View Full Version : Starka notes

10-27-2003, 19:14
Through the miracle of the world wide web I obtained in 5 minutes interesting information on Starka from www.polmos.szczecin.pl (http://www.polmos.szczecin.pl)[/url], the site of the Polish distiller that makes this drink. When searching back through the history threads on these boards I noted someone asked Chuck Cowdery if he could buy a schnapps or jenever gin that might provide a link with straight rye whiskey. I think Starka might be a candidate. The site states (there is an English section) the drink is like "whisky" in that it is made from "rye cereal" and, as vital, from "non-rectified" spirit. This would be low proof spirit probably not unlike the spirit that formed the basis of U.S. rye whiskey in the old days when the rye in the mash bill was as high as 80%.

The site states that unlike "whisky" Starka has a special bouquet and flavour (not further defined). In saying this clearly the site is thinking of Scotch whisky though, not U.S. whiskey. The site also states the barrels employed are oak "pedunculate" (?) and are used "after white grapes", i.e., are ex-white wine barrels I would think. Photos are shown of the different Starkas, the youngest is 10 years old, the oldest an impressive 53 years old. Some clearly are flavoured in different ways, one (going by the colour) surely by sherry wine, but others seem to be the plain rye spirit aged long in oak. This would be at best toasted oak unless they are doing charring too. But either way, I think that one or two of these, say the one aged 10 years, may approximate the kind of pre-Prohibition rye whiskey that was aged in non-charred barrels (as clearly some was). Putting it another way, if Maytag's rye was aged ten years perhaps it would taste like the 10 year old Starka, or fairly close. The mix of immigrants to America who first made rye whiskey would surely have included Poles (many worked in Pennsylvania) for whom rye was a natural grain from which to distill or make bread; this influence may have entered into the composition of the first American spirit. In any case, Polish expertise in rye spirit distillation is a subset of the Northern European skill at spirits making which generally used rye. German and other strands from this tradition are known at a minimum to have influenced the making of U.S. rye whiskey.


11-01-2003, 20:09
Funny that (Polish, the the Russian) Starka should get mentioned here, but I have been thinkinhg about it again lately. The web site URLs seem to change, but http://www.polishvodka.com.pl/fr_starka-story2.htm
has some info on it. The fifty year old Starka, with that gorgeouss ruby red hue, cannot be much different from a bourbon, if the wood is a major contributor, as we know it is. I have tried to get Starka, using my European contacts, but it is apparently EXTREMELY scarce, much harder to get than even Stagg! I hope you get some and tell us about it! Ed

11-07-2003, 05:14
Thanks for this comment. I have not gotten any yet but did obtain finally two European spirits that I feel are essentially what one form of the pre-charred cask rye was like in the U.S. One is Filliers 5 year old genever made in Belgium (in French Wallonia). The other is a 3 year old rogge genever from Holland. Rogge means rye in Dutch. The Filliers is known not to use any juniper flavouring. It uses a mash of mostly rye with some wheat, corn and of course barley malt. It is a very good clean rich grainy drink. It, like the rogge genever, has a core of spicy, dry, resinous flavour that is very similar to many current U.S. ryes. The main difference is the rye whiskeys all show some barrel flavour from charring. Also, the latter of course have good proportions of corn in the mash whereas the corn (maize) content of the European cousins is much less (again from what I know about it).

The rogge genver has some juniper or other flavouring (maybe herbs), I am quite sure, so there the comparison is perhaps even less valid. But the Filliers is I feel almost certainly like an old U.S. rye from the time when charred barrels were not used, or always used, to age rye whiskey. It is hard to get good information on how genever (a major spirit, ancestor also to English gin) is made. But most traditional genever employs "malt wine" (moutwijn), which is a mostly rye grain mash (unmalted) which also employs small amounts of other grains (corn, wheat), and always barley malt to do the conversion. This is low proof whiskey-type flavourous spirit, not the highly rectified alcohol used (in many countries) to cut the same or supplant it. The older/more traditional the genever, the more malt wine is used. Some genevers are known not to contain juniper berry flavouring despite the fact that the name genever means (in various derivations) juniper. Juniper adds a fresh foresty scent and taste. Some producers use no juniper for any of their products (like Filliers). Some use juniper for some, but not other of their drinks, and in varying amounts when it is used. Some producers add herbs or other flavours to their genever. A wide variety of barrels is used, but not U.S.-style charred barrels, not new charred anyway. I was trying to find a genever that has a high malt wine and low or no juniper content to find a product that may well have resembled a Pennsylvania rye whiskey from the 1800's when aged a few years in non-charred barrels. The Filliers fits the bill, I think, because it is 100% malt wine and has no juniper or other flavouring; the Dutch rogge rye may get close too.


11-07-2003, 12:32
>But most traditional genever employs "malt wine" (moutwijn)...
>I was trying to find a genever that has a high malt wine and low
>or no junper content...

If you try hard enough, you should be able to get 100% malt / no juniper!
I have heard that you can buy bottles of moutwijn in the Netherlands,
and that this spirit is never flavored with juniper, etc. I haven't
ever tried to procure a bottle, but I've always been curious.

One thing that I'm really interested in is a French whisky made
from buckwheat, called "Eddu". It's listed on the Le Maison du Whisky
website, so I know it's for sale... I've never been able to talk anyone
into getting me a bottle,, though

Tim Dellinger

11-07-2003, 13:53
Interesting, I'd like to try that French product.

100% moutwijn is certainly available: here is a description of one from the product list of the Stork distillery in the Netherlands (Distilleerderif "De Ooievaar"):

Zeer Oude Genever, dubbel gebeid: 40%. Ook deze genever wordt met een apart recept van 100% moutwijn, graandestillaat en kruiden, 2 keer overgehaald waarna zij minstens 1 jaar op eiken fusten lagert. Dit is een genever voor de notoire oude geneverdrinker, zacht, rond en krachtig".

My views exactly. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif

Perhaps a kindly list member who knows Dutch can post an English translation.

Maltwine may or may not have addition of juniper berry flavouring. It is cornewijn (cornwine) that is never flavoured with juniper. However cornwine seems often to be flavoured with herbs: Bols makes a widely distributed cornwine (i.e., grainwine) that has herbs instead of juniper. Possibly some cornwines have no flavouring. I am not sure of the difference if any between cornwine and maltwine. It may be simply that cornwine never has juniper while malt wine may. I do know that despite the name, malt wine was made traditionally mostly from rye. Byrn (1875) gave a recipe for Dutch genever, noting juniper berry addition was optional, that called for 70-80% unmalted rye and the rest barley malt - exactly his recipe (save for the optional juniper) for rye whiskey. I think the Dutch called it malt wine because the barley malt literally turned it into "wine".

Large retailers like Sam's may carry a number of Netherlands or Belgian genevers that possibly are nearly, or all, maltwine. Any "oude" (old) genever will have some malt wine, and may contain a lot, little or no juniper. Based on Byrn, I believe the non-juniper kind of malt wine genever gets us very close to 1870's U.S. rye whiskey except where charred casks were used to age the rye whiskey. But as many have noted, for a long time after rye whiskey emerged in Pennsylvania, it would not have been long-aged; and even where aged the casks would not necessarily have been charred. Charred casks became mandatory for rye only when Volstead ended.


11-07-2003, 16:45
>Zeer Oude Genever, dubbel gebeid: 40%. Ook deze genever wordt met een apart
>recept van 100% moutwijn, graandestillaat en kruiden, 2 keer overgehaald
>waarna zij minstens 1 jaar op eiken fusten lagert. Dit is een genever voor de
>notoire oude geneverdrinker, zacht, rond en krachtig".

Babelfish doesn't do Dutch, but www.worldlingo.com (http://www.worldlingo.com) gives this:

Very old Genever, double gebeid: 40%. Genever also these become with a separate
recipe of 100% malt wines, graandestillaat and kruiden, 2 time persuaded
whereupon they at least 1 year on eiken fusten lagert. This is genever for the
notorious old geneverdrinker, gently, round and strongly.

I especially like the last line. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif

Tim Dellinger

11-07-2003, 17:41
Well put, Tim, sounds like a Shakespeare soliliquy on the virtues of strong Dutch drink. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif