Thursday, 4 December 2008

Burnt Wood + Rakia = Moonshine Whiskey

Rakia drinking an talking about rakia is a favourite pastime in the dark December evenings in the Bulgaria kitchen, after all that is the only room that is heated in the winter months. Visits from family and friends are frequent, this also saves on fuel. So it was a heat saving visit one evening with a friend whose previous open invitation to visit one evening and try his rakia was finally taken up

It was with interest that I had a detailed discussion with this friend who is well up on homemade rakia processing. He even has his own system for distilling in his outbuilding in Yambol which he offered me to use for next year's rakia. I'd be a fool (or a non-Bulgarian) not to take it up and save 15 Bulgarian Lev in the process.

He has lot of experience in his youthful 40 years on this Bulgarian soil. He shares so me of these with me and also tells me just to tease that he has many rakia secrets that he holds back from telling me. 'Edin Den' (which means one day) was repeated to me every so often. Perhaps I have not been here long enough yet to qualify for these secrets.

However he did give a lot away and one interesting tip stuck in my mind. He had told me that when he was working in America he picked up a few tips from Americans who illegally made moonshine, with this hobby in his blood he naturally got in on the act as well. When they process moonshine in America some use a method of colouring the spirit which he now uses in Bulgaria for his rakia. This is what he told me:
After you run off the rakia that has been freshly distilled, it is just like water, crystal clear. You can colour this clear rakia by taking a piece of dried fruit wood, it can be apple, pear, apricot or even sliva (plum) wood. You then burn the wood over a flame till it is blackened all over put it in the rakia for a few days. The rakia will turn amber in fact the same colour as whisky and it will also give the rakia little smokey taste.
I tried some of his rakia that was given that had bee through this method, it was darker than the normal homemade rakia you see but the big difference was the aroma and taste. There was a smokey hint to both the smell and taste. This was very different to all the rakias I have tried to date, in fact it was not unlike whiskey. To me this was a new slant on a rakia that wasn't. Would I try this next year? Well I might just take a few litres and give it a go, maybe whisky lovers might take to it. But to me rakia, the traditional homemade Bulgarian rakia that is, tops whiskey any day.
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