Rakia and the properly way to consume it – Plum rakia
It’s time to get into the heavyweight category and discuss the Queen of the Balkans – PLUM rakia. Why do we call plum rakia the Queen of the Balkans? The first reason is that at least in the Slavic-speaking part of the Balkans this is undoubtedly the most produced and most consumed rakia. While in Bulgaria and Macedonia at the moment the grape rakia is probably in the first position in terms of consumption, in all other countries this position is occupied by the plum rakia, while in Bulgaria and Macedonia it is at the second place. Of course, there are no official statistics due to the large amount of homemade rakias that are produced, but based on experience and general feeling, this is an indisputable fact. The second reason is that plum rakia has the image of a mature premium drink. Plum rakia producers usually pay a lot of attention and are extremely dedicated to its production process, which in turn very often leads to brilliant results. Fortunately, such examples do exist on the market at the moment.
The hottest and most problematic issues in the process of plum rakia production:
Plum rakia is extremely interesting and at the same time quite complex to produce (when the goal is to achieve a product of really high quality) and that is why we will pay special attention to the factors that are of the highest importance in the production process.
Choosing the right sort of plums – endangered plantations
The sort of plum and the limited or no availability of plum from the proven for the rakia production sort is a major obstacle faced by producers today. The basis of the production of plum rakia is the right sort of plum. So to say, it is not that form every plum can be made to rakia, but on the contrary. First and foremost, we must note that plum rakia is considered only and only rakia that is produced from blue plum. There is no law in this regard, but this is the traditional and historically supported understanding of plum rakia. The rakia produced from other types of plums is called Djankova, Mirabelova, etc. Let’s go back to the sorts of blue plum that are suitable for the production of plum rakia. Historically, among the most suitable sorts in the Balkans are Troyancka plum, Pozegacha plum, Red Ranka, Ungarka, Chachanska lepotitsa, Tarnovacha. These are old and well-tested sorts of plum for the production of rakia. Unfortunately, in reality, with all of them there is to a greater or lesser extent a serious issue. This is an issue which, unfortunately, is so serious that it puts in question the existence of high-quality plum rakia as we know it today. A fact that is not to be underestimated! The issue is that the plum of the above sorts are either in very limited quantities or are on their way to extinction or have practically disappeared. Unfortunately, the traditional and proven best for the production of rakia in Bulgaria Troyanska sliva practically no longer exists. As far as it can be said that there are surviving plantations, they are in private yards and are in very limited quantities. The reason for the disappearance of the plants is smallpox on the trees, but it is likely that the more real reason is the lack of desire and organization of the people and the government institutions to deal with the problem. The same apllies for the Požegača plum, great and well-proven Serbian sort of plums for rakia production. This sort was also killed by smallpox, but it seems that the reason for its disappearance is actually the same as with the Troyanska sliva. There are also many conspiracy theories about the extinction of these two sorts of plums. However, we are not fans of conspiracy theories and for this reason we would not go into details. The other sorts among the above listed are also either in limited quantities and demand exceeds by far supply or are practically unavailable. The clear trend in recent years, for various reasons, is to dramatically increase the plantings of Stanley plums. With the correct and precise production of rakia from this sort of plums, an aromatic distillate with a very specific fresh and pleasant aroma may be obtained. The problem with Stanley distillates / rakias is that, based on experience, their potential for maturation in oak is extremely limited, which generally does not fit with the concept of development and pricing of plum rakias. When the distillate is set for maturation, it very quickly begins to loоse aroma and becomes sweet.
Over maturation (excessive maturation)
Once again, we want to explicitly emphasize that plum rakia is certainly the type of rakia that benefits the most from oak maturation. However, this leads to the fact that the vast majority of plum rakias and especially home-made ones are massively over matured. What is “over matured” rakia? This is a rakia that has lost its balance. Rakia is a fruit-based alcohol that must have well-preserved fruit in taste and aroma. In the process of maturing alcohol in a wooden vessel, many processes take place, which can be very different depending on the circumstances in which the production, respectively maturation take place. However, one thing is certain – in the process of maturation in a wooden vessel, the distillate loses its fruity notes at the expense of the notes acquired as a result of the wood extraction, in most cases an oak vessel. While this is largely a sought-after and highly desired effect in, for example, grain alcohols, this is certainly not the case with fruit (including grape) based spirits. This is especially true for rakia, because its main purpose is not to be a digestive style spirit, although especially plum rakia can perform this function very successfully. There are spirits such as Cognac and Armagnac, in which the effect of maturation in oak is a major factor and to some extent in some cases a major part of their production concept. However, when it comes to rakia, one should be looking for a spirit with clearly emphasized fruit notes or onel that clearly reflects the character of the fruit or in most cases the aromatic grape reflected reflected in itself. By leaving the rakia to mature for too long in a wooden vessel, the producer loses a significant part of its character and, at the end of the day, loses the meaning of the drink itself. Here is the place again to explicitly note that, unlike wines, maturation for a spirit is considered only the time spent in a wooden vessel. In other words, if your grandfather gave you a 30-year-old rakia, which was produced 30 years ago, but spent 5 years in a wooden vessel, then it is not a 30 years old rakia, but a 5 years old rakia.
The lack of barrels
Recently, a serious issue is the lack of suitable and well-made barrels for maturation of rakia. This, of course, is the case not only with plum, but also with all other rakias. The production of a barrel is not an easy task. At the same time, bringing it into a condition suitable for maturation of rakia is something even more complicated. As a general rule, the distillate intended for the production of rakia is aged in exhausted barrels, namely in order to limit the dominant presence of oak notes with maturation, to preserve the fruit and to achieve a good balance, completeness and softness of the distillate. Bringing the barrels in optimal condition or finding and buying ones that are in optimal condition is quite a complex task that can only be performed by few people. In general, exhausted barrels used to age different types of wine or alcohol could be used and super results can be achieved. Unfortunately, however, knowledge in this area is currently extremely limited due to the lack of experience and desire for product development by most of the producers.
Fermentation of plum rakia
Speaking of fermentation of plum rakia we must note that there is one factor that is of key importance and that is the proper cleaning of the fruit and in particular the cleaning of the pits and unfit for fermentation fruit. In general, there is a classic method for the production of plum rakia and that is the fermentation and distillation of plum mash. The second option is something that the Zaric Distillery has recently done for the first time in the history of rakia production in a professional way. This is the fermentation and distillation of plum wine, not mash. This method of production is practically unknown and has been used in isolated cases in the production of homemade plum rakia in extremely small quantities. The method is very expensive and most of all time consuming and difficult to apply. This method produces wine from plum juice, which requires very careful selection of the exact sort or sorts of plum to be used, extremely precise selection of the exact time of picking the fruit and cleaning the pits with any compromise and selection of the plums from which the wine is made for distillation.
Distillation of plum rakia
If the producer chooses the classic method with pulp distillation, then again due to the density of the mash, there is a risk of burning and the preferred and more suitable for distillation vessels are the ones using steam, which have the ability to evenly heat and distribute the temperature. Given that the producer relies on the distillation of plum wine, then direct fire is of course also an option. Depending on the desired style of rakia, it may even be a better option if the manufacturer chooses to distill with the lees and rely on the effect of subjecting them to high temperature. In this case, a distillate would be obtained, characterized by a high level of complexity in the aroma and especially in the taste, as well as a robust body.
Maturation of plum rakia
If there is a kind of rakia that is really associated with long maturation, that is plum. It has a huge potential for maturation and development in a barrel. The preferred and almost exclusively used type of wood is oak. However, that definitely does not mean that rakia can mature indefinitely. What it means is that the period in which the rakia gets a positive development in the barrel is very long and in this period of maturation it acquires additional complexity. Inevitably, however, comes a point, after which the effect of the maturation of the distillate / rakia is rather negative. When exactly this point is depends mainly on the style in which the distillate is made and it is generally between 3 and 7 years of maturation. Only the best distillates intended for long development in barrels can mature for more than 7 years, receiving positive development and preserving their fruit profile. At this point we also want to note that not only oak matured plum rakias are high quality and good to drink. The non oak matured style of plum rakias also have their serious qualities, but their application is different from the one of mature ones. They are extremely suitable for consumption with fatty foods such as bacon (what we call “slanina” in Bulgaria), as well as various types of pickles (turshija).
Our offers – high quality and interesting plum rakias with different style
In our selection of products for our rakia portfolio, we have tried to be as precise, careful and demanding as possible, so that we can choose plum rakias for our customers that are really worth it. While there is a lot of supply of plum rakias on the market, those that are of top quality are relatively few. A major part of them are quite expensive, while others are in limited series and are practically not actively available on the market. We can offer you the following products – Zlatna Dolina 12 year old plum. This is a rakia that has an exceptional level of complexity and despite its reasonably long maturation demonstrates excellent preservation of fruit and very good freshness in combination with light minerality and spiciness in the aftertaste. Zlatna Dolina 6 year old plum is in exactly the same style, but it is a bit more fruity and with a slightly weaker oak extraction, which makes it less of a digestif style and more suitable for cooked meals. From the Bukovo Monastery we have chosen the Bukovska Prepecepnica, which is an exceptional rather “macho style” of rakia with a lot of character and power in itself. It is made by the monks in the monastery from their own plantations of Pozegaca plum, matures for 3 years and is characterized by a powerful aroma and taste of well-ripened plums. In the rather digestif style we offer Kraljica Zaric plum rakia has been matured for seven years, having an extremely high level of complexity and demonstrating great development in the glass. Its powerful aroma of prunes is combined with hints of exotic fruits, citrus fruits, nuts, honey, etc. This rakia demonstrates a slight dominant sweetness in taste and a mineral aftertaste. If you are a fan of unripe plum rakia, we recommend Raketa Plum. This is an extremely fresh and aromatic plum rakia, which our friends from Isperih make and bottle especially for our joint project with Raketa Rakia Bar. Coming soon to our portfolio are the plum rakias of Stara Pesma, which are great blends of top distillates.
In addition to the products that we offer as part of our standard portfolio, we can offer 2 absolute masterpieces on demand:
Plum rakia Kralj Zaric (King Zaric)– this is the rakia, which we mentioned above in the article. This is rakia produced from plum wine from special sorts of plums, instead of plum mash and is an absolute revolution in the production of rakia. For this year, the bottling quota is 500 bottles. It is not bottled in a glass bottle, but in a bottle made of Swarovski crystals.
Plum rakia UNIKAT Zlatna Dolina Single Vintage 1988 – This is a rakia, which is still in the barrel in which it matures. In other words, at the moment this is a 32-year-old rakia. It is really difficult to describe in words the complexity that this drink demonstrates. It is of extremely limited quantity. At the moment of writing of this article there are some 180 bottles available.
We would be happy to tell you more and provide you with more information about them. Just contact us or give us a call at +359882517935.
Food pairing for plum rakia (the right mezze)
Depending on the style of plum rakia, the approach to combination with food is different. The classic and well-known mature plum rakia suits one type of food, while the fresh non matured plum rakia suits a completely different one.
In the case of matured plum rakia, however, the period and type of maturation must be taken into account, or to put it more simply, the intensity of the oak extraction. As a general rule, but with many exceptions, it can be said that the older the rakia, the more it goes in the digestif style and the more suitable it becomes for dry mezze, desserts or just straight as a digestif.
Here are some examples of several types of food pairing for plum rakia:
- Cooked meat dishes
- Spicy food (our colleagues in Australia, which, perhaps to your great surprise, for a number of reasons is one of the largest consumers of rakia from the Balkans, say that plum rakias are widely sought after and offered in the local Asian restaurants because it is very suitable for spicy food, soy sauce, etc.)
- Dry meat-based mezze
- Desserts (especially chocolate-based like chocolate souffle, but keep in mind that in this case you are looking for highly matured plum rakia)
- Fat dishes
- Grits или Greaves (не знам коя е правилната дума)
Further interesting facts to conclude with
Plum rakia is also known for another very interesting trend. Apart from being the most popular rakia on the Balkans, it has a lot of passionate fans who kind of refuse to accept the existence of other types of rakia besides plum. Here, in fact, we can safely say that there are entire regions of the Balkans, where practically only plum rakia is consumed. An example of such a region is central Bulgaria and in particular the areas around Troyan and Teteven. At the same time, however, this is probably the only type of rakia for which it can be said that there are many people who drink any other type of rakia, but never plum. The reason largely lies in the extremely intense and specific aroma of plum rakia.
In conclusion, we want to return to the plum sorts suitable for rakia production and the problem we pointed out at the beginning, namely the existential threat to the existence of plum rakia arising from the limited or missing availability of fruits of these sorts. Currently most producers use distillates made in whole or in part from the classic proven sorts for blends. This increases the average quality of the plum rakias on the market, but practically removes the top quality from the market. The reason is that the good old distillates are simply not bottled as rakia made from them only. The production of new distillates from the good, proven sorts is currently very limited due to the lack of plantations and the high price of the fruit, if it would be available at all. The big question is what will happen when these old distillates run out. At best, the price of plum rakia will rise dramatically. The second more likely scenario is that the average quality of plum rakia on the market will drop dramatically. In the worst case scenario, plum rakia as we know it today on the Balkans will simply disappear. Unfortunately, at the moment the latter scenario is by no means unlikely, exactly on the contrary.
Appeal for preservation of plum rakia
Finally, we would like to make an appeal – In case anyone has plantations of Troianska sliva, please do call us or contact us in a convenient for you way. We urge the owners of such plantations to make an effort and if they can, actively take care of and market the fruit. There will certainly be buyers! Those are of huge value. Here is also an investment idea from our side – if someone wants to invest in something interesting and is a fan of plum rakia, they can try to grow plantations of Troianska sliva. If the experiment is successful, the investor would have a guaranteed market for its products at a good price.
Please follow our website for more articles regarding the proper ways to consume the different types of rakia. Follow us on facebook to stay up to date for the new events that we organize. You can always contact us on 00359882517935 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you need more information regarding any rakia.
We wish you nice time reading and PLEASE DO consume wine, alcohol and any other alcoholic beverages wisely, only for pleasure and most importantly refrain from excessive consumption! Do not underestimate the circumstances, obey the law and never drive after drinking alcohol!!!
2020© WINE AND SPIRITS CONSUTING EOOD