Palinka is a unique drink in itself but it becomes even more unique when one learns about how it is made and what special methods are usually applied to get the most out of this special spirit.
One thing is for sure: palinka production is not an easy process either one makes it at home or in factories.
Palinka factories – especially the smaller ones – are often called distilleries. The word and technical term “distillery” is not just the name of the place of production but it also refers to the method firewater producers use. This special technique is called distillation. But in order to get a deeper insight into what distillation and palinka production means in general, one must be aware of the meaning of “mash” or “cefre” as it is often called in Hungarian.
Mash is basically the fruit base of the drink that is prepared for the fermentation process. When this fruit mash is ready, then comes the next step of the process, which is the above mentioned distillation.
Distillation is the key process of palinka production during which they boil the fermented fruit mash and extract the flavours and the alcohol (ethyl alcohol) from the fruit. The alcohol’s boiling point is around 78 degrees Celsius and due to boiling begins to evaporate. This separation process is applied during palinka production and this is basically the palinka production itself. It is important to highlight that the quality of the palinka mostly depends on the quality of the “mashing” process.
The equipment in which the palinka is might is just as unique as the drink itself. There are several types and the equipment’s type defines the type of the palinka. It is usually made of stainless steel (double layer) and comes with a pressure gauge, a safety blow-off valve and an inlet valve.
There is a special production process that is called “kisüsti” in Hungarian. The process is the following: the fruit mash is distilled (at least twice) in an apparatus that has a copper layer and that is not larger than a thousand litre (this is where the name comes from).
“Kisüsti” palinka is made during two separate distillation processes. First, the fruit mash is heated and the flavours and the alcohol are extracted. During the second phase, the result of the first process is further refined and the result is a more refined, quality firewater. It is important to know that during the second phase an alcoholic liquid is created that have copper compounds and it is not suitable for human consumption.
The last thing that needs to be done before drinking the palinka is resting.
Resting and maturation process is needed because distillation is a rather “drastic” process for the fruit. Freshly made palinka is not suitable for consumption. The resting period is approximately 40-60 days. Of course, the length of this period depends on the type of fruit with the use of which the palinka was produced. During resting, the spirit becomes “balanced”, clear and its roughness disappears.