A recent release from By the Dutch and complimenting their aged Batavia Arrack, this is their “White Batavia Arrack”. But what is it and what the hell has it got to do with the Dutch?
Batavia was the name of the capital city of the Dutch East Indies, known in the present day as Jakarta. Established in 1619 at the site of the razed city of Jayakarta, Batavia became the epicentre of the Dutch East India Company’s Asia trading network. The trade of Batavia Arrack was handled exclusively by the Dutch. All Arrack exported to Europe arrived in either Amsterdam or Rotterdam.
In its most basic form, Batavia Arrack is similar to Rum. It is a sugar cane molasses distillate produced exclusively on the island of Java in Indonesia. It can trace its roots back to the 17th Century. Fermentation is very similar to that of Rum with the main difference being the addition of local wild yeast cultivated on top of red rice cakes. The fermentation is open and takes place in wooden vats taking the wash up to around 8% abv. This wash is then pot distilled to an abv of around 30%. A second pot distillation takes the distillate up to between 60-65% abv. It is at that point that the distillate is placed in large teak wood vats for between 8 to 12 months.
Specifically relating to the By the Dutch White Batavia Arrack, the 8 to 12 month rested distillate is shipped to Amsterdam in large steel containers. This is then blended and bottled at 48% abv. The product carries no age statement. Weirdly, due ‘religious legislation’ in Indonesia the arrack is marked as ‘Medicine’ when shipped.
By the Dutch White Batavia Arrack – 48%abv – Indonesian Rum
Nose: It’s tough to pin down straight away……the aromas seem to span a wide range of the familiar yet don’t seem to completely correlate with any. With time, there is definitely the initial fresh sugarcane familiarity of Cachaça, the grassy notes of Agricole, the brine notes of pot distilled Rum and the earthy notes of a Clairin. But it doesn’t comfortably adhere to any of these fully. There is a freshness to the nose accompanying an underlying vegetal note. Earthy fresh turmeric root sets a basis for light, fresh unripe tropical fruit….reminiscent of walking through the fruit aisle of a mini-mart somewhere in the Caribbean…Freshly picked bananas, green mango skin and the aroma of almost ripe papaya still on the tree. Familiar notes of black pepper, vanilla and light pimento punch through and I can’t quite shake the cinnamon notes of Amburana wood which I know isn’t there…..but the light cinnamon definitely is. Both familiar and unfamiliar in equal measures.
Mouth: Far brighter and fruitier on the palate. A real sweetness to the initial entry and a medium body to the experience. Mango. Papaya. Maybe a hint of banana. It’s also lightly floral. Definite agricole like sugarcane notes. It turns down the sweetness and brings forward a hint of coastal brine, cracked black pepper spice, cinnamon and a light herbal note. Something mildly spicy and ‘green’…..warm freshly charred and salted padron peppers. Sweetness lingers on your lips and a return of banana, papaya and vanilla accompany further visits to the glass. The finish is longer than expected and is all sweet fruit initially leading into the brine and spice notes that made the mid palate so pleasant with a hint of wood and molasses at the fade.
In Conclusion: It’s a bit of a strange one that doesn’t sit in any one camp. Shades of Cachaça, Rum, Agricole and Clairin but not fully giving the individual experience of any of them. Sweet. Vegetal. Spice. Brine. Cane. It could’ve been a bit of a non-committal mess but it really isn’t…..its actually quite a pleasant thing to drink neat even though that’s not the intended use…..it just makes me want to get my hands on the two aged releases to fully explore this spirit further. Its not Rum, its not Rhum, its not Clairin and its not Cachaca, but it is a good distillate presented at the right abv.
As cocktails seem to be the aim of this release, there are plenty of suggestions on the bottle. I went with a drink that has been a favourite recently…..a twist on the Saturn with the Gin replaced with By The Dutch White Batavia Arrack and with the passion fruit syrup dialed up by 5ml. Beautiful.
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