Simply because I happen to have a small collection of araks, I just revisited them and jotted down some cursory tasting notes:
Batavia-Arrack van Oosten
This is the Haus Alpenz product available domestically. It is known to be functional in punches.
The nose is the most rum-like, and it’s a bit vegetal like mezcal or rhum agricole. On the palate, Van Oosten is a bit bitter, and maybe even smoky, sort of. It is hot (as expected). Definitely not a sipper.
A. V. Wees Arac Java-Baru (40º)
This bottling is from a longstanding distillery-now-pub operation in Amsterdam.
This bottling is softer and rounder in both nose and taste, with unmistakable effects of light wood aging. The liquor also possesses more body, and could be mistaken for a whiskey or brandy if you’re not paying attention. Pleasant and drinkable on its own.
Grünerwald Batava-Arak (40º)
This bottling is (or was) relatively common in Amsterdam.
The nose is not particularly interesting or assertive—there’s something there, but not a lot. On the palate, the bottling has the most overall complex flavor, directly evocative to me of the alcohol flavoring in better chocolates. And confections, I understand, is exactly what this product is mainly used for. I consider this definitely drinkable on its own, although I wouldn’t necessarily seek it out for that purpose.
Boven’s echter Arrack Indonesien (58º)
This bottling is from a producer in Germany, near Hamburg, and it is known to be functional in punches.
This one is the most aromatic, and also the most ester-y. On the palate, it is hot (as expected), but not as rough as expected. Overall, a bit one-note.