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  • Writer's pictureStuart Pearce

Let's get fruity episode 4 - Raspberry!

Updated: Jul 11

Round 4 of 9 ... and the excitement is palpable ;-) Haha

This should be a slightly easier weekend after last weekend's epic 14 distillate pear round.

Addressing a couple of questions I've had -

  • These are not liqueurs. They are dry spirits, as the natural fruit sugars have been turned to alcohol.

  • They are not vodka, or flavoured spirits made by adding fruit or fruit flavouring. They are fruit! They are the super-concentrated quintessence of fruit. Up to 45kg of each fruit is used to make just 1 litre of this amazing stuff.

I generally refer to these as fruit distillates or Eau de Vie but they are also called by a series of other names ... schnapps, fruit brandy, palinka, mampoer etc etc

If you'd like further background on this brief excursion away from rum reviewing .. Here's my introduction to this crazy summer series.

Super interesting, super niche, these guys make just one type of fruit distillate from hand-harvested, small organic strawberries in Florina, Northern Greece. Close to both Macedonia & Albanian borders.

Expensive and labour-intensive to produce, this spirit is made from the Fragaira Vespa or Wild Strawberry. They are picked, washed and sorted by hand before crushing to create a mash which is then allowed to ferment with Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Galactos yeast for 10 days. No sugar is added. The ferment is put into copper stills and distilled. Heads are removed and tails cut to leave the heart at 65% abv.

Finally, this is diluted to 40% for 'Origin' and re-distilled for 'Platinum'.

They take a sustainable approach where the waste from the production of Strawbar is first used to make skincare products and finally to fertilise the new young strawberry plants.

*An aged version of Strawbar (Strawbar Gold) which has spent 18 months in oak, will be available later this year. I'm looking forward to trying that!

Strawbar Origin (40%) and Strawbar Platinum (45%) have recently become available in the UK and are incredibly well-priced. Platinum will feature in next week's 'other berries' head-to-head review and tasting.

And now for the main event, time to pour and taste some raspberry essence...

Four 15ml drams of raspberry Eau de Vie. Left to breathe for 30 minutes before reviewing. Nosed first, then tasted, in the random order of the lead photo.

Assisted today, as I've popped over to Madeira to do some admin for our big new project, by the sound of the sea and thoughts of the future 😁

Our 3rd visit to Hungary's Szicsek distillery. Their elegantly presented bottles are available in the UK from

Nose: An enjoyable nose, although a far cry from the face-smash of bright fresh raspberry I was expecting (and hoping for). There's a little depth and plenty of almost grainy booze, just not fruit, let alone raspberry. At the end, you get just a tease of raspberry.

Another 15 mins rest and there's more raspberry, although you have to fight through poorly integrated alcohol to get to it.

Mouth: Starts a bit thin and watery, then some promising fresh fruit. Unfortunately this is quickly washed away and replaced by sharp menthol and bitter, cloying artificial fruit. Reminiscent of the artificial fruit flavour in cleaning agents. Every now and then a glimpse of fresh raspberry pops up but it's not enough to improve things, or to cut through the sticky goo that's coating the inside of my mouth. Not working for me at all. [70-pts]

A limited release of 823 half bottles from the gold medalist and profiled distiller in the Quince round. And bronze medalist in the Pear round. Notably the most expensive in the lineup .... as I mentioned before, these are very expensive spirits to make with 10-15kg of the finest local raspberries being used to make just one 375ml bottle! That said, it still needs to deliver, to warrant the price tag.

Nose: Much brighter than the Palinka. Fragrant and floral. Very floral indeed. Sweet and yet tart. Turkish delight! And a hint of mint. My mouth is watering. 15 mins later and the fruit perfume is off the scale.

Mouth: Chalk and cheese when compared to the Palinka. Layers of raspberry. The aftertaste is clean and bright. Mouth-filling in the right way. Lovely mint, spice and rosewater runs throughout. I'm so impressed by the texture, and faultless alcohol integration. Clean, fresh, bright, peppery, floral raspberry spirit. The quality is clear. [88+pts]

Greensand Ridge - the carbon-neutral distillery profiled in episode 2. They chose the unusual monica of Ghost - an anglicisation of the German 'geist', (another type of Eau-de-Vie). Will has chosen to step away from Eau-de-Vie on this occasion to recognise the fact that this spirit was not 100% produced by fermentation (2/3 ferment, 1/3 maceration).

Made from Kentish raspberries, part fermented and part infused in wheat spirit. These are then combined and distilled in a beautiful copper pot still.  

As with their other fruit distillates, the local berries in this drink were too imperfect for supermarkets, and were distilled with 100% renewable energy.

Greensand recommend this drunk with tonic which does sound pretty good!

Nose: Very different again. Another one that delivers on the fruit! Less floral than the Capreolus, this starts with deep dry raspberry, really juicy - like you're smelling actual raspberry juice, and then moves to bright summer pudding. The alcohol is surprisingly aggressive considering it has been reduced to 40%.

Mouth: Creamy! Mouth coating and very fruity. This is complex and delicious. It's left me licking my lips. Raspberry juice followed by the taste (but not the goo) of a quality raspberry liqueur. My only small criticism is the alcohol integration, it tastes like spirit and raspberry, rather than raspberry spirit. A decent finish and overall very impressed. Amazing value ... buy this! [85pts]

A very keenly priced distillate of wild raspberries from Hepp in France.

Nose: A bit disappointing. Very dry and musky with a splash of fermenting fruit. Not unpleasant just not much to it and not the concentrated fresh bright notes I was hoping for. 15 mins later and it's lost the little fresh fruit it had. Hope things pick up on the palate.

Mouth: A step up from the nose. Much more fruit. Starts with cane fruit - bright and sharp. Enjoyable. Then comes a mix of berries, cologne and pastry. One of those three does not belong! [And the buttery pastry is an enjoyable addition 😁]. That said, it's only a slight cologne edge and overall I would still say this is okay value if you're specifically looking for a raspberry distillate. The finish is a mix of fresh raspberry and a hint of fermenting juice. [79pts]

Conclusion: An easy win today for Capreolus, and an impressive silver medal offering from Greensand Ridge - their Raspberry Ghost is a bit of a bargain!

Quite unexpectedly, the Quince spirits are proving hard to match. I'm looking forward to a little side-by-side of the gold medalists after all 9 rounds.

Next up... 'other berries' - some big guns lining up here with spirits distilled from Strawberry, Elderberry, Blackcurrant, Gooseberry and Blueberry. I'm looking forward to this one :-)

And a timely profile of Madeira's incredible fruit and rum distillers - Vinha Alta!

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