I find that with every endeavor we embark on… patience is the key ingredient. Asparagus, truffles, rakia… all require a degree of restraint before enjoying the bounty. From seed, asparagus takes 4 – 5 years before the first harvest. Truffles, from the initial plantation of the inoculated tree to the first black diamond need anywhere from 5 – 10 years or in some cases never.
While almost everyone in Bulgaria makes their own homemade rakia, fermenting and distilling the summer fruits and enjoying the first taste shortly after, yet, producing a legal craft spirit is a journey that few people in Bulgaria have successfully navigated. Our idea to make rakia goes back at least a decade…
We had owned a 10dk cherry orchard near Konyavo. We were successfully harvesting and selling the fruit, but one year the price of cherries dropped so low, it was cheaper to let the fruit stay on the tree than to pay the pickers and drive around to the different sale points to try and find a decent price. A friend of ours suggested that we let the fruit over-ripen, then shake the trees and collect the fruit in a tarp below and make rakia.
At this point, I wasn’t a fan of rakia or spirits, but the idea of making alcohol seemed intriguing. We took our fermented cherry juice to a consumer rakia-making joint and got a few hundred liters… and I think there is still some in our basement. We consumed and shared most of it with our friends and family. The reception was pretty positive for a first-time endeavor, so the idea of trying to up our game and make amazing craft rakia was born.
It was a very long and slow process… but things started to become a reality when in 2017, we purchased the old bread factory in Razhdavitza. It is a huge space that would fit our distillery needs and then some.
For the past five years, I have been learning everything I could about distilling. Angel and I made a point of visiting every distillery that comes along our path, plus taking special classes. I even spent a week in Scotland to learn about making whisky and malting barley. My educational journey continues in January 2023 as I begin my Diploma in Distilling with the Institute of Brewing & Distilling in the UK.
By 2019, we had our 250L coppers stills installed and ready to go. We had started our paperwork process with the Ministry of Economics and the Customs agency, but our progress was derailed, as the whole world was put on hold for COVID-19. It wasn’t until 2021 that we tried to get back on track for cherry season, but it was not in the cards. Finally, on January 19, 2022, we were officially a licensed distillery. The only trouble was the lack of cherries. We would need to wait another 6 months before we could do anything. This down period got us thinking about our next project… gin, but more on that later.
Our first cherry season was a learning experience. There were many trials and errors but in the end, I feel that we made an aromatic and rich rakia that is a unique sipping experience. After resting for 3 months in inert vessels, she is almost ready for the market. Once we get our banderoles from customs, we will be available in your favorite shops and restaurants. Supplies are very limited… less than 1500 bottles are available from our first vintage.