By Valentina Phillips
The travelling Spirits Selection by Concours Mondial chose Bulgaria to host the next competition
The town of Plovdiv in Bulgaria will become the world’s spirits capital in 2018 when Spirits Selection by Concours Mondial de Bruxelles hosts its 18th event there. To mark the occasion Alexander Darzhikov Deputy Mayor of Plovdiv, Plamen Panov Chief Expert in the Department of “Development and international cooperation” of the municipality of Plovdiv and Christophe Sepulveda owner of Probegex hosted a dinner with typical Bulgarian drinks. Three international mixologists prepared a cocktail based on the traditional Bulgarian drink rakia, asking attendees to vote for their favourite.
“This is the second time Concours Mondial has chosen Bulgaria”, commented Baudouin Havaux, Chairman of the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. “In 2016, Bulgaria hosted our wine contest. We were impressed by the quality of the locally produced drinks and the motivation of the people to hold an event of such international magnitude”, he continued. “In 2019 Plovdiv will be Europe’s capital of culture”, added Thierry Heins, Director of Spirits Selection. “Our international panel of judges will discover not only the historical and cultural heritage of this little known Eastern European country, but also its local spirits and the authentic stories behind them.”
Bulgaria has taken part in Spirits Selection since 2015. The number of entries by the country has been relatively stable since then. In 2017, Bulgaria submitted samples of rakia, vodka, brandy, rum, whisky and liqueur, with the number of rakia entries the highest. In 2016, seven out of the 18 entries were awarded a medal, a success rate of nearly 40%. Interestingly, the four gold medals went to locally produced brandy, vodka and gin.
According to a 2016 report by the World Health Organization, Bulgaria ranks 8th for spirits consumption in the Old World (13.6 litres of pure alcohol per capita per year). Europeans are the heaviest consumers of spirits in the world, reports WHO.
According to data from the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy, in 2015 there were 79 registered spirits producers, with those making rakia topping the list, followed by producers of vodka, and gin.
Research agency Nielsen noted that in 2015 the highest consumption of spirits in Bulgaria was of vodka, rakia, whisky, and mastika. Rakia came third in sales both in terms of volume and value (after wine and vodka), with the preferred style being grape-based. Nielsen research, however, does not include home-produced rakia which is very popular and permitted by the local government.
Rakia (40% to 80% alcohol content) is considered the national drink of Bulgaria. Historical evidence suggests that the drink was first consumed in the 9th century, whilst industrial production began in the 18th century. Although grape rakia is the most common in Bulgaria, the taste spectrum is broader: it can be made from pears, quince, figs, cherry, apricot, peach and even roses. When a child was born, Bulgarians would tuck away a bottle of rakia made in the same year, and dig it out years later, for the wedding.
The 18th Spirits Selection by CMB will be held from August 21 to 23, 2018, in the town of Plovdiv with the support of the Ministry of Economy and Plovdiv municipality.
Spirits Selection by CMB is the only touring competition in the world, and the only one to perform quality control tests on award-winning spirits.