`The Aqallal Family, Atlas Olive Oils - Olive Oil Times

The Aqallal Family, Atlas Olive Oils

By Lucy Vivante
Dec. 21, 2010 07:55 UTC

The Aqallal fam­ily has been pro­duc­ing olive oil in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco since 1887, win­ning more awards than any other pro­ducer in the region along the way. The Atlas chain of moun­tains, about 1,500 miles long, stretches across Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, sep­a­rat­ing the Atlantic and Mediterranean from the Sahara desert. Desert Miracle, one of the Aqallal’s pre­mium extra vir­gin olive oils, evokes the very try­ing con­di­tions under which their olive trees grow.

Atlas pro­duces over a mil­lion liters of olive oil a year, all of it extra vir­gin, under the brand names Les Terroirs de Marrakech, Desert Miracle, and Arabesque. All work is done on the estates, from cul­ti­va­tion and har­vest to bot­tling and pack­ag­ing. The amount of time between har­vest and extrac­tion can be as lit­tle as 20 min­utes, and the olive oils have a very low acid­ity level of between 0.1 and 0.2 per­cent.

The Aqallal’s are quick to adopt tech­nolo­gies and best prac­tices from all over the world. Israeli drip irri­ga­tion sys­tems are used to par­cel out the water, Atlas Mountains snowmelt, con­tained in arte­sian wells. They have built Morocco’s first cov­ered water basin, cov­ered so as to avoid evap­o­ra­tion from the sun, using German pump­ing tech­nolo­gies. In the inter­est of water reten­tion, they have imported tons of vol­canic rock from Latin America to mix into their earth. Most of their groves are high-den­sity and Atlas has hired Spanish con­sul­tants to work out the design. Atlas cul­ti­vates 600 hectares (1483 acres) of olive orchards on their three estates: the Marrakech, El-Borouj, and the Beni-Mellal Olive Estates.

The Marrakech Estate is where the fifth gen­er­a­tion of Aqallals lives. This is where they pro­duce Les Terroirs de Marrakech, an olive oil made from the French cul­ti­var Picholine du Languedoc.

The olives are both cen­te­nary and newly planted and are also kept sep­a­rate in extrac­tion and bot­tling. The estate pro­duces some 25,000 liters from the old trees, with each of the 3,000 trees pro­duc­ing about 60 kg of fruit. The new 398,180 trees, in high-den­sity plant­i­ngs, each pro­duce about 6 kg of fruit for a total of 450,000 liters. In 2009, the oil received the 3rd place award in the International Olive Council Mario Solinas Quality Awards in the green fruiti­ness cat­e­gory. In both 2009 and 2010, the oil received the gold medal at London’s Great Taste Awards.

Desert Miracle is pro­duced on the El-Borouj Olive Estate. Of the three estates, this is at the low­est ele­va­tion of 320 m, and also the most arid. The olive cul­ti­vars used are the Spanish Arbequina (97%) and the Moroccan Dahbia (3%). Atlas pro­duces 330,000 liters of what they call their ultra pre­mium extra vir­gin olive oil.” In 2009 Desert Miracle won a gold medal for the medium Arbequina cat­e­gory at the Los Angeles’s International Olive Oil Competition.

Arabesque is pro­duced on the Beni-Mellal Olive Estate. The olives used are the Spanish cul­ti­vars Arbequina ( 73%) and Arbossana (18%), together with the Greek Koroneiki (9%), to pro­duce 374,000 liters.

To make the best extra vir­gin olive oil in Morocco is a great hon­our for us and a high respon­si­bil­ity,” Othmane Aqallal wrote to Olive Oil Times. It’s a chal­lenge we face every day because we believe in the value of our work­force and in the good qual­ity of the fruits of our ter­roir. You only pro­duce gran cru” olive oil from high qual­ity olives that are fresh, clean and healthy. It is a pure fruit juice! You then become obsessed by qual­ity, aro­mas, fla­vors. It pen­e­trates your body, your every­day life. We were proud to sus­tain a fam­ily tra­di­tion since 1887.”
Each year, Olive Oil Times com­mends the achieve­ments of olive oil pro­duc­ers who make an out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to the indus­try. These indi­vid­u­als or com­pa­nies set the stan­dards of excel­lence for the rest of the indus­try to fol­low and influ­ence the qual­ity, vari­ety, value, and edu­ca­tional infor­ma­tion avail­able to olive oil con­sumers.

Often these lead­ers have over­come for­mi­da­ble and endur­ing chal­lenges, or through inno­va­tion found new ways to advance olive oil qual­ity in a prod­uct range, in their com­mu­nity or through­out the world.

With an eye to the past we rec­og­nize the olive oil maker who has man­aged to pre­serve or pro­mul­gate olive oil’s cul­tural legacy. Looking to the future, we’re hon­or­ing the pro­ducer who works to ensure the place of olive oil in our lives and those of gen­er­a­tions to come.

The Olive Oil Times Producer of the Year award may be bestowed upon an entire orga­ni­za­tion or a par­tic­u­lar olive oil maker. This rec­og­nizes the fact that pro­duc­ing olive oil can be both a col­lab­o­ra­tive endeavor involv­ing many hands and an indi­vid­ual expres­sion of per­sonal cre­ativ­ity.


Related Articles