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Chateau Musar L'Arack de Musar Arak (500ml)
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- ABV 53%
Arack (Arak) is the national drink of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. It’s made from grapes, and so not surprisingly, most of the wine producers in Lebanon also produce an Arack. The initial pressing is fermented then distilled, and then aged before a second distillation. It’s at this point that the anise is added, then, depending on the maker, it’s distilled a second or third time before it’s aged again. Typically Arack is drier, more intense and precise than most mainstream Ouzo’s or Pastis’. It will also 'louche' (turn milky white) when water is added.
In 1930, at just 20 years old, Gaston Hochar founded Chateau Musar, inspired by Lebanon's 6,000 year winemaking tradition and his travels in Bordeaux. The five year old grape spirit that forms the base of Chateau Musar Arack is made from ancient grape varieties Obaideh and Merwah, indigenous to the mountains of Lebanon and said to be related to Chardonnay and Semillon. Planted between 1920 and 1947 the Obaideh vineyards are in the foothills of the Anti-Lebanon mountains near Ain Arab on stony, chalky soils, while the Merwah vines are on the seaward side of Mount Lebanon in Baqaâta, on calcareous gravels. Yields are very low for these untrained bushvines: 25 hl per hectare. At high altitude (around 1400m) they are still on their own roots, among very few vineyards in the world of this calibre.
Made from five to ten year old grape spirit and distilled four times with anise seeds added at the final distillation, Chateau Musar Arack is 'finished' for between 12 and 24 months in terracotta jars (Roman style ‘amphorae’).
It is usually enjoyed neat as a ‘digestif’. It can also be taken with iced water like a classic pastis: long, cool and refreshing. Arack is a classic match for classic Lebanese ‘mezze’ (small buffet dishes): grilled meats and vegetables, flatbreads, pickles, olives, nuts, carrot sticks, baba ghannouj (aubergine dip), moutabal (aubergine purée), hummus (chickpea dip), shankleesh (spicy goat cheese dip), tabbouleh (parsley and tomato salad), fattoush (salad with crispy bread) or kibbeh (puréed raw meat or minced meat fried in a cracked wheat shell). Arack has also been used to flavour dessert jellies and sorbets and has been know to crop up in a cocktail or two!
Tasting note: Crystal clear with a slightly glycerous appearance. Initial impression is of dipping your nose into a bag of star anise. With aeration a delightful note of fresh liquorice strap emerges. There is also an interesting hint of crushed eucalyptus leaf. Entry is soft and disarming to the point of being neutral. By midpalate the profile asserts itself as a juicy, semi sweet liquorice strap burst that's intensified by a tingly, spicy flourish. Excellent balance at high ABV. Finishes clean and dry with the spiciness persisting. Exceptionally long liquorice strap aftertaste. Delicious. 53%Alc./Vol.