Arrak Blind Tasting Part I

Arrak derives from the Arabic word arak (distillate), which, in the Middle and Near East is typically used to describe anise-flavoured wines made from grapes. We’re obviously interested in a different type of product here though. Usually I’d be telling you something about the history of Arrak here, the Indonesian version of Rum, where the sugar cane juice is typically fermented with red rice to create a very characteristic and “funky” flavour. This time however, the guys over at the Boston Apothecary have already done that job for us – needless to say at a much higher and way more informative level than we ever could. If you have any interest in sugar cane products, I’d say that article is a must read for you, I just cannot recommend it enough.

Just a short note however. You will run across different names for these products here: (Batavia -) Arrack, Arrak, Arak, Arrac or Arac!? All of these names are often times used interchangeably to name the same type of product, even though that can also create confusion with different types of Ar(r)a(c)k. These are all Indonesian Arraks though (or Arrak “Verschnitt”) – sugar cane juice based products and not distilled palm wine. Alas, you will not find any of the Sri Lankan Ceylon Arraks here, which are very different in flavour and may or may not be the topic of a future article. Ah right, this was a blind tasting by our good friend Artur – thanks for that and the treasures we are about to have.

Grünerwald Zeer Oude Baravia – Arak (40%): I believe that this is a relatively widely accessible product in The Netherlands and often used in confectionary. Nose: Earthy and slightly dirty like a juice-based Rhum from Guadeloupe, say. Then spices such as cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg. Quite good actually and decidedly familiar. Palate: More on the sweet side of things but we still get those dirty/ earthy notes and the spices we’ve had before. Not bad at all. Finish: Short with more of the same if you want. A solid product, that really does remind us of Agricoles. (71/100)

Bruns Sonder Klasse Batavia-Arrac-Verschnitt (40%): This is a Verschnitt, i.e. Arrak diluted with neutral alcohol. I can tell which way the wind is blowing. Sonder Klasse means “without class” by the way. Together, these two terms really bode ill, so let’s hope for the best. Nose: Dusty with old glue, like the one we’ve used in elementary school. Really the bad type of glue. Could that be it already? Yes, I am afraid. Palate: Different corns and hay, with those glue notes from the nose and a somewhat watery profile. Not very aromatic and just bad if you ask me. Oh dear. At least there was more than just glue. Finish: The type of stuff you want to pour down the drain and forget that you’ve ever tasted it. It is almost Vodka-like, but then again, I’d probably even prefer a good Vodka to this, and that says quite a lot. Sonder Klasse, at least the name is fitting. But at least the label is pretty, for what it is worth. (25/100)

Dujardin Batavia-Arrac-Verschnitt (~1950s, 40%): Another at least interesting label. Not sure if I should like this or not but these Verschnitts from the old days did not have to be absolutely terrible all the time. Most of the time, sure, but there were exceptions. Nose: Relatively sweet with a mix of berries, fresh cane juice and sugar. It’s not too bad and I wonder what this might taste like. Palate: Totally not what you’d expect – in the bad sense. It doesn’t contain any of the elements from the nose but I get the whole range of faulty notes such as nail polish remover (the bad one) and smokey notes slightly reminiscent of Mezcal. Almost undrinkable if you ask me, but I guess this is just a personal problem, some of my companions didn’t mind it as much. Finish: More of the palate, with even more smokey notes. The nose was nice, but this type of profile just isn’t to my liking at all. (55/100)

Dujardin Batavia Arrak-Verschnitt (~1973, 40%): Oh dear, this one looks tacky. At this point I only wonder if there are any parallels to the 1950s bottling of Dujardin or if this is completely unrelated. I am guessing the latter. Nose: Quite to my surprise, I get the same sort of sweetness and the berries that I’ve also had with the 1950s Dujardin but this is slightly less intense. What is more, my description stops here as this is all I am getting. Nope, this is a lot worse than the previous one I am afraid. Palate: Once again, ever so slightly smokey with BBQ, charcoal and ham. Not too different here either. Wth the second sip also the sugar cane. Finish: Medium long with the sugar cane and spices. At the end of the day, it is simply a less intense and lesser version of the 1950s bottling. (40/100)

A. v. Wees. Java Baru Arac (40%): Nose: Very sweet with sugar, cane juice, sweet berries and mango. I’d say that it is somewhat artificial, but not necessarily bad. Palate: Again, very sweet and artificial with citrus, artificial cherry and a really bad note that I cannot describe in more detail. This tastes just terrible and you shouldn’t even want to try this out of curiousity. Finish: Too long to forget about it as soon as possible, no matter how hard we try. At the end of the day there are a few, very few, positive elements to be found here but we still have to place this in the trash category. Nope, this simply cannot be it. (30/100)

Rum Albrecht Bovens Arrak (40%): Ah, our dear friends from Heinz Eggert, even though we only know about two people from that rather big company. Nose: I get a mix of citrus, cinnamon, second hand streetwear an a whiff of notes from the forest. It reminds me a lot of a few Cachacas actually, which isn’t a bad thing at all. A really nice nose I must say. Palate: I get lots of spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg, the nougat and now also more vegetal notes. This one definitely works for me and I’d say that it is even a tad better than the Grünerwald. Finish: More of the same, i.e. nothing new, but crucially, nothing that could be described as disturbing. In a sense it is crazy that this is only the second good product so far but it is what it is. (72/100)

Rum Albrecht Bovens Arrak-Verschnitt (40%): The second of three Arraks by Rum Albrecht / Heinz Eggert, and a Verschnitt. Why just release an Arrak if you can also add some more neutral booze, right!? Nose: A whole lot of nothing, close to neutral alcohol. Let’s revise that phrase: Why release neutral alcohol when you can also add a drop of flavour and call it something else!? Clever. Palate: What the heck? More neutral alcohol with a hint of woodruff. Well, woodruff at least. I l used to like this as a child. Not sure if I would have like this as a 7YO though. Finish: Nope, that’s all I can say. Let’s have water instead, shall we!? Maybe with a bag of Ahoi Brause!? (12/100)

Rum Albrecht Boven’s (Indonesia, 58%): So one winner and one loser from Mr Eggert. Now 58% can only be great, no!? Nose: Slightly grassy with millet, sorghum, pepper, a whiff of vanilla and that somewhat characteristic cauliflower. Deeper in the glass more herbal notes. Palate: In a sense, this could also be a cane juice Rhum from Guadeloupe say, as its earthy and slightly dirty notes feel a bit familiar. Then there’s a mix of dill, chocolate and nougat, which makes for a really creamy texture but also a flavour profile I personally do not have much use for. Finish: Not short at all, with a mix of cauliflower, nougat and even coconut perhaps. I think it is a good product, but it doesn’t suit my personal palate – I really do not like nougat… (72/100)