Hello, my name is Bobby Bardossas, co-founder of BetterStills.com. This company was founded by my friend Jake and I; two guys from New Jersey who often talked of moving to the country and living a self-sufficient life style.
Jake took a big step in that direction in 2009 when he sold all his worldly belongings, packed his bags and moved to a rural town in Serbia called Vrsač (Verr-shots), in search of a simpler life. His grandparents were retired farmers there and he wished to look after them and to glean as much possible knowledge from them as possible in their twilight years.
Jake had already discovered the ubiquitous “rakija” (ra-kee-ya) on his first visit to his grandparents in 2008. Rakija is a type of brandy distilled from fermented fruit. It wasn’t until moving there one year later that it became apparent that there was an extremely vibrant home distillation culture there. (You can read about his first experience with distillation here ) The economy there is largely based on agriculture with some of the most fertile land in Eastern Europe. Nearly everyone has a few fruit trees somewhere and every third or fourth house in the villages has their own copper pot still. Serbian plum brandy, or Šljivovica (shlee-vo-veetsa), dates back so far and is so well known worldwide, that in 2007 the EU awarded Serbia with trademarks for its plum brandy and four other types of fruit based brandy. This makes Serbia the only country to have any trademarks for rakija brands.
With a tradition stretching back a millennium or more, absolutely no legal restrictions and a complete lack of a “throw-away culture”, the conditions for perfecting the art of high quality copper still production and the art of distillation itself could not be better.
Fast forward a few years and I finally took Jake up on his offer to visit him in Serbia for Christmas and New Year’s 2012-2013. By this point Jake had already purchased a small plum and apple orchard and had been distilling plum and apple brandy for a few years. I was speaking to him regularly on Skype since he moved and his excitement about his new hobby started to rub off on me. Jake arranged for a few friends to wait for my arrival before distilling a batch of plum brandy. The entire process was fascinating and I returned to New Jersey with “the bug”.
An extensive search for a high quality copper still like the one I saw on my visit to Serbia was in vain. I found little more than cheap, thin copper “moonshine” stills and expensive industrial sized equipment. Being an entry level distiller primarily interested in fruit based brandy distillation, none of the options I saw available really suited my needs.
With the help of Jake’s local knowledge and newly acquired language skills, we began searching for the highest quality stills available in Serbia. We found a manufacturer with an impeccable reputation of producing high quality factory made stills for over half a century. Armed with this new knowledge and confident in my decision, I placed my order and began the painful process of importing my 200 liter (53 gallon) copper still. It was the first of its kind to be sent to America.
When it finally arrived I couldn’t be prouder! Friends, relatives and neighbors began to marvel at my copper masterpiece and express a similar interest in the hobby. A light bulb went off, an idea. Why not import these stills, deal with the painful process of importing and customs clearance, and offer these stills on the American market?
So Jake and I decided to team up, partner up with the best, most reputable manufacturers in The Balkans and start selling Europe’s finest distillation equipment here in America. The brainchild of this partnership is betterstills.com. Jake serves as our boots on the ground in Serbia. He oversees shipments from the factory, holds meetings with our suppliers when required and handles our Serbo-Croatian speaking customers here in America. I handle the American side of the operation; handling customer relations and product delivery and distribution.
We are both avid hobby distillers and have a real passion for both our products and the process. See our CONTACT US page if you have any questions and we hope you’ll join us in the growing home distillation movement sweeping America today! Welcome!