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Sourcing bacterial strains for rum fermentations


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1 hour ago, Silk City Distillers said:

Historically, it looks like there was quite a bit of variation in the fermentation stocks used for these "Araks" - Sugar Palm, Coconut Palm Sugar, Cane Juice, Molasses, etc.

I think that more draws from etymology, the root arabic word moving into different cultures as distillation spread ending up with very different local alcohols all having similar names arak, araq, arragh, arrack, etc, basically depending on what the local feedstock was. 

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7 hours ago, Silk City Distillers said:

Historically, it looks like there was quite a bit of variation in the fermentation stocks used for these "Araks" - Sugar Palm, Coconut Palm Sugar, Cane Juice, Molasses, etc.

Palm sugar arak typically implies Sri Lankan origin and I found a pretty spectacular set of their research papers years ago. "Excise anecdotes from the Arak country" was also a lot of fun to put together with amazing stories and a realization of terroir. Sadly, I've never actually tasted it.

Batavia Arrack was all from only five Chinese firms operating in Batavia. There were also Dutch firms near by but they were never in the category and didn't have the same yeast process. I don't know if there is any specific differentiation among the five firms, but I think a few were better regarded than the others. To my knowledge there is only one distillery left with the second to last closing in the 1980's, but I'm not certain. I'm pretty sure E. & A Scheer is the sole source for all of it outside Indonesia.

There was a time when Batavia Arrack fetched the most money for any spirit in the world, well beyond both Cognac and Scotch.

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10 hours ago, bostonapothecary said:

There was a time when Batavia Arrack fetched the most money for any spirit in the world, well beyond both Cognac and Scotch.

I know the rack punch history, but from a pricing side the highest prices fetched were flavor, fragrance, and blending stock, no?

Like the highest ester rums, they weren't necessarily intended to be directly consumed.

This one was fun - advertisement from 1760.

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Boston - I think the major clue was in one of your pieces on Java.

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The departure for secondary fermentation in a Chinese distillery is unbelievably unclean, by pouring in and out of the small pots there is spilled and repeatedly the earthen pots break, so that the contents flow over the floor: the shards remain lying and on top of that new rows pots stacked, so that such a space does not meet the modern requirements of asepsis, and nevertheless the best and most fragrant arrack emerges from it. 

Bingo, microbial 'terroir'.  So, what's the bug?  (sorry, I don't think it's pombe).

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Pombe was the yeast, but the bug here just could be as simple as lactic acid bacteria producing pretty much only lactic acid which is a fixed acid. It would be extremely cool for a production to replicate this kind of resting technique pre distillation. It could possibly be coupled with a film yeast like suaveolens (not necessarily in a molasses rum). Those places must have been a sight to behold back then.

One wild card, I don't recall being answered is whether the Batavia Arracks used skimmings or not.

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I’m beginning to wonder if strains like (Kluyveromyces) Lachancea thermotolerans were are of the overall microbiome - numerous studies citing its ability to reduce acetic acid.  You know as well as I do tamping down acetic acid and ethyl acetate are critical in allowing some of the rarer - noble -  esters to shine though, lest they be sacrificed as part of a large heads fraction, or even just overshadowed.

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  • 9 months later...

Guys you gotta distinguish between Arak, Arrack, Aragh and other similar sounding spirits.

Arak is the world's oldest spirit. It originates from the Levant (i.e. Palestine, Jordan, Syria & Lebanon) and Iraq. It is a triple distilled (via pot still), grape brandy infused with aniseed, and usually aged for at least one year in clay amphorae. Arak is the grandfather of all spirits, as it was the first distilled spirit, because the Arabs of this region created the alembic pot still and successfully distilled wine in 900AD. Through trade, Arak quickly spread throughout the rest of the Mediterranean Basin, and these countries began making their own arak, and each modified the original recipe (i.e. grapes & aniseed) based on available ingredients and culinary preferences. The italians sweetened it and called it Sambuca; the French aged it Oak and called it Pastis, the Greeks added additional herbs and spices and called it Ouzo (and Tsipouro in Cyprus); the Tunisians made it from figs and called it Boukha; the Moroccans made it from Dates and called it Mahia. All of these are similar anise-flavored spirits, all of which are direct descendants of Arak.

Arrack and Aragh are a completely different beast though. As Arak was the first spirit that many civilizations ever encountered, the word "Arak" became synonymous in these countries with "Distilled Spirits", and in terms of ingredients, methods, and flavor they are too dissimilar from Arak, and cannot fall in the same category of drinks. Aragh in Iran has a neutral flavor and is closer to vodka, while Arrack is a term used throughout the Far East for a variety of unrelated spirits. 

For more on the little-known history of Arak, checkout this article:

www.muaddi.com/arak-muaddi-heritage-in-every-glass

To see how traditional Arak is made, checkout this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OULUs5kMDc

Cheers!

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Arak is not terribly relevant to a discussion about bacterial strains, but there is fair archaeological evidence that puts origin of alcohol distillation into 3rd century India, and some place it in China. Safest to say that scholars disagree. We make an 'arak' for a restaurant group using grape brandy and Syrian aniseed, its fun, they mostly use it in cocktails and tiki-style drinks. 

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