The chequers distillate is due to the scarcity of fruits from which it’s distilled the most expensive fruit distillate, often referred to as the "Queen of the Spirits". Every year, in Slovakia, we are able to distill up to 100 liters of this delicacy, and the Bird Valley Distillery is the only official producer of chequers distillate all over the world.
If you have not had the chance to encounter chequers yet, you won’t not be the only one. The fruits of Sorbus domestica, fort which is also used the spoken name "service tree", today belongs to newly rediscovered natural medicaments. Even though it comes from the area around the Mediterranean Sea, it does very well in the conditions of the mild climate zone as well, where it has been spread thanks to the medieval Roman soldiers, who for many centuries benefited from its beneficial effects. The prominent Roman poet of his time, Vergilius, has described in one of his poems as a miraculous medicine for the digestive tract - that is why Roman soldiers took it to distant lands and planted on grounds of Central Europe.
From a botanical point of view, they are the largest fruit trees, they have the hardest wood, from which in the past heavy wooden mechanical components for grape pressing in traditional vineyards and walking sticks were made. It also has the largest fruits among the sorbus family. In 1993, it was even declared the European Tree of the Year. Trees themselves are self-wildering individuals (so-called solitaires). They grow up to 25 meters in height, with a diameter of 1.5 meters and in our condition (mild climate) they can live up to 500 years. One of the attractions is that each chequers tree is different. They differ in the size and shape of the fetus, the leaves, the way of growth, even the kernels. Among the basic shapes of the fruit, we distinguish pear and apple.
The use of chequers fruit is quite diverse and in the recent years it has been re-used in modern gastronomy, but the rarest and most valuable remains their distillate and the reasons are several. By estimate, there are only a few hundred adult trees in the Slovak region, the original trees that did not undergo breeding, and we take care of nine of them, each of which is 150-200 years old. Traditionally, the seed of chequers must first pass through the digestive tract of a mammal or a bird and with it’s excrements as fertilizer, to be able to root and grow up.
Fruit picking, which is difficult and time-consuming since we harvest only the fruits of the highest stage of ripening, and from the ground after it falls down of the tree, begins in September and lasts almost two months. After the harvest, the fruits are spread in thin layers and mature on sun and fresh fresh air. Finally, only undamaged, fully ripe berries, cleaned of leaves and possible impurities are added to the mash.
Chequers mash fermentation takes place for 4-6 weeks in hermetically sealed barrels without access to air, and then the ferment is distilled in a copper 4-stage column. The yield of such a rare distillate is relatively high, approximately 3-4 liters of 100 liter of mash. The final distillate is beautifully aromatic and enchants with exceptional flavor. As a rule, it has been left for aging at least 12 months before being bottled. It is used for digestive problems or just for joy :)
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