@FORMICA, the process of distillation was known long, long before the 17th century. The earliest mention of it is in ancient Greek times. Not only that, but distillation for the production of alcohol was certainly used at least several centuries before the 17th – f.e. in medieval Bulgaria (and the situation is likely the same in Byzantium), we have archaeological finds of exquisite distillers from the 9th-10th century or so, though they’re relatively few in number (and maybe weren’t used for alcohol). However, from around the 12th-13th century there’s a boom of a greater quantity of lower-quality distillers, suggesting the distillation of alcohols had spread from the elite (as it was previously) to the lower classes. Around that same time alcohol distillates appear in Western Europe as well, I think.
And in the 14th century we already have a mention of rakia (a ceramics fragment with the graffiti inscription “I drank rakinya on the holiday”). I’ve even read an idea that the etymology of rakia might actually not be Arabic, but Slavic instead, from the supposedly old Slavic word of “rakka”, meaning “empty-head”. Though I haven’t heard of such a Slavic word (rakka) before, so I rather doubt that.


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