Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Georgian Chacha Tasting

Wherever you go in the world, there seems to be specialty alcohol "native" to the region. We once had Arak with a shop owner in Bethlehem who then wanted us to visit the "high end" part of his store. I remember getting a hotel manager in Italy to open his bar after a late arrival to explore Grappa. Most recently we got to try Unicum in Hungary last fall. Though it wasn't "in country" I recently had the chance to try Georgian chacha that was brought back from Georgia (the country not the southern US state.) Our son and his wife and were given a sampler of chacha by their friend who had been stationed there. Knowing I'd be interested, they brought it with them to share during a recent visit.

Chacha is a pomace brandy distilled from the leftover grapes from wine making. The samples in the package were 45% ABV although I read that some natively brewed versions can reach 85%. It can be aged in various woods or flavored with herbs or fruits. Typically served very chilled, the bottles rested in the freezer for a bit before our exploration.

The four varieties in the sampler were Classic Chacha, Oak Aged Chacha, Honey Chacha, and Tarragon Chacha. That was the order in which we tried them. We also had some hastily gathered food pairings based on recommendations on the package.

The classic chacha was accompanied by a thin slice of ginger. The flavor I thought was fairly plain, with lots of the expected raw alcohol burn. A tiny nibble of ginger moderated the flavor. Next up was the Oak Aged variety. This one spent 12 months in oak barrels. The oak influence was strong and it reminded me of the oak notes present in bourbon. The suggested pairing was BBQ and cheese, which we faked with a some homemade sauce dabbed on a cracker with a bit of cheese. The oak aged flavor was definitely my favorite of the options.

The next pour, the honey chacha was perhaps the most mild. It had a sweet honey flavor. I found this one somewhat uninteresting, though my companions seemed to enjoy it the most. Finally it was time to try the tarragon flavored chacham. This was the strongest flavor of the group. And for my tastes, the least enjoyable. The mild licorice flavor was not enticing. Did I mention the beverage was green?  I enjoy tarragon as a seasoning in many dishes, but it did not excite me as a drink flavor. 

I found this an interesting tasting experience. It was fun to explore another regional liquor. Of our group, I think I enjoyed the chacha the most. The rest thought the strong alcoholic beverage was too harsh and not something they'd try again. I on the other I hand would, and am intrigued by some of the other stronger variations I've since read about.


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