Since I was a kid, I remember a strange commercial. A man looking at the sunset with a glass of brandy next to him looking at the sun, without doing really anything. His eyes where just traveling like he was expecting something. And when the sun finally set, he grabs the brandy and enjoys it while the narrator was saying, “Metaxa, the only spirit that waits for you to mature.” Back then my taste buds where not as trained to very strong and earthy flavors, and I didn ‘t really liked the taste of it. And while the time was going by, I grew up and the taste of that Brandy became, from bitter, interesting, good, and finally complex and exceptional. It is a staple in the greek tradition with about 160 years history along side with the greek nation. It is my grandmothers favorite treat and the only spirit that still occasionally drinks.
In Greece it is referred to as Cognac which is somewhat wrong. Brandies in general are distillation of wine mixtures. They mature in oak barrels and their alcoholic content ranges from 35% to 45%. Now, there is a little village in France, that the wines are not that great, but the high sugar content makes them really strong and are perfect for distillation. That village is named Cognac and the Brandy from that region is called Cognac. So here we are talking about the Brandy Metaxa.
Metaxa starts his life as a happy grape soaking up the hot greek summer. The first production of the distillates begins with the various wine varieties (mainly Sabbatiavo and Roditi) that after a double distillation are kept in cellars in relatively small, new, french oak, of the limousine type barrels of 300-350 lt. Those barrels have wide pores serving therefore a more effective oxygenation of the distillates. Some of the distillates are moved in large barrels of 3 cubic meter volume to mature further and used for the main body of the blend.
The mean time wine is being prepared for the Alexandrian and Samian Moschatto form the area of Samos, Limnos and Patras. The wine is maturing for nearly two years in used metaxa barrels. It turns to a deep caramel color with very rich aromas, from the moschatto with dominant the aromas of dried fruits, levanter, white roses and hints of various spices. It ‘s flavor is rich and sweet.
The third part of the process is the most top guarded secret of the company and only a few people now the process and the precise recipe. A mixture of various spices is prepared. The base are the rose petals, spices and other herbal flavorings are added. The final product has a very complex and unique aromatic character that has aromas, of roses, pepper, bay leaf, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Those three blends are mixed at the final blending in such a way that the quality, taste, color and aromas of the brandy are kept as constant as possible. Final steps involve the correction of the color and the balancing of the alcohol levels.
I have tried all of them but the Grant Reserve, which is to expensive for my budget. The three and 5 star are not as different, but the 5 star is certainly more drier making the alcohol more pronounced. The seven and twelve star are much more flavorful and complex, while the twelve is again more dry but that ‘s because there is no addition of wine. In both cases you can literally smell and taste the barrel where the brandy matured in. The grand Reserve, I don ‘t know maybe you can try it and tell me. I just hope it can justify it’s price. It is also very hard to find, it is not called the Grand Reserve for nothing.
This post would just be short, without the tribute the historic figure of Spyros Metaxas, the founder, and first manager of this fine spirits. In 1888 in country that has a little over 50 years of history, a young enthusiastic, buisnessman things that his tavern is not enough. He needs more elegance more challenges. He creates the first Brandy and in the foundation of the first distillation facility. He visualizes a drink that will conquest the world and and therefore he soon build new factories in Instabul and in Odesso. In 1900 the first exports to the united states occurs and the brandy is known as the the flying brandy. Unfortunately death will cut his life short, but his sons are proudly caring on his work. This Brandy is the only greek industry that will survive two truly harsh World Wars. In 1968 the new and current factory is build and although it consist of state of the art equipment, all are resulting to the same great taste as the traditional method.
Metaxa conquer the taste buds of the toughest critics and earned a respectful position in the pantheon of fine spirits. Unfortunately since 1989 it is not anymore part of the Metaxa family and in 200 became part of the Remy Cointreau distribution network. It is still however a proud greek drink that carries the philosophy, spirit, bite and history of every greek.
- Fidel Castro meet with Spyros Metaxa, on his trip in a ship to the states. Metaxa was transporting his Brandy, Fidel was going to Cuba to start a revolution. They both had a shot of the fine spirit and toast to the revolution. Fidel thereafter was a victim of the fine taste om Metaxa.
- Metaxa was the first alcoholic drink ever consumed in space.
- 850 shots of metaxa are consumed every minute (3 are mine)
- Metaxa was one of the major sponsors of the Soccer World Cup in 1982.
- It is exported in over 60 countries.
- No other Brandy has any similar production method.
- Metaxa has a history older that the modern Olympic Games.
The label shows a Salaminomaho, a figure of an ancient greek fighter that was pictured on a coin of that era, found during the excavation of the first factory in 1888.