As much fun as it is for me to wax lyrical week after week about whiskies—and do note that I will—I feel it only fair that every one in a while I take a peek at something else from the world of spirits. And by that I mean things fermented and distilled and not things metaphysical and disturbed.
After visiting some of the most stunning landscape in Croatia last summer, I developed a taste for the local spirit. Truly local—as in every community appeared to have their specialty. It didn’t seem to matter what time of the day it was that I popped off a boat, a bus or a bench, someone was usually there with a bottle and a few Dixie cups for us to sample something distilled by their grandpappy. It’s so like Virginia, except you can keep your still on your front porch.
Croatian spirits are called rakija. I have no idea how it’s pronounced, but it’s similar to the sound of a sneeze.
Rakija is what many of us are familiar with in the form of grappa. Basically, the Croatians are distilling any variety of fruits, and oftentimes throwing in a few nuts and herbs for fun. In Virginia, you’ll find that most folk will keep the herbs to go nuts with while waiting around for the fruit to finish.
Trying to stay on topic, since finding Rakija in the States—specifically the amazing ones we got to sample every day—is about as challenging as teaching a goat to yodel, I’m going with a more traditional and still quite amazing grappa that is widely available. True, it might not compare with the more avant-garde liquors that Croatian folk create from distilling asparagus or small pine saplings, but you might want to avoid some of those anyway.
After sampling the cloyingly sweet, the lackluster and some that could double for motor oil, I have come across a bottle of grappa that needs to be replenished repeatedly in my house.
This brandy, Grappa di Nebbiolo da Barolo, is from north-western Italy in the Piedmont wine region, and because of such rigorous standards of grape production and high skills in distillation technique, the result is lip smacking.
If you’re looking to expand your palatte or simply to fill an empty space in your liquor cabinet, this spirit comes highly recommended.
And unlike the hooch from the porch front stills in Croatia, you won’t go blind from the experience.
Color: pale golden
Nose: White pepper, pear, golden raisins, honey, a bouquet of flowers
Palatte: vanilla, apricot, back end shows ripe red cherry