Arab alcoholic drinks, especially beer and wine, are often lambasted by Europeans and Americans. I don’t think this is fair at all. Spirits here are often much more flavourful than what we’re used to at home. Some drinks are of high quality, and amazingly good value: so some people, myself sometimes included, just need to forget their preconceived notions momentarily when trying them. So this new section of my blog – inspired by the great work at www.arabicliquor.com to which I owe a huge stylistic debt already – is a challenge to the prevailing notion in the Anglo-Saxon world that lager should taste like fizzy pish. Another glass of Smirnoff or some other vodka which also has no flavour whatsoever? I say ‘la shukran’.
Bolanachi ‘Zibiba Extra’
The front label has a few lines of old nineteenth-century style Arabic script in the top right corner asserting the quality of the raw materials and the manufacturer’s Alexandrian credentials, although times change as at the bottom al-Ahram is named as the current parent company. 42% ABV.
Smells just like araq or ouzo. It’s quite viscous. You can see louching in the glass immediately with only a couple of ice cubes. Another whiff from the glass isn’t too overpowering.
With water added in the same way as for araq, the drink’s aroma is much fainter and indistinguishable from araq but for the milder aniseed smell. The most obvious aspect of the flavour is its dryness. Also apparent after a few sips are this zibib’s floral undertones and crisp, short aftertaste. After about half an hour the distinctive milky colour starts to fade, an effect perhaps associated with the milder aniseed taste and lower alcohol content of zibib when compared with araq.
My first try of a native Egyptian spirit is good. Zibib is made of raisins and araq pomace (like grappa), but I’m not sure whether this difference alone accounts for Bolanachi’s unique flavour. Regardless, it compares favourably with other spirits from these, and it’s certainly good value for money. Try it. 8/10.