On a recent trip to Athens Bar Show we got to learn a whole lot more about a new product called Axia.
Axia were our hosts for two days so we had plenty of opportunities to chat to two of the company’s founders, Adrian Clarke a 7th generation member of the Bacardi family and Tony Chvala a marketing powerhouse. We also were treated to a private masterclass at the show but it was at their show seminar we really got some of the geeky brand chat.
Leading the session was the Axia Global Brand Ambassador Giannis Miliotis, a Greek ex-bartender with a longstanding love of all things Mastiha. So let’s get into Axia and have a proper look at this new spirit and the fascinating mastiha which is at its heart.
For those of you who haven’t heard of mastiha before it is the resin that comes from the Mastic tree. Mastic trees grow all over the world, you could probably grow one in your back garden if you wanted, but only on the island of Chios in Greece do the produce masticha, and even then only in the south of the island.
The locals refer to the seeping of the resin from the trees as the trees crying due to the teardrop shape they make. Apart from old wives’ tales there is no definitive reason why it is only the south of Chios (it is said that if you move a tree from the south to the north of the island it will stop crying) that see the trees produce, but you won’t be surprised to hear that Chios Mastiha is protected by the European Union as a Protected Designation of Origin product (PDO).
Not only can mastiha only be found on one half of one island, it can only be harvested between July and October each year. As a result it isn’t surprising to hear that mastiha is a prized and expensive product. Each tree can be harvested for 70 years so it is also one of the most sustainable botanicals available.
The resin was discovered no later than the 5th century and is the original chewing gum, with Ancient Greeks (followed by Romans and so on) using it to freshen their breath. We got to try some at the show, basically you take some of the resin and stick it in your gob, it starts hard and slowly softens up, at the beginning it has a bitter taste but as you chew the herbaceous notes that Axia was drawn to come through.
Mastiha is also widely used in Greek cooking, from cheeses to deserts but it is as a liqueur it is best known these days (it has also been used as a snakebite antivenom for centuries – we didn’t try that at the show!). If you have ever been to Greece, or a Greek restaurant, and had a shot of something sweet and a bit piney served to you at the end of your meal then you have tried Mastiha, this sweet liqueur is also known as Mastika and this is how we will refer to it from here on in for ease of reading.
Mastika is a still very popular drink in Greece, but its sweetness and Grandma vibes have seen it fall out of favour with young drinkers and cocktail bartenders. This is the reputation of mastiha liquids that Axia wanted to challenge.
This is where another of the founders, Nikos Kalogiannis, enters the story. He is a 5th generation Greek ouzo producer, and it was his expertise that Adrian brought in to develop what is now Axia. They spent three years working, experimenting and playing with mastiha, producing untold variations before they found the perfect formula for a dry, mastiha spirit.
When they say dry, they mean it, unlike Mastika there is only 0.5% sugar in Axia and for all your health-conscious customers it has 30% fewer calories than vodka and still comes in at 40% ABV.
Axia is produced under the watchful eye of master distiller Maroussa Tschaki at the Plomari Distillery on the island of Lesvos just north of Chios. The raw mastiha crystals are first macerated before being twice distilled using traditional hand-crafted copper stills.
As for the taste you can expect notes of bergamot, cedar, cypress, mint grass and pepper with a fragrant, rose aroma. In short it is eminently mixable, as we have discovered numerous times over the past couple of months.
If you want to try Axia get hold of your local Cask Liquid Marketing rep or check out their website. Alternatively google it you lazy gits.
To read the longer article about the Athens Bar Show trip click here