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Fruit categories

This category includes apples, pears, quince and medlar.

Apple

Its taxonomical category is the rose family, and it has plenty of different varieties. From the light fresh citrus like pálinkas to the rich, opulent, waxy ones, virtually all sorts can be produced. Depending on the variety, apple pálinka can be barrel aged, but it should not be mixed up with Calvados, which is a French protected origin, spirit made out of apple wine.

Palinka made from apple

 

Pear

Also member of the rose family, humans have known and cultivated it for at least 3000 years. Similarly to the apple it delivers versatile and fine flavour. Often fairly rich pálinkas are produced.

Palinka made from pear

 

Williams Pear

In terms of pálinka, there is a distinctive difference depending on the type of pear used: Williams or generic. The intense, seductive aroma characteristics can easily enchant the most educated taster as well. To judge the other pear pálinkas correctly, Williams pear should always be tasted after the generic pear ones. There is also a significant difference in red and yellow Williams pear.

Palinka made from williams pear

 

Quince

Hard flesh, yet pronounced, perfumed aromatics, known two different types of quince, – quince apple and quince pear. These two types also show significant differences in pálinkas. Generally very pronounced, slightly tart, citrus aromatics of pálinka are made out of quince, within, quince apple is sweeter and quince pear is more robust.

Palinka made from quince

 

Medlar

Originally comes from Central Asia and arrived with the help of Italians to Hungary. Late ripened fruit is hardly used to make pálinka, yet it makes for an interesting and sweet drink.

This category includes: sour cherry, cherry, apricot, peach, plum and its relative, the greengage, while traditionally pálinka is not made from every fruit.

Cherry

This sensitive fruit came from Anatolia to the Roman Empire, and was exported to various places in Europe. Restrained aromatics, it gives often floral aromas of pálinka, the spirit made of the wild fruit is intense, with a touch of bitter finish.

Palinka made from cherry

 

Sour Cherry

Around the Mediterranean Sea and former Persia, the fruit was known in ancient times as well. The Hungarian name (meggy) suggests that it was known during the settlement in Hungary. The pálinka made out of it, is usually stronger and much more intense with pronounced aromatics and flavors. The ‘ágyas’(bedded) pálinkas of it is very popular these days.

Palinka made from sour cherry

 

Peach

Low in aromatic intensity, which is the reason why pálinka is rarely made out of it.

Palinka made from peach

 

Apricot

Belongs to the rose family of Persia, it started to be cultivated during the Ottoman occupation in Hungary. The prefix ‘kajszi’ is used to make distinction from peach (in Hungarian apricot means yellow peach). Its fruit is often used as the seductive character and is very popular. Depending on the vintage and variety, from cool herbal notes to the warm, jammy flavours, a lot of different aromatics and flavors can appear in the pálinka.

Palinka made from apricot

 

Plum

Related to the peach family, a basic pálinka fruit. Currently there are 23 different types grown, which are officially recognized. The different species provide very different aromas in pálinkas: during tasting aromas and flavours can range from floral and light to the waxy, seedy, bitter character. Virtually all distilleries make ‚szilvapálinka’ (plum pálinka), many of them look upon to as a certain measurement of degree.

Palinka made from plum

The grape berry, the pressed grape pomace (skin, seeds and stem of the berry), and the wine lees, but even the wine itself would fit the purpose to make pálinka. However, the pálinka law only allows to make pálinka from Hungarian fruit, therefore the distilled products of wine and wine lees – because they are not directly fruit – can only be traded, distributed as spirit. Many pálinka distilleries are located in wine regions or near to vineyards, hence in their assortment there is a wide selection of grape and pomace pálinka. The raw material of the pálinka, pomace pálinka can be white grape, such as: Furmint, Zenit, Zöld Veltelini (Grüner Veltliner) or black grape varieties such as: Kékfrankos, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc. The aromatic varieties such as Irsai Olivér, Cserszegi Fűszeres and Hárslevelű are also appreciated, when it comes to produce pálinka. It is considered as a speciality to produce pomace pálinka from Tokaji aszú and ever more a hybrid variety becomes the base of the seductive beverage. Whatever grape variety the producer chooses, based on the past experiences, consumers’ feedback confirms, that it can be a popular drink.

To produce grape pálinka, the whole berries (without pressing) are used. The grape pálinkas usually share the fruity, spicy, floral characters of the variety within their aroma and flavour profile. Because the juice also goes into the mash, the pálinka tends to be lighter, ethereal, often with pronounced aromatics, compared to the pomace pálinka, made from the same grape.

To produce pomace pálinka (törkölypálinka) the pomace – also known as marc – is used, which remains after the must is separated in the press: skin, seeds, flesh of the berry and after some gentle pressing some juice. Törkölypálinka (pomace pálinka) shares compact and richer structure. The varietal character of the fruit must be shown here as well, but due to the skin and seeds the notes are complimented by oiliness, prune character and tart tones.

Generally speaking the powerful structure comes with longer maturation and ageing potential, most of the pomace pálinkas – especially the ones, made from black grapes – appreciate being matured in wooden barrels. These pálinkas generally open somewhat slower in the glass, so it is suggested to let them breathe for a while.

Palinka made from grape Palinka made from pomace (törköly)

There is a certain difference in terms of character between a fruit grown wild and a fruit grown in cultivation. The „wild” ones are usually share more rusticity and overt flavour profile of the given type. Because of this wild apple, vackor/wild pear, wild cherry, wild apricot or prunus mahaleb pálinkas must be distinguished from the cultivated fruit ones, they also have to be judged in a separate category.

The wild apple shows less fruitiness and more of the acidic notes. The wild pear is very tart with a slight sweetness and pungent spiciness. The wild stone fruits share the characteristics of pronounced marzipan and almond, compared to the bred varieties. The wild peach is very rare with woody and tart floral tones. The wild cherry is sweet and bitter at the same time with aromas of chocolate. The prunus mahaleb points to spicy, sharp impressions with an overt red berry flavour.

The „berry” fruit provides the most intensive aroma and flavour impact, and perhaps the richest within the category of pálinka.

The experimentation is limitless and the commercial distilleries with their never-ending work attitude produce fantastic pálinkas, which otherwise would not make it in raw format to the public’s table. Many people know today the wild strawberry, the raspberry, the blackberry, the mulberry, the currant, the elderberry and the sloe pálinka. Here we meet many rarities as well, yet the rowan, the sea buckthorn, the blueberry and the hawthorn pálinkas are no longer curiosity anymore.

Wild strawberry can share green tone, even aromas of fallen/wet leaf. Raspberry can be spicy too beside the syrupy character. Blackcurrant usually translates aromas of herbs, medicinal notes, mint and anise. Elderberry can be citrus, mint and marzipan like. Sloe could show tart, herbal and chocolate personality, occasionally accompanied by lavender and notes of chocolate.

Due to the rare occurrence, it is harder to judge these varieties, and if someone does not know the basic characteristics of the fruit types, may often find strange, unusual, perhaps even identify as faulty aromas and flavours.

The wild and berry fruits belong to the lower yielding pálinkas, hence they need additional, extra care and expertise, which are also reflected in their price.

The bedded (ágyas) pálinka is a product, which was rested and matured for a minimum time of 3 months on the fruit bed, whereby from the fruit the colour, the aroma and the flavour profile, further on the fruit sugar are adding to the serious structure and enhancing the sweetness as well. In terms of method of production fresh and dried fruit bedding are both possible, even double (the usage of both) can create truly great products. Most producers leave a few pieces of fruit in the bottle, yet there are also products, whereby the whole fruit bed is placed into the bottle. The best balance is achieved, if we use the same fruit for bedding the pálinka is made from, however there are also examples, where contrasting different fruits to each other can also achieve interesting results. Today the producers work with clean and good quality raw material for pálinka and excellent fruit bed. The bedded pálinkas with their colour and liquor like appearance and often with their lower alcohol content are a good start for the consumer to become accustomed with the world of pálinka.

The mixed fruit pálinkas are not unfamiliar in front of the consumer, from the old traditions. The varieties, produced by the commercial distilleries, offer a higher quality category. In the past competition we could find more and more fascinating products. The producers’ desire to experiment means, that it’s a challenge for them to create a fruit distillate by blending the individual components together, so that a higher category can be created at the end. Keeping the origins of the fruit aromas with another fruit requires a truly artistic vein. There are such successful blends of fruits like grape with sour cherry, apple with raspberry, yet a combination of three different flavours are not unthinkable either, such as apricot quince grape. These products are a real curiosity and have a worthy place in the World of Pálinka

Beddid (ágyas) palinkas Palinka made from mixed fruit