The Aston Martin DB9 to the Fiat Punto of Pastis. Wonderfully fresh and non-synthetic anise flavours. Drink long with water for refreshment, sip neat and cold as a digestif, or use it in any cocktail that calls for a touch of something liquorice.
Lebanon’s civil war forced the Ghosn family to flee the Beqaa and now the brothers were back. Their first task was to revive the distillery and resume the process of making arak. Just a trickle at first, but by 1994 the spirit was flowing in sufficient quantities to go to market. Next came a flash of brilliance, when Sami introduced the long necked dark blue bottle that makes El Massaya arak stand out from the rest. Just like Coca-Cola, a fine product needed a bottle design that would resonate around the world. Massaya, incidentally, means twilight and as the sun sets over the Mediterranean the sky darkens to the same shade of arak bottle blue.
Then comes the triple distillation process that will transform the wine into El Massaya arak. First, the wine is poured into traditional Moorish lid copper stills where it is heated by gentle fires of vine wood. As the vapours rise they are carried through copper pipes into the cooling device where the alcohol condenses. After eight hours the process is repeated to remove impurities and leave the heart of the alcohol, the ‘coeur de chauffe’. This is followed by a third distillation of 24 hours that gives the arak its purity and distinction. We combine the third distillation with the maceration of the best green organic aniseed from the village of Hineh on the Syrian slopes of Mount Hermon.
We then collect the non-aged arak in traditional clay amphorae made by the potters in the Mount Lebanon village of Beit Chebab. These are just porous enough to absorb some of the liquid and allow it to breathe. During this crucial resting period lasting many months, the clay lends a faint golden clarity to the matured spirit that will bear the name El Massaya Arak.