Thursday, August 30, 2018

Distill Wars Episode VII: Rakia Rumble


It's the Fourth Annual Bulgarian Wine Month thanks to BulgarianWine.com! You can read all of the reviews from the first year (2015)the second year (2016)the third year (2017), and this year (2018) by following those links.

To read about the fascinating history of Bulgarian wine, check out Bulgaria - Part 1: Three-Thousand Years of Wine History. To learn about the grapes, wine regions and Bulgarian wine's place in the market, read Part 2: The Current State of Bulgarian Wine. And if you'd like to see what Bulgaria's national drink is all about, find out in Part 3: Invincibility of Rakia.

The last Distill Wars was in November of 2017 so we're due for another one, and it just so happens that that I've got some of that rakia (Bulgarian brandy) from BulgarianWine.com to turn myself into an unstoppable and fearless warrior!

All three are produced by Burgas 63, come in 375ml bottles, have a 40% ABV, and will cost you $14. Unfortunately there's not a lot of information available on these three contestants, which I guess is normal for rakia. Why is Pearl called Pearl? I dunno, but I know it's made from Muscat Otonnel and Hamburg Misket and spent three years in barrels. It appears the Barrel Aged is just Pearl that spent five years in barrels instead of three. The Traminer is obviously made from Traminer. But that's all I really know! So ring the bell and let's get it on!

The Pearl is a very pale yellow while the Barrel Aged is only slightly darker and the Traminer is lighter than both. The nose is floral on the Pearl with notes of orange and white pepper. The Barrel Aged has a more citrusy nose with lemon and lime, and the oak is definitely more of a player than on the Pearl. The Traminer is softer on the nose, and I had to step away for a minute and come back because I was getting nothing on it after having my nostrils assaulted by the other two. It's delicate and nuanced with notes of chocolate, quinine, and vanilla pudding. So I'm going to taste it before the others because that just makes sense.

The Traminer is very soft on the mid-palate but has a grainy mouthfeel on the finish. There's nothing harsh about it and it's just an enjoyably smooth sipping brandy with the chocolate, quinine, and vanilla pudding that's on the nose. The Pearl comes in letting you know that you'll be having heartburn later. The alcohol is more pronounced and there's flavors of orange peel, grapefruit peel, and brown sugar. It's still much more mellow than other grappas and brandies that I've had, and I do like it, but it's the harshest of the three. If the Traminer was smooth than the Barrel Aged is Barry White. It's so soft and seductive, and it feels lighter bodied than the other two but that's only because it has a greater balance. There's notes of banana bread, vanilla, and oak. Mmmmm-mmmmm! Delicious.

Now that I'm buzzing pretty good right now, it's time to call it...


For me it was a closer call between this and the Traminer than it probably should have been. I really like that Traminer a hell of a lot but the Barrel Aged is clearly the best quality rakia out of the three.

And so ends the Fourth Annual Bulgarian Wine Month! Thank you, Vance, and I'm looking forward to doing it all again next August!
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