As I board his Antarctic ice-breaking yacht that is docked in Sydney Harbour, Metaxa Ambassador and modern-day explorer Mike Horn is sitting in a spacious circular lounge area in the hull of his yacht fresh from a solo-crossing of Antarctica. Next to him is Metaxa Master Distiller Costas Raptis and behind them, through 180 degree windows, the top of the Sydney Opera House reaches over the trees of the Royal Botanic Gardens. It’s an incredible view, and just like Metaxa’s newest release – Metaxa 12 Stars – despite appearing almost elitist and exclusive at first, the environment would soon become a setting of comfort, enjoyment and charm.
Mike is holding up a bottle of Metaxa to catch the light and marveling at the the colour, “What colour would you call that? It’s so nice, they should make a car this colour. Do they make cars this colour?” he says as he looks around the room for an immediate answer before I chime in with “probably only in the 70’s, with some nice wooden interior” as Mike smiles and replies, “Oh that’d be nice” and appears to want to put a deposit down for that car immediately. The amber colour with “copper reflections”, as Costas would later say, is due to “the combination of Muscat wines and the aged distillate blend”.
This blend incorporates eight distillates ranging from herb extracts to rose petals and makes, as Costas details, the correct distillate blend. “The next step is to age the sweet Muscat wine from Samos, (an island in Greece). It’s unique because we can extend the aging of the grapes. So we age the Muscat, we mix them together in a secret blend, and then we put in the extracts, one of those is rose petals, and then we blend the rose petals in Greece and we mix it together and let them communicate together and create the Metaxa character.” Costas notes that 12 Stars is different to other Metaxa products thanks to the use of heavy toasted, sweet Limousin oak barrels (as opposed to medium toasted), and using Muscat wines from a higher altitude of 450m to 550m (as opposed to 300m to 500m).
The nose is full of dried fruits at first, right before notes of dried flowers and hints of chocolate and honey appear, rounded off by some orange peel. On the palate, the charred, sweet Limousin oak barrels contribute to a dark chocolate and black raisin develops into a sweet spice aftertaste that follows dried fig and dried prune notes. It is like a domino-line effect of flavors as the Metaxa 12 Stars sits in your mouth and impressions become noticeable one after the other.
When pressing Mike about the unique partnership between himself, Metaxa and a brown spirit that is commonly paired with people in cold climates to stay warm he divulges, “You know we do that and when I tried [Metaxa] for the first time, and honestly this is no bullshit marketing, it was as if I felt I was exploring something; an exploration of senses. When you smell different things, when you look for it, the prunes and then the chocolate and then the spices; it is exploration for me of different elements. It makes you realise how many things had to be sourced from nature to make pleasure.”
I ask Costas if he would classify it as a brandy, as is noted in some of the descriptions online, he smiles but shakes his head confidently, “I will not say it is a brandy, it’s a unique spirit.”