For a long time, we encounter rakija from the Istrian Aura distillery. The gentle tastes of olive and almond brandy on the Liburnian coast and the strong herb brandy (travarica) in Dalmatia have just made us more willing to visit the distillery in the Istrian town of Buzet, otherwise known for truffles. The summer heat of Central istria turns into a cold bliss of a cellar decorated in an old rural Istrian style. Here, Danijela Kramar and her associates welcome us, and they give us first an excellent gin tonic called Karbun. This is the Istrian word for coal, because in gin one traditionally puts pieces of coal that attract harmful substances and gives a wonderful welcome drink. Gin is made of six types of grain and is served in front of the guest with a little slice of orange. Besides being tasty and light, it refreshes after incredible heat outside.
Every visitor has the opportunity to try out the various products this place offers under the slogan "Hand drawn, lovingly prepared". Indeed, this family distillery deals with the production of exclusive traditional products such as brandy, jams, self-grown plants and wild fruits. Everything is done in an ecologically clean environment in the foothills of the Mount Ćićarija. Aura is known for their original jams, among which are those made of dandelion, blackberry, raspberry, blueberries, figs, plums and cornel. These sweets are made in the distillery itself, and employers can be seen in work behind the glass wall. Apart from jams, there is also a wonderful sweet-bitter chocolate with sage.
However, we came here primarily for brandy, for which is Aura most famous. It is often done from self-grown plants, for which the Sirotić family gathered knowledge from their own home. Aura started with Radenko Sirotić and his wife Aurelia, and most of their business today leads their sin Mišel. In fact, Aura comes from the spouse's names - AUrelia and RAdenko. Over time, the expertise and brand created by Aura is heard throughout Croatia, and certainly wider. After getting acquainted with the production, as well as enjoying in the beautiful plate of cheese, prosciutto, homemade olive oil and olives, we went on a tour of the distillery itself, which is also a standard service for every visitor.
The distillery is located in an old 110-year-old building. Equally old are the oak barrels that can be seen under the old vaults. They were placed here before the building was over, due to its magnificent size. They can accommodate between nine and eleven thousand litres, and in our time the barrels were empty, expecting quality droplets that awaken the body and soul.
The production process begins with fermentation in two inox barrels, in which four types of fruit (apple, pear, grape or plum) are placed. The fermentation lasts from seven to ten days. Following production process is distillation in hand-made copper boilers. 400 kilograms of fruit is placed here, condensing steam at elevated temperature and separating good from bad alcohol. A distillate of brandy is mixed with mineral-free water. Here are also made some other brandies, such as the famous Teranino or brandy / liqueur of Istrian black wine Teran, mixed with spices such as cinnamon and other slightly "harder" spices, which are detectible in the scent.
In the final part maceration is done in inox barrels. Fruits and herbs are scattered in them. First, we smelled the apple distillate in which wild apples were macerated for six months to get the brandy’s taste, smell and colour. Apples are harvested in the central part of Istria and in Ćićarija. Here is also the traditional Istrian brandy Biska, which is a made from yellow mistletoe growing on an oak tree. Leaves are left in grape distillate for two to three months. This Biska is not sweet, has 37 per cent alcohol and is often offered as a welcome drink throughout Istria. Extraordinary is the Biska Extra which is offered as the only such Biska in the market, produced from white mistletoe exclusively picked from the apple trees.
The Aura is proud of its Biska, which was first made two thousand years ago in the vicinity of Buzet, in the world's smallest town of Hum. Considering that the mistletoe was worshiped as a holy plant by the Celts, who lived in Istria, their druids had created a magic drink - Biska. They used them to enter the trance, and undoubtedly today, many Biska enthusiasts enter into a very special trans after they a glass too much.
The special brandy is Millefrutti. After the maceration, it is placed in barrique oak barrels for three years. The limited edition of 600 bottles per year does not have one million fruit, but 15 kinds of fruits giving the strongest brandy in Aura, with 41.3 percent of alcohol. We are trying to imagine ourselves as employees of this distillery and we realize that we would get expelled in a short procedure as we would drink more brandy than we would sell. And we would have a really great choice! In addition to the Biska, Aura offers these brandies: Teranino, honey, wild apple, wild pear, olive and almond, rose, herb, cornel, sage, peppermint, wild fruit, carob, pomegranate, honey and mistletoe, grappa moscato, grappa bianca, and plum. They are all one better from the other!
Aura exports its brandy to various neighbouring countries, and in Croatia there are seven shops where you can taste and buy these Istrian delicacies: in Hum, Buzet, Grožnjan, Vrbnik, Novigrad, and if you forget about these wonderful brandies, you can find them at the last moment at the Zagreb airport, where they can be found as a gift pack in a combination you can choose for yourself! For all other rakija lovers we recommend a tour of the distillery:
Gallery (Photos by Taste of Adriatic & Destilerija Aura)