When I visited Greece earlier in the year, I cam across a spirit I’ve admittedly heard of, but never really experienced in its true form. Since then, two expressions have come to the UK with fanfare as they look to get the UK embracing its next wave of traditional spirits.
But what is Mastiha?
Mastiha is the use of an essential oil extract from the natural resin of the small evergreen, and rather rare, mastiha tree. Only grown in the southern part of the Greek island of Chios (other variations grow elsewhere, but none produce the special resin needed), Mastiha is used in a wide range of health products over the centuries, but more commonly in the digestif of a mastiha liqueur.
So how do you produce such a digestif?
Due to the trees being looked after by local families, a sense of craftsmanship ensues as each tree is matured for around 50 years. When ready to harvest (or ‘kentos as it is known’) during the warmer summer months, small incisions to the tree trunks and branches are made to allow the resin droplets to be released and seep out, forming translucent golden crystals known as the ‘mastiha tears’. These crystals are then collected, washed in spring water and separated from impurities by hand throughout the winter.
As mentioned, two expressions have hit the UK recently, Enosis and Kentos. Kentos embodies the very special know-how of mastiha production as explained above, whilst Enosis means ‘Union’ and is named after the Chios Mastiha Growers’ Association (or Union of Growers) by the local mastiha experts themselves. The liqueur pays tribute to the tradition, hard work and united spirit of the local agriculturist families.
So how do they fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Enosis – 30%
Slight sharp dryness on the nose, with bark and herbal notes present. Soft, thick viscosity and plenty of sweet mint on the palate, followed by root and cedar wood flavours on the bright, long finish.
Kentos – 20%
Dry notes of sweetened bark, with plenty of root and dried herbal aromas on the nose. A thinner profile on the palate, with a subtle focus on sweeter herbs and liquorice. Subtle notes of oak, with a lingering finish.
Two similar yet distinctively different flavour profiles, both perfect either on its own chilled, or as a base for a signature cocktail.
Dry Enosis Martini
50 ml Enosis Mastiha liqueur
25 ml Carpano Antica Formula
10 ml Campari
2 dashes Angostura Orange Bitter
Stir and serve into coupe glass. Decorate with a dried orange wheel
Or perhaps for the more adventurous,
United In Tears
40 ml Enosis Mastiha liqueur
25 ml Tawny Port 10 yrs
15 ml Mazailla Sherry
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
Twist of Orange
Throw the ingredients within a cocktail tin and garnish with orange zest and dehydrated orange wheel.
A really interesting Greek spirit here, that takes a different slant towards what you would normally expect to see from the Mediterranean countries that we’ve grown accustomed to here in the UK. Find a place in your drinks cabinet and offer your friends and family something a little different after your meal.
© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.