THE AMAZING HISTORY OF COCONUT ARRACK
You might have heard about the fabulous spirit that goes by the name of arrack, perhaps you haven’t. After all, this distilled beverage still flies low under the radar despite being of fantastic quality. Not everyone knows about this delicious coconut-based drink, but there’s no doubt people are starting to talk about it. Whiskey, brandy and rum connoisseurs worldwide enjoy the finest arrack and stock their bars with the best in the market; it’s easy to see why — arrack is extraordinary.
Arrack is not your average spirit, though; it’s unique in many ways, making it an interesting category for those who love a good, high-quality sipper. The question is, what is arrack? How is it made? Where does it come from? And most importantly, what is the best arrack? Here’s all you need to know about the attractive spirit.
Don’t worry. Arrack might sound exotic, and it is, but it’s incredibly accessible and enjoyable. If you like spirits and enjoy sharing new things with your friends, you’ll find in arrack more than an adequate drink; it’s a wonderful conversation starter and a piece of history in its own way! We hope you’re ready because this is going to be quite a tasty ride!
What is Arrack?
Not to be mistaken with the Middle Eastern, anise-flavored grape-based spirit named arak, arrack is a traditional spirit from Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. The name of both spirits might be related to the Arab term arak, which means ‘distill.’
Arrack is immensely popular in India, Sri Lanka itself, and many other Southeast Asian countries, and it’s just gaining recognition worldwide for its uniqueness and extraordinary quality. Some experts believe the Chinese developed their own distilling method as far back as the Han dynasty between the 1st and 2nd centuries of the modern era. The technology might have been shared with neighboring countries through trade, including Sri Lanka. The Greek geographer Strabo mentions an Indian rice beverage known as arak. Perhaps arrack’s ancestor?
And although arrack is the new kid on the block on an international scale, it has centuries of history, with ups and downs leading to today’s arrack renaissance.
Just like rum is based on sugarcane and whiskey on malted grains, arrack is the product of distilling fermented sap from the coconut flower. To understand the spirit better, we must dive into its production process.
Coconuts, Authentic Southeast Asian Treasures
Coconut palm trees now thrive in every tropical country around the world, but the palm trees and their robust, hard fruits are native to Southeast Asia. It goes without saying, although coconuts have an immense commercial significance, the most prized product obtained from the tall palm trees is the sweet sap harvested from the tree’s flower. The sap ferments naturally to become palm wine but it can also become coconut sugar.
The meaty fruit was featured in early Sanskrit writings going back to the 4th century BC, and it was traded by the famous Marco Polo in the 14th century. Sir Francis Drake also knew and supplied his ship with coconuts regularly during the 16th century. By the turn of the century, coconuts were already coveted merchandise prized for their flesh, sap, and hard shells. No one knew at that time it would be a distilled beverage what would become perhaps the most prized coconut-based product in history, arrack.
How Is Arrack Made?
Let’s start by saying not all arrack is created equal. Inexpensive brands blend coconut sap with sugar cane, molasses, grains or rice. The genuinely exceptional brands ferment the sweet sap of coconut flowers, and that’s the secret behind the precious spirit — they’re made with pure coconut sap.
Harvesting the sap from the coconut flowers is already a difficult task, as skilled workers climb 20 and up to 60 feet from the ground to harvest the sweet sap from each palm tree. The fermented sap, often called toddy, is then distilled twice. The first time to get ‘low wine’ with between 20% and 40% alcohol by volume, and a second time to achieve a high proof spirit of up to 70%, later rectified to a final 33% to 50% ABV.
Some producers might sell the resulting spirit unaged or raw, but most quality-minded producers age the arrack in halmilla vats from the Trincomalee wood tree for up to 15 years!
There’s no doubt the finest arrack is made exclusively with coconut flower sap, and the most delectable spend some time in wood. Still, knowing your arrack producers pay off. And amongst the most exclusive, you’ll find Old Reserve. Here’s the story behind the most famous arrack, an authentic adventure!
Old Reserve Arrack, the Greatest Expression of the Spirit
Several factors make Old Reserve an outstanding ambassador for the coconut spirit category and one of the finest spirits worldwide. In history, tradition and attention to detail, Old Reserve is beyond compare and preserves with honour the ancient history of the ancestral coconut arrack.
Old Reserve is made with all-natural ingredients; pure Sri Lankan coconut toddy extracted traditionally from the coconut palm flowers. Old Reserve’s ancient recipe makes it unmatched in the category. The spirit is aged in Halmilla vats, unique in the region and critical in the production of premium arrack.
It’s taken centuries to perfect the production method and recipe for every bottle of Old Reserve and there’s immense local pride in the highly skilled people behind this traditional spirit and in those who enjoy it.
Transcending Generations and Frontiers
Entire generations have enjoyed Old Reserve through the ages, and it has a broad fan base locally and internationally; the spirit has a wide, global reach and international acceptance.
And it’s easy to see why. Old Reserve relaxes and inspires its consumers with a singular taste not found in any other spirit. Smooth, fragrant, and incredibly long in the aftertaste, a bottle of Old Reserve guarantees hours of enjoyment. A wonderful spirit to enjoy at all hours, a superb ingredient in creative cocktails, and a spirit with a unique historical background. Old Reserve checks all the right boxes for experienced drinkers and new spirit enthusiasts.
Old Reserve Today
Today, Old Reserve has reached a new golden era, with unique renditions of the coconut flower’s toddy. Old Reserve Real 34, Old Reserve Revival 42 and Old Reserve Rare 47 offer distinct experiences tailored to all palates and occasions with an array of unique personalities and delectable flavour profiles. This is arrack as it was. Arrack as it should be.
The History of Arrack Cocktails.
Historically, arrack was the main ingredient in the famous punch, a predecessor of modern cocktails. Combining the spirit with citrus, spices, water and a sweetener is all you need to create fruity, thirst-quenching drinks.
Jerry Thomas’ recipe for English Milk Punch, published in 1862, calls for six lemons, a pound of sugar, cloves, coriander seeds, cinnamon, a quart of water, a cup of green tea and arrack. And this is one of many recipes of the era using the coconut-based spirit. Ceylon arrack is extraordinarily versatile!
Of course, modern mixology has laid hands on arrack and bartenders worldwide now make exquisite and sophisticated beverages with it. Popular modern cocktails featuring arrack include the East Indian Highball, the Spices Route Cocktail, the Ceylon Cocktail and the Flowing Dutchman Punch.
The finest spirits in the category, like Old Reserve Arrack, are fantastic sipping spirits as well, and you can enjoy them straight or on the rocks. The delightful scents reminiscent of fine rum and well-aged Cognac are unmatched.
Once you taste arrack, you’ll wonder where it’s been your whole life, and that’s the most appealing thing about traditional, lesser-known spirits. They make the alcoholic beverage scene so much exciting! That’s arrack in a few words, a treat for connoisseurs and a refreshing experience.
Pure Coconut Arrack is On Another Level
Now that you know the history of arrack and the process behind it, it’s time to try it and fall in love with the larger-than-life spirit.
Arrack is gaining worldwide recognition, and it’s now featured in some of the most exclusive bars in the world. Thanks to extraordinary brands committed to the traditional recipe, such as Aybrook & Mason’s Old Reserve, we can now enjoy the unparalleled spirit.
Make arrack part of your life and enjoy it on its own or as part of the most creative cocktails. If you enjoy fine rum, whiskey and exclusive brandies, you’ll fall for arrack. It will undoubtedly become one of your favorite spirits!