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Batavia Arrack

Traditional cane spirit of the Dutch East Indies


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Old 03-02-2008, 05:45 PM   #1
bunnyhugs
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Default Trip to Java to explore Batavia Arrack?

I am a cocktail geek based on New Zealand, and sometimes China. I have a blog at www.bunnyhugs.org.

I have been thinking about taking a trip to Java to explore Batavia Arrack. I was thinking of maybe tracking down some different brands. Maybe there are brands or styles available in Indonesia that are either unavailable or hard to find elsewhere? I was also thinking of maybe trying to visit a distillery or something.

Basically I was just thinking that:

1 - Indonesia is a nice place to visit. I took a short holiday there a few years ago and have been meaning to go back. Even if I don't find the arrack I'll still enjoy myself.

2 - Indonesia is vaguely down in my direction so a jaunt over that way to explore arrack will be an easy trip for me.

3 - Arrack seems a neglected spirit about which there is not much information available, so maybe if I went to Indonesia to research arrack I'd be able to write something interesting that other people might enjoy reading.

4 - I'd simply be able to satisfy my own curiosity. At this point I haven't even tried arrack of any description!

So is there anyone wiser than me who has some advice?

Looking around online I haven't even been able to find names of local Javanese producers. Everything on batavia arrack seems to take me to the sites of one or two European blenders.

Also, a related question I am curious about. . .

The Chinese presumably brought distilling to Java, and Chinese distilling techniques are used. Is that correct? Or was the distilling brought by the Dutch and simply taken up by Chinese? I remember hearing something about Chinese pot stills being used.

Anyway, does this possible Chinese origin mean distilling in Java remains a mainly Chinese enterprise? The Chinese control a lot of the business in Indonesia anyway, and (at least in Malaysia - not so sure about Indonesia) they tend to dominate anything alcohol related due to the religious issues. I am curious about this aspect of it because I have a special interest in China due to having lived there for many years. Also, I am especially interested in SE Asian Chinese communities - which were sort of my first point of contact with Chinese culture.

I was also thinking that if the Chinese are involved in distilling arrack then that could open some doors for me. Speaking Chinese myself means I tend to get good responses out of Chinese people. If a Chinese angle exists then maybe I could even try and sell a story to some Chinese media.

Finally, are there any interesting parallels between Batavia Arrack and modern Chinese spirits? Maybe China even has its own Arrack style rums fermented from sugar cane juice or molasses? Chinese spirits tend to be sorgrum, but they certainly produce sugar cane in southern China so no reason there shouldn't be some rum somewhere. I've never come across it, but then I've never really looked either. Also, I have never visited Hainan island or the Guangxi/Guizhou areas, where I understand the bulk of the Chinese sugar cane industry is.
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Old 03-02-2008, 07:26 PM   #2
Edward Hamilton
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Your experience looking for Batavia Arrack on the internet is a function of a couple of things. Most of the Arrack made in Indonesia is exported to Holland where it is brokered to the culinary and blending industries.

The Chinese used distillation techniques for making essential oils before distillation was used to concentrate alcohol for consumption. Since the production of Batavia Arrack is primarily for export to Holland, the Dutch colonized most of Indonesia and finally gave up control after WWII, the Dutch influence on the distillation of this spirit can not be ignored. I would also be interested to learn the story from the Indonesian perspective.
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