METAXA: the Original Greek Spirit – a Modern Classic!
by Kelly Fanarioti
It all started in 1888 when Spyros Metaxas, an adventurer and man of taste, decided to start his own business in fine goods.
Always travelling, Metaxas discovered different spirits and wines from around the world, but the spirits of his time tended to be harsh on the palate, without much aroma or character. So he dreamed about crafting a unique spirit that was smooth, yet intense. Instead of using sugar or some syrup to “soften” the brandy, he decided to use the sweet Muscat wine of Samos. So he blended the sweet Muscat with the old distillate and the result exceeded his expectations.
And that’s how he created METAXA, the Original Greek Spirit, which for 130 years has been recognized for what it is: a unique amber gem!
As for the unique METAXA emblem, the story says that when Spyros Metaxas built his distillery in Piraeus he found an ancient medallion depicting the Salamina Warrior from the Battle of Salamina which took place in 480 BC in the waters near Piraeus. The Salamina Warrior was a symbol for risk-taking and courage – so it became the perfect emblem for Spyros Metaxas’ new venture.
The years went by and success followed success. And the slogan, “Between us … METAXA,” (“Μεταξύ μας, Μεταξά”, in Greek) became one of the most successful in marketing history and the company lived up to its reputation. On the cold nights of winter METAXA still has a place in every Greek home, while those who know good drink enjoy its amber color and unique flavor and aroma in the special glasses of cognac.
In 1989, with the completion of 100 years since its inception, the Metaxas family retired and sold the company to a group of English interests IDV. Since 2000, METAXA has belonged to the family group of Remy Cointreau, who continues to respect the tradition of Greece’s most famous drink.
“METAXA is Greek by essence: it’s the original Greek spirit always produced and aged in Athens, starting in Piraeus, and since 1968, in Kifissia,” Stephanie Ancel, the CEO of METAXA, told NEO. “The reason for METAXA’s appeal are its intense smoothness, its authentic character, and its uniqueness in origin and savoir-faire. METAXA attracts men and women who are curious, who look for new sensations, who are everyday explorers.”
Right now METAXA is exported to 50 countries, among which US, Canada, Germany, Greece, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. In Greece, METAXA remains the number one amber spirit. The company produces about 11 million bottles a year.
How is METAXA a leader despite the intense competition?
Apart from its uniqueness, Mrs. Ancel says METAXA offers a complete line of products, from METAXA 5 Stars to METAXA AEN, appealing to a broad clientele. “It has a strong identity with a powerful brand campaign based on the theme of exploration embodied by charismatic people such as the well-known professional explorer Mike Horn. It attracts worldwide top-class bartenders, such as The Clumsies in Athens, voted 7th best bar in the world, by the quality and the versatility of its products. Bartenders enjoy creating Signature Cocktails with METAXA 12 Stars. Last year, METAXA joined up with The Clumsies for a unique and big scale pop up event. In July, METAXA & The Clumsies embarked on a journey to explore Greece through unique experiences and creations”.
The House of METAXA does not have a Master Distiller, nor a Master Blender. It has a METAXA Master, Constantinos Raptis – the fifth METAXA Master since 1888 – who embodies the unique savoir-faire of the House. The creation of the spirit is part of a whole ‘’ritual,’’ which starts with the selection of Muscat wines from the Island of Samos for their aromatic concentration and intensity. It continues with fine wine distillates for their character and complexity. Maturing slowly in the cellars of the House, the wine distillates and Muscat wines are aged separately in oak casks to their fullest potential. A secret bouquet of Mediterranean botanicals brings the final touch and then Constantinos Raptis blends them just perfectly to create the one-a-kind amber spirit: METAXA.
Over the years, we have occasionally read several stories associated with this historical spirit. One of them says that METAXA was the first spirit consumed in space. Another one says that it was the favorite of Fidel Castro.
“There are many stories about the Original Greek Spirit during those 130 years,” says Mrs. Ancel. “Last April 2018, METAXA was also part of history, being the first spirit to be consumed on top of the Mount Everest. Neil Laughton, a former British special forces officer and his team of seven alpinists broke the world record by organizing the world’s highest feast on Mount Everest, at 7050m, where they explored the METAXA 12 Stars Signature Cocktail ‘North Col’ made by Mr. Fogg’s top bar.”
NEO’s Demetrios Rhompotis recommends Metaxa Angels’ Treasure, a blend of Muscat wine from Samos and grape spirit which has been aged for more than 50 years in French oak. Rich and fruity with notes of orange peel, sweet spice, chocolate and toffee. Small numbers of these bottlings are released every year, and named after the Angels’ Share explanation for spirit evaporation from casks. Always blame it on the angels!