Odd Spirits: Agwa de Bolivia

Bet you’ve never had alcohol made from cocaine….

Ok, so technically this isn’t “liquid cocaine”, but Agwa is the only legal beverage on the planet that actually uses the coca leaf.

To start, the coca leaves are picked above 2000 metres in the Andes and arrive, under full armed guard, in 200 kilo bales west of Amsterdam to the first production facility where they are immediately macerated (cut finely) in a maceration tank. This liquid is pot distilled to a strength of 78 – 82% depending on the leaf. This maceration strips out the majority of the psychoactive chemicals in cocaine, which is what makes this drink still legal.

The pure coca leaf distillate is then ‘rested’ before being forwarded to a second facility where 36 other natural herbs and natural botanicals are added. The taste is rounded out to create a complex and harmonious blend of flavours, hand-crafted by Wim Koolhaas – a world master blender and “flavouroligist.”

This exceptionally potent high strength formula is then transported to a third facility and is reduced to 30% ABV with the purest five-times distilled, grain neutral spirit, water, lime juice concentrate and sugars. The natural green colour is augmented with colouring before being tank rested, tasted and carefully checked and matched to control pre-bottling.

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Now, because only the cocaine is removed from the coca leaf, leaving the other alkaloids untouched, Agwa has some interesting after effects. First, it offers up a strange numbing sensation in the back of the mouth, along with a bit of an energetic buzz.

So with all that being said, can you find Agwa? Well, it’s not impossible, but it certainly isn’t easy. The addition of coca makes things complicated, and a lot of countries are pretty strict about allowing the sale of Agwa. That being said, it sells quite well in Amsterdam, so if you’re ever in the area you know what to look for.

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