by Andrew Chalk
We live in a world of spirit entropy. That is, the field of spirits available to us broadens every year. The latest entrant is a plum brandy from Serbia named Yebiga.It has a moderate bite and a rich release of plum on the palate. As a plum brandy it reminded me of the Eau de Vie de Prune d’Alsace.
The producer says:
BELA Rakija Celebrates Every Day
Yebiga arrived stateside a year ago with its 18-month-aged, limited PRVA.
Now, the brand brings a new bottle and a white style for every-day occasions
San Francisco, CA – April 15, 2021 If you’re unfamiliar with Rakija (also spelled Rakia), you’re not alone. This is the famed fruit brandy of the Balkan region, made similarly to moonshine. Families pass down distilling knowledge, utilizing fruit from trees in their backyards.
This Serbian style is commonly crafted with ripe, plums such as čačanska rodna. In Croatia, you might stumble upon a William’ Rakija or one made with Vranac grapes in Montenegro. All can be highly distinctive to reflect their particular localities. But what you will find in common is that Rakija is associated with raising a glass––from festive moments to funerals. It’s a unifier among these nations; a long-historic, point of pride in liquid form.
Rakija has been a part of Balkan life for eight centuries, but it’s only now become a part of American life. That’s thanks to Yebiga––the most traditional export of real Rakija to the United States to date.
Balkan culture is all about celebration, whether it’s a wedding … or a Wednesday.
And Rakija is at the heart of all the toast-worthy moments.
Yebiga brought Rakija to American shores first with PRVA, an 18-month-minimum aged Rakija, made with čačanska rodna Serbian plums, designed for special moments. PRVA, with its intense floral, citrus and herbal notes, is a limited-edition distillate. It spends time in the barrel, gaining deepened flavor and color, making it a drink designed for life’s milestone moments, from holidays to truly memorable conversations.
Now, the brand’s latest release––BELA––has arrived, firmly placing Rakija in ready reach at all times, priced at $29.99 to PRVA’s $39.99. BELA is the company’s youngest expression. It’s lighter, free of color and finished in stainless steel. With BELA, Yebiga returns to the everyday roots of Rakija. It’s a delicious, rustic drink for everyday occasions, paying homage to the most common way one might find rakija across Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Bulgaria. That is––wonderfully unfussed––and this new style is ideal for cocktail experimentation.
BELA is a smooth, lower alcohol sip, more similar in profile to a slivovitz from the more northern nations in Eastern Europe such as Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic (also because it is Kosher). Still, it has something deeper; something more. It’s a truly hand-crafted moment on the palate. Those finest notes are not influenced by wood but celebrated and left beautifully vibrant and intense, thanks to stainless steel.
BELA is the perfect counterpart to sit beside your bottle of PRVA. It comes at a lower alcohol percentage of 40%, compared to PRVA’s 43%, and because it never touches wood, you find those base notes of flowers and terroir, alongside ripe fruits and a dry finish. Made to the same impeccable standards as PRVA, BELA also brings a new bottle design. You’ll now find it in a 750ml bottle, as opposed to PRVA’s previous 1-liter bottles —with this new launch, all Yebiga’s products will now come in 750ml bottles.
Both the limited-edition PRVA and the more accessible BELA herald a new moment in very old practices of distilling. The pride of the Balkans is now achieving a global reach, spreading into American homes and American bars, and with it comes a moment to connect to old-world European drinking traditions. Yebiga brings a reason to sit down, reconnect around a glass; to hoist a toast and to drink deeply.