He usually offers his friends Stara Sokolova Travka, he himself prefers juniper brandy, while Stara Sokolova Sljivovica (Old Hawk's Plum Brandy), which his family traditionally makes for decades, is recognizable in the markets world wide. Ivan Bogdanovic, the Director of R.B. Global, speaks for eKapija about how Stara Sokolova has reached Canada, USA, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, France, Russia, Australia, about the beginnings of the production in the village of Kostojevici near Bajina Basta, and how brandy should be consumed.
In addition to famous plum brandy, the recognizable label with the head of a hawk on a modernly designed bottle with few traditional details can also be found on quince, apricot, pear, honey and juniper brandies, as well as on cognac (vinjak) and bitter liquor (pelinkovac).
Top brandies from state-of-the-arts plant in Serbia
Since they wanted their company to become the leader in the production of fruit brandies, R.B. Global opened a new plant near Bajina Basta in August 2010, of which technology is unique in Serbia.
- In this state-of-the-art brandy production unit in Serbia, about 100 tons of fruits of each kind can be processed and turned into top-quality brandy. We are using only the fruits of domestic manufacturers. The fruit fermentation in strictly controlled conditions, at the controlled temperature, with the use of selected yeasts, produces the best quality, while most scents and flavors are extracted from fruits and preserved in brandies. Our second big advantage lies in the method of distillation. The distillation machine has been made in Serbia thanks to our competence and the innovations of the German system - Ivan Bogdanovic explains the advantages of such production.
R.B. Global in Uzice annually delivers between 50,000 and 100,000 bottles, 50% of which are exported to the markets world wide. Canada, USA, Australia, Russia, Germany, France, Switzerland, Slovakia, Brazil, former Yugoslav republics are some of the countries where one can find Stara Sokolova.
Stara Sokolova can be given as a present, drank at celebrations, in restaurants, and, according to Ivan Bogdanovic, it can be found in all big market chains in Serbia - Delta, Idea, Mercator, Familija, Tuš, Univerexport, etc.
This year, R.B. Global invested 400,000 euros in modernization of the production. The company has 17 employees and it hires seasonal workers when needed.
Traditional drink in Serbia's households
- Just like the majority of Serbian families in western Serbia, we also traditionally produce brandies. Brandy in our country is traditionally kept as a family's capital. Whenever money is needed, brandy can be sold. My father Rade Bogdanovic traveled all around the world on business in the 1990's, and whenever foreigners came to Serbia, he would bring them to the place where he was born. Everybody was delighted with that area and what all of them liked the most was brandy. A friend of our family suggested that what we do for love should be turned into business. That is how we produced the first 500 bottles of brandy in the early 1990's – Ivan Bogdanovic talks about the beginnings of the production of Stara Sokolova plum brandy.
The brandy was named after the area of its origin. The region of western Serbia alongside the Drina river was named Sokolska Nahija (Hawk's Region) at the time of the rule of Turks after the medieval town of Soko (Hawk).
- We were producing only plum brandy for a long time. The first bottles were sold in C Market, Fontana gallery, in Knez Mihajlova Street, and then the brandy found its way to the Belgrade airport and Jat's airplanes. Stara Sokolova was then included in the menus of the best restaurants in Belgrade, while Hyatt and Continental are the first hotels to offer that brandy to their guests – says Bogdanovic.
Since the market recognized the quality, the production was growing by 20-30% on annual basis, and the plum brandy soon became available in the markets of Canada and Germany.
- We started with the production of plum brandy, which is the traditional brandy in our region, and then we started producing juniper brandy. After that, the production of Travka commenced, which is the unique type of brandy with 21 medicinal herbs from the slopes of Zlatibor and Tara mountains. The production of Travka and bitter liquor Zlatiborski Vrh was commenced in association with our friends - the Sisovic family, who are famous herbalists in Uzice.
R.B. Global also produces Soko cognac (vinjak) and it also started producing fruit brandies two years ago (apricot, quince, pear and honey brandy - a combination of plum brandy and natural honey from the territory of Zlatibor).
The quality of Stara Sokolova has also been recognized by experts for this type of drink. Stara Sokolova won the title of the best brandy among 30 brandies from all around the world at the World Plum Brandy Festival in Minnesota in the USA. For three consecutive years, Stara Sokolova wins the "Best from Serbia" award in the category of the best local brand, and it has also won 8 gold medals at the Novi Sad Fair.
- The last award we won was the award for the best brandy and best cognac at the plum fair in Ugljevik in the Republic of Srpska.
Bogdanovic says that it is good that the Law on Rakija (Brandy) has been adopted, but he has objections to certain provisions of that law.
- Every regulation of the market helps us because we do everything by the Law, but I think that people from rural areas should not be forbidden to produce brandy as they used to. What is a peasant who used to make 1,000-2,000 liters of brandy, which he cannot drink or give as a present to his friends, going to do if the state does not offer him a legal way to sell that brandy. Maybe one of the solutions is that the state enables the sale of brandy as a raw material, after it is checked by an inspector, to a manufacturer - says our interlocutor.
Top brandy from oak barrel
In order for the top quality of brandy to be achieved, it is necessary to keep it in oak barrels, says Bogdanovic. As he explains, the quality of a brandy improves until it turns 18, and then its price grows because of the exclusiveness of a long-kept drink.
- The oldest brandy our family possess is from 1968. That brandy is never taken out from the cellar. Instead, our guests taste it in the cellar. The oldest brandy we offer to the market is 12 years old – says Bogdanovic.
Stara Sokolova 12 is a product of the distillation of traditional sorts of plum such as pozegaca and trnovaca. It can be found in the market exclusively in a souvenir packaging. It is recommended for drinking after meals, as a digestive, cooled at 17 degrees Centigrade.
Bogdanovic says that brandies are mainly drank as aperitifs and digestives, chilled at 15-17 degrees Centigrade.
- Travarica (herbal brandy) is an ideal brandy to prepare the stomach for food. Fruit brandies are now very popular and they can be drank whenever one likes.
As Ivan Bogdanovic explains, Stara Sokolova's share in the top-quality fruit brandies market is between 20 and 25%.
- We exclusively produce brandies that people enjoy drinking.