Italian whisky? Puni Alba Marsala + Islay 43% – Oh My!

The Whisky Ladies of Mumbai are well on the path of exploring European whiskies… having tried drams from Finland (Teerenpeli), Denmark (Danica), France (Kornog), Germany (Slyrs), Sweden (Mackmyra & Spirit of Hven)… all unique and different from standard Scottish fare.

Whereas our original tasting group, with five years of monthly merry malt sampling complete, have only scratched the surface when it comes to whiskies from Europe. In 2013 The Belgian Owl and Dutch All Rye made less than stellar appearances and in 2014, the Czech Hammer Head received a rather firm ‘thumbs down’.

We were due a tryst with European whiskies. Yet after the disappointing drams, anything offered had to 1st pass the ‘taste test’.

When given an ‘assignment’ to find something ‘different’ by our host for his January 2017 session, my 1st thought was Europe and the 2nd thought was that it simply had to be tried before buying – no leaving the experiment to chance!

Which is where my August 2016 trip to Singapore came in handy with an opportunity to ‘speed date’ a trio of Puni whiskies at – where else – La Maison du Whisky.

Even I wasn’t sure before trying. Italian whisky? Really?! When there is such marvellous Italian wine, it begs the question… whisky?

Our original group sampled this completely blind – having no clue what they were trying…

Puni Alba 3 year Batch #2 (2015) 43%

puni-alba

  • Nose – How unique – we needed to ‘tease’ out the different elements. At once sweet and sour, mild antiseptic, hint of tropical fruits, some nutmeg, coconut? There was something truly completely different about this one… sweet, dry yet teasingly
  • Palate – Wow! Starts off so smooth then there is a remarkable dry chilly that sneaks up from behind and ‘whoosh!’ envelops completely. One found cooked drumsticks, another lots of tannins, yet another found chocolate
  • Finish – An, unbelievably long finish and so surprising, it extends from the dry chilly to a long drawn out light cigar like finish
  • Water – Needed? No. Nice? Yes and remarkably did not dent the fabulous finish, simply enabled the mild peat quality to surface more

What a different whisky with its ability to have a deceptively soft ‘front’ then delicious spice that sneaks up from ‘behind’. Without a doubt, it had the most remarkable long finish of all whiskies sampled that evening.

As we speculated, it was very clear this was not Scottish and quite untraditional in its approach. The dry sweetness, soft smooth front then spice from behind, the shy peat that slowly unfurled, the exceptionally long finish… This was a whisky that didn’t neatly fit into clear categories.

Our host pulled out the bottle. Italy?

Putting it mildly, we were collectively ‘maha’ (greatly) impressed. From the design of the bottle to the quality of its contents.

Let us be very clear, Puni is out to change any pre-conceived notions that Italians aren’t up to the challenge of producing whisky! The Puni distillery began operations in 2012 and is located in the Italian alps, taking its name from the nearby Puni river. They use locally grown rye, pot stills and began with three core expressions:

  • Nova – American & European white oak casks
  • Alba – Marsala wine and Islay casks
  • Nero – Pinot nero casks

Here is what they have to say about their Alba:

ALBA – the Italian word for dawn, as well as the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland – is matured for three years in the finest Marsala casks from Sicilly and finished in handselected casks from the Isle of Islay. ALBA is a harmonious combination of the rich & fruity flavours of Italy and the distinctive smoky character of the Scottish island.

Flavour : dark fruit | peat | cloves

The interplay between maturation in Marsala casks and ex-Islay peated whisky casks shows such experimentation can bring about quite wonderful results!

Puni Italian Trio

Other whiskies sampled our East to West evening included:

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8 thoughts on “Italian whisky? Puni Alba Marsala + Islay 43% – Oh My!

  1. Never had a whisky from Italy (or any other Southern European country) before. But having read your review, it looks like I gotta get hold of this somehow. I don’t think Puni’s easily available in Germany though… but I keep my eyes open! 🙂

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      • Just did a quick check on Google and didn’t find any store near me that sells it. Not even Amazon has it. There’s a big whisky fair here in Hamburg next month (Hanse Spirit), so maybe I’ll be able to give it a try there. One way or another, your review really got me intrigued to check out Puni’s whiskies!

        Liked by 1 person

      • “Untraditional and not for everyone” actually sounds great! I’m always interested in forms and styles of whisky I have not had before. In the particular case, I am really curious about the ex-Islay casks and the subtle smokiness they add to the whisky. The other Puni whiskies sound great as well, but it’s those casks that make me wanna try the Puni Alba the most.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. visited the distillery right yesterday.
    I may be biased on my comments because I also live in “my” beloved Italian Alps, jus a little more south from where puni is. anyway, I went there yesterday for a guided tour of the distillery and obviously a tasting of their whiskies.
    NOVA is amazingly​ fresh, vanilla, a hint of banana and surely ripe pear on the nose. maybe the most light and fresh whisky I ever had.
    ALBA is… well smoky, latakia tobacco is what I thought of. Marsala cask character is balanced with smokiness almost to perfection.
    sorry for my not-so-pro reviews but I’m not a whisky taster, I’m simply a whisky enjoyer 🙂
    about the location, I hope you’ll be lucky enough to visit there one day. the panorama is breathtaking and the modern cubic brick-made shell of the distillery fits in it perfectly. modern yet traditional looking distillery and nice people to have a small chat with during and after the tour.

    Liked by 1 person

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