Sunday, March 18, 2012

White Lion Very Special Old Arrack - Sun. March 18th

For me, my thesis was quite the learning experience, mainly in a two-fold manner. First, four months of exhaustive research on barrel aging and wood effects has provided me a solid backbone for what I do today. Second, because I got analytical samples from several companies for GC-MS comparison, I got a wee nip of some spirits that have really pushed boundaries for me. This is one of them.

When you're in Scotland, it's easy to get stuck in a whisk(e)y rut. I'd been drinking whisky and whiskey for close to almost a year straight (HA PUN). We had a bit of rum in there one night but the majority of my consumption was barley based: beer and whisk(e)y. So I had gotten into a comfortable, albeit staid, position of what I was drinking. Then along came Tim Olsen. I reached out to Tim on Twitter in the hopes of getting an analytical sample of a spirit I had never even heard of, much less tasted. Arrack is what I needed, which is a beverage made out of coconut flower sap collected in large pots that is wild fermented and distilled in pot stills. Tim was kind enough to send along a substantial volume of his White Lion VSOA for me to "analyze" (he was vague on this) and he told me that it would be imported to the US soon. I needed it for lab testing but since Tim sent me such a large sample, who was I to pass up an opportunity to try something new. And baby, it shook me. It was the wake-up call I needed. It fueled the fire of branching out into rums, into calvados, into cognac. Into things not influenced by the alluring touch of my good pal John Barleycorn.

Literally a blank bottle. The label I put on there to keep me from confusing it with a blended scotch I had.
Here is a picture of the sample bottle. You find, when you start receiving samples, you get two kinds of samples. One sample is the full bottle, picture pretty. It's nice but I rarely need a full bottle, unless its something that I want to tinker with in drinks or in high balls. The the random sample. Bottles of all shapes, sizes, and previous uses. I've gotten stuff in Ball jars, TSA approved plastic shampoo bottles (clean), small vials that distinctly would look like drugs if it hadn't had a picture of the bottle laminated on with clear tape, and all sorts of miscellany. I like them better. They got character; pizzazz. I won't lie. I give the samples that come to my door a rating on the ol' pizzazz scale. But I digress. Here's the notes.

Nose: Almost rum-like. Heavy molasses. Touch of sulfur and a little pot still funk, like a Jamaican rum. Nice fruit bouquet in there: pineapple, mango, exotic fruits.

Taste: Mango and pineapple. Watermelon? Raspberries too. Definitely a fruity spirit. Almost like a fruit infused honey. A little hot and prickly on the finish but overall agreeable. Tim LIES. It's quite good.

I am intrigued. To be honest, I've never had arrack before and I was a little scared when Tim said that it was pretty rough and tumble but it's a fine beverage. Would I buy it? Sure would, depending on the price. It's an import so import taxes can be a bear but I could see myself putting down $20-$25 for a bottle to see what concoctions I could make with it. I think the crux of the spirit is the fact that it has NONE of the traditional malt characteristics and, since it uses a sap as it's fermentation bill, it's got a whole lot more chemical processes to go through, resulting in different flavors. And the fruit forward nature of it, with such intensity, makes it pretty cool.

Bear in mind that this is the batch from...gosh...almost a year ago so things may have changed. But I can't see it changing much more. Ignore Tim's "warning" that it's an "unrefined" product. S'good. And trust me Tim, I've had MUCH more unrefined stuff. Like distilled Olde English 800.

But I don't talk about that.


  1. Been searching for this product category online in U.S. for years. Mendes coconut brandy seems to have gone down in flames with the 2009 financial meltdown just as they were ramping up marketing to the 1% with diamond encrusted bottles. I am ecstatic this is now a domestically available item at a reasonable price. Gargantuan thanks to C. Uhde at JVS Imports for getting me over the hump of discovering a retail source, HiTimes (Costa Mesa CA) SKU 101683.

    1. Morlock,

      Looked into the stuff you were talking about and I'm afraid it's not the same thing. What you're looking at from JVS Imports is arak, a Middle Eastern anise flavored spirit:

      I do recommend contacting Tim at to see if he can help you find the coconut based one.