Alcohol, as we know, is an excellent preservative. Fruit in alcohol goes through the cold winter seasons and many foods that we eat are kept "fresh" thanks to alcohol. Alcohol is also a solvent and has the ability to extract and dissolve the essence of the vegetal substances it comes into contact with.
In the past, alcohol was used in medical preparations of essences as well as for an elixir of long life, thanks to its presumed properties of fortifying the body and mind. The process of soaking medicinal plants and various fruits in the distillate has very old origins, both in the popular tradition and in pharmaceutical science. Today, flavouring Grappa is mainly a matter of taste and pleasure.
Flavoured Grappas are obtained by preparing an alcoholic tincture, i.e. a concentrated solution of alcohol in which the required essence was previously soaked, subsequently diluted in larger quantities of Grappa. Another method is leaving medicinal herbs - their leaves, barks, roots or a whole sprig - or a wide variety of fruits to soak directly in the distillate. This gives life to liquorice, rue or even blueberry flavoured Grappas.
But there are many other varieties available on the market, or even home-made. Normally the soaking process can last up to a couple of weeks, whereas the proportions respected are approximately 5 parts of Grappa to one part of plant or fruit to be used. The soaking is followed by a short filtration process to make the liquid pure and transparent. However, light shades can be created by the essence used in the Grappa and are to be considered as perfectly normal.
When a medicinal plant or fruit is left to soak in the Grappa, it releases its aromatic properties into the distillate, changing the taste and appearance of the latter. Thus, a Grappa with infusion of honey will take on shades similar to yellow and a sweet taste, whereas blueberry will colour the Grappa an intense blue-purple, at the same time offering a very distinct after-taste of the fruit. Italian law provides for the adjustment of Grappa with a small amount of sugar, which enhances and completes the flavouring process.
Compared to pure Grappas, tasting flavoured Grappas is an opportunity for an easily enjoyable, more casual tasting experience, also thanks to their often lower alcoholic content.