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Exploring... Mastiha

What is it?

A liqueur that’s made from the resin of the mastiha, or Pistacia Lentiscus, tree on the Greek island of Chios.

While these trees grow across the Mediterranean, it is only those situated on southern Chios, around the Mastihohoria (mastic villages) that it is made from. There are pretenders out there, often made with artificial flavours and aromas, so to ensure you have the real deal, look for the ‘100% Authentic Mastiha’ stamp from the growers’ association.

Unfortunately, there have been two wildfires on Chios in the last decade, with the 2016 outbreak in particular wiping out a significant number of the mastiha trees, which has had an impact upon supply.

In order to harvest the mastic, the trees are ‘wounded’ with an incision, releasing the resin, which dries into tear-shaped crystals.

The portion of these crystals destined for the spirit is then transferred to distilleries… and then things get a little blurry. Mastiha can be made using the crystals themselves, or an essential oil extract.

These ingredients can be cold compounded, or distilled, or a combination of both. The spirit used can be neutral grain or sugar beet. The size of the stills can vary. It does, however, have to be bottled in Greece.

Effie Panagopoulos, founder of Kleos, gives me a brief rundown of some of the leading products: “As far as I know, Skinos uses mastiha resin and sugar beet, and single distils in large industrial stills at a Metaxa distillery; Roots cold compounds the essential oil and uses sugar beet. Kleos uses neutral grain spirit and double distils in dedicated stills with the mastiha crystals.”

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