gastronomy
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