Surakas has quickly become one of the most interesting craft distilleries in Estonia. Most of the small producers distill gin, but Surakas operates in the area of flavored vodkas. Instead of following the footsteps of big producers and making another different version of cranberry or rhubarb vodka, Surakas goes his own way and uses quite original raw materials in its products. I do not know many distilleries which use fireweed, ginger and mint to flavor vodka. However blackcurrant and chili pepper are already used by other producers. Chili vodka is produced by several producers and blackcurrant has been used, at least by Absolut (Kurrant). But I doubt if anyone else has been able to combine these two beforehand. Surakas uses whole blackcurrants as well as chili peppers, both are organically grown. Similarly, the raw spirit is also made from organically grown grain, distilled from winter rye. Surakas Blackcurrant & Chili is available at several restaurants and bars, but the easiest way to purchase it is to order directly from the manufacturer’s online store www.surakas.ee, where a 50cl bottle costs about € 25.
The nose has a pleasant blackcurrant aroma. There is also something slightly earthy or vegetal in the background that comes from chili pepper. The taste has blackcurrant, but it is not dominant and it is not as strong as the aroma. On the palate, the chili emerges as a slightly original flavor. The alcohol bites sharply but shortly at first, after which the chili begins to tingle on the tongue and mouth. Vodka made from rye has its own strong and spicy aroma, and it is difficult to know whether the sharp burn comes from it or chili pepper. Chili’s stinging burn stays pretty short in the mouth and it could be stronger. Blackcurrant is well displayed in aroma and taste, but it is still balanced with chili. Reconciling and balancing these two very different raw materials have probably been a daunting task. Surakas has done it very well, but not perfectly. Maybe they’ll still slightly adjust the recipe in future patches.
If you like to make cocktails, Chili & Blackcurrant suits them very well too. If you want to get the most out of the aroma and flavor, tonic waters and other mixers should be left out. Surakas works best in short, Sour– and Martini-style drinks, where the blackcurrant comes out nicely and there is still enough kick of chili pepper in the tingling aftertaste. But as soon as you add tonic or soda water to the glass, the chili disappears and only a light blackcurrant aroma remains.
Surakas Chili & Blackcurrant is an interesting and original product. The taste of blackcurrant is natural and it really feels like it comes from whole berries and not from juice or essences. However, the chili part of the product is a bit light. We are waiting with great interest for what Surakas will develop next.