Cretan raki distillers
Autumn in Crete is a magical season; the nature is balancing between the scorching heat of summer and the cold of the winter.
The time of the vintage, the wine, the distillation of vine pomace in good company; all these are combined together in a beautiful and magical way in Crete.
The main instrument for the distillation of the pomace (the pieces of grapes (including the stems and seeds) that were pressed for the winemaking process) is the alembic: a large cauldron made of copper that passes from father to son along with the permission to use it. Only a few people are given a license to own and use a rakokazano (raki-alembic); therefore, to acquire one, one can either buy from another license-owner or inherit it from their father.
People who want to distill their pomace in order to produce the raki of the year have to contact the owner of the alembic and also provide the firewood. When his turn comes, he goes to the alembic along with all his friends, an orchestra and his pomace.
The ritual and the feast.
The owner of the alembic, using the knowledge that his father has passed to him, starts the ritual by placing the pomace into the cauldron. Riveted joints were kept tight by using a dough made of flour and ashes. The alembics featured a cooling system around the beak, using cold water for instance, in order to make the condensation of alcohol more efficient. The first batch that drips out is too strong for most people to drink it. As time passes by, the alcohol content of the raki drops. The rakokazano becomes the centre of the feast surrounded by the distinct aromas of the pomace, the alembic and the raki. Once you live it, you always want to go back. The feast lasts for the whole day; a trip to the past, a short escape from the world of today.