We all know what palinka is by now. We all know that palinka is made from 100% fruit, and only palinka produced in Hungary from fruit grown in Hungarian soil can be called palinka officially. We all know many things about palinka but there are some interesting facts that has not been analysed in detail yet. For instance, the process and more importantly, the purpose of distillation and the different ways of palinka production still belong to the ’less dicovered’ topics of palinka. In this article, we will provide a details description of palinka distillation process and by the end of the article, the reader will know what the so called diamond distillate is, and why it is so essential for making high quality palinka. Hold on tight and see what palinka prroduction is all about!
What is distillation?
It might seem obvious, but distillation is a complicated process with an exceptional purpose. In order to start the distillation process, we need the perfect ready-made fruit mash, in which the fermentation and decomposition processes had already taken place. Mash already has alcohol content, but now, the aim is to make a pleasant, high quality drink with higher alcohol percentage. So, technically the purpose of distillation is to make a ‘concentrate’, a drink that has higher alcohol content, and extract the aromatic elements while keeping unwanted elements away.
Types of distillation
The careful choice of palinka distillation is the key to get a high quality, fruity spirit at the end. According to experts, there are two main types of distillation, and these are the following:
1. ’Kisüsti’ distillation
Kisüsti distillation is considered to be the traditional method, during which the fruit brandy is distilled twice, section by section. Its name refers to the small, 1000 l cauldron in which the process happens. First, the volatile and non-volatile components of the mash are separated from each other, the liquid we get is called ‘brute alcohol’. Before the second step, we need to clean the cauldron and the whole equipment thoroughly in order to avoid mixing with the remains of the previous brew. Then the brute alcohol is poured into the cauldron and further concentration happens. The liquid we get at the end of the second distillation has three parts, one after the other: pre-distillate, middle distillate and post-distillate. Pre-, and post-distillate do not reach the bottles, only the middle distillate is important. This gives the drink’s characteristic, fruity fragrance. Even the middle distillate is not completely homogeneous: the centerpiece, the finest, most aromatic part is the so-called diamond distillate, which is the true essence of palinka. It would be great to pour only this delicacy into the bottles, but unfortunately, this is not possible due to the small amount of diamond distillate.
There are three distillate parts, but now the question comes: how can we decide which distillate is which. The parts of the distillate (or distillate fractions, in technical terms) are almost identical at first sight (though the pre-distillate can often have bluish color). To find out which distillate part is which we need an experienced palinka master, who continuously taste the pouring liquid, and dares to intervene at the right moment to separate the different parts.
2. Continuous distillation
Let’s not forget about the other distillation method either. This method seems to be much easier because this is a one-step process (the two sections of ‘kisüsti’ distillation take place at the same time). This type of distillation is also known as tower distillation. The three distillate fractions are the same, and a palinka master with excellent tasting skills is also needed to separate the fractions.
Don’t be surprised if you taste the end product of these methods. The pleasant, delicious spirit that we know so well still has a long way to go. The liquid needs some time to rest and mature. But don’t worry, if you have experience, the right equipment and the best quality fruit, palinka will surely be heavenly delicious at the end.