POLUGAR. A REVIVAL
What comes to mind when you think about the Russian national drink?
Vodka, of course. But what type of vodka did they drink during the time of Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Dostoevsky, Chekhov or Pushkin? Which Russian vodka was so highly thought of by the European kings and queens and noblemen?
Please believe, it was very different from the vodka you are familiar with today. Back then distillation (rectification) columns had not been invented yet and ethyl alcohol could not used as it is today. Rectification technology was invented in Western Europe for chemical industry and reached Russia in 1870 only.
Absolutely every vodka in the world, produced between 1895 and 2012, based on rectified pure alcohol (spirit) without taste and aroma.
Back then (before 1895) vodka was a grain drink distilled in copper pot stills just like single malt whisky and was called Breadwine or Polugar.
Polugar was banned in Russia back in 1895 when a state monopoly was introduced and there was a shift to just using rectified ethyl alcohol to make vodka. All of the traditional distilleries with their copper pot stills were destroyed. Alcohol started being produced using modern technologies in rectification distillation columns, and the recipes of the grain distillates of the nobility were forgotten.
Current Russian legislation still forbids traditional grain distillation in Russia. Only ultra-pure 96% ethyl alcohol for vodka can be made from grain. Which is why we produce polugar in the European Union in Poland, where the old distillery has been restored. The Rodionov and Sons private distillery is situated next to an old palace in a forest, away from other manufacturing sites, roads, and large cities.
The word Polugar means half-burned breadwine. Back when alcohol meters had not yet been invented and they needed to determine the strength and, accordingly, the price of a drink, they would use the following test - boil and burn two portions of the drink and, after burning, one portion of water should be left. In other words, the drink was half burned off, which is why it got the name "Polugar" (from the Russian for "half-burned"). When alcohol meters were invented and they measured the strength of Polugar, it appeared to be 38,5%.
Polugar is mentioned in classic works of Russian literature:
Ivan Krylov's fable "Two men", 1825
"And I must admit that I drank too much polugar with my friends."
Vissarion Belinsky, "Saint Petersburg and Moscow", 1844
"However, the people of Saint Petersburg are somewhat different from those from Moscow: apart from polugar and tea, they also like coffee and cigars."
But have you ever tried an alcoholic drink with the natural taste and aroma of rye bread? Polugar is the real legendary Russian breadwine, restored using all of the traditional technologies and recipes from the 18th and 19th centuries. It is "father" of Russian vodka. It has not been produced over the past 115 years, it is 38.5% alc.(vol), smells of rye bread and has a soft, pleasant and refined taste.
Thanks to a recipe found in a book from the 18th century by the well-known Russian vodka historian, academic and writer, Boris Rodionov, you have the chance to try the drink of the Russian nobility which was enjoyed in Russia 250 years ago.
This lost symbol of traditional Russian gastronomy first made a comeback thanks to the efforts of a family of Rodionov who were keen to restore the former glory of traditional Russian distillates, which enjoyed their golden era during the time of the noble distilleries of the 18th century.
In terms of its taste, Polugar is unlike any alcoholic drink available today. Everyone who has tried it raves about its natural bread taste and aroma and is unable to compare it with any other known alcoholic drink. Polugar is not like modern vodka. It is something different, a more ancient type of alcohol, which was produced in Russia from the 17th century to the end of the 19th century, back when all spirits made from grain were produced the way nowadays all the single malt Scottish whisky is produced - in the copper pot stills.
For distillation in traditional copper pot stills (alembics) we use selected farming rye, natural water, and we only use traditional technologies when brewing. Our Polugar replicates the taste of the drink from the 18th century when, instead of a long aging process in oak barrels, the rich noblemen and landowners of Russia used more progressive cleaning techniques with natural egg white which carefully preserved the taste of the raw materials - a delicious aromatic rye flavor. Now you have the change to enjoy the most traditional russian alcohol - Polugar.