Brandy and Rakija – anything in common?

Ever heard of rakija or rakia? Or arak? Or grappa? Or mastika? Or slivovitz? Or brandy?


Some say rakia is derived from Arabic araq or arak, meaning wine. It was used in the Middle East for all sorts of spirits destilled from grapes and wine. Turkish conquering of the Balkans brought new meanings: all spirits with high percentage of alcohol were named rakia. Or rakija in Slavic version.

Since Balkan peninsula is rich in aromatic fruit, probably most aromatic in the whole world, rakia became a common name for spirit distilled from fruit. So, grappa is a kind of brandy distilled from grape, mostly appreciated in Croatia – Dalmatia and Italy. Slivovitz or slivovice or slivovica or sljivovica is brandy distilled from plum (common Slavonic name, sljiva = plum)  and it is appreciated and praised mostly in Slavic countries.

Why do we call it brandy in English version nowadays? They have very few similarities. If it is a bit sweet and yellow, it can be very similar to brandy. Tawny yellow color is granted to fruit brandy by its oak barrel: if the brandy is aged in a barrel for at least couple of months, it becomes smooth and harmonized.

The kind of a brandy on the picture was aged in barrique barrels and is probably most similar to  brandy in its common meaning.