World whisky - Puni/Italy Vertical Tasting (in English)

In recent years, whisky has become more and more popular around the globe, and by whisky, I'm not refering to Scottish Single Malt. I mean whisky which is produced in many different countries outside of Scotland and generally referred to as World Whisky. 

Several weeks ago, the first World Whisky Forum in Sweden gave further impulse to this new development. So it's about time to open our eyes and cast a glance across the borderlines. What kind of Whisky does Europe offer for the spoiled palates of the connoisseurs? Let's start our journey in Italy. 


 

In 2012 whisky distillation began in the Vinschgau in South Tirol, in 2015 the first editions of Puni Nova and Puni Alba hit the market. In autumn 2016, Puni Nero arrived. In the whisky emporium, Puni is rather an oddity: due to its cubistic form, the only whisky distillery in Italy has a remarkably ultramodern architecture. 
 
However, at it’s core Puni is very traditional - inside of the cubic building two Scottish pot stills do the work. Besides, the whisky is uncolored and non-chill-filtered. The basic conditions sound promising. The whisky of Puni is still rather young by nature, and three expressions are currently available: Puni Nova, Puni Alba, which is slightly peated and Puni Nero, finished in Pinot Noir Casks. The first editions were bottled with strong 54%, in the meantime, they have lowered the alcohol content to 43%. But to be fair,   they also lowered the price.

Puni refers to its whisky as "Triple Malt", because three different varieties of grain are used: Rye, wheat and barley, all of regional origin. In terms of barrel choice the distillery uses predominately regional wine casks.

The modernistic approach of the cubistic architecture finds its equivalent in the remarkable bottle form. Friends of classical glass containers might find it difficult to enjoy this form. But let’s not focus too much on appearances – the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Well, in the drinking, one might say in this case. So, what has the whisky of Puni to offer? 

Puni Nova, 43%, Batch 002, 3 years



matured in refill ex-bourbon barrels, finished (supposedly 4 weeks) in French Barrique barrels from the Limousin.  59€, 0.7 l
  
"Triple malt": made from rye, wheat and barley
  
Nose: Malt, rather tart, a faint smell of violets, light vanilla, banana, sour apples, solvent, some honey

Mouth: nice beginning with a lot of wood (sawdust), a little bit rustic, pears, grapefruit, and still solvent

Finish: medium length, slightly dry

Overall impression: young and vigourous whisky with a fresh, tart mark which reminds me of Riesling wine, a little bit one-dimentional, but unique and with potential. A nice appetizer, which makes me long for a snack with strong cheese.

Puni Alba, 43%, Batch 002, 3 years


2 years matured in Sicilian Marsala barrels, then one more year in an Islay barrel. 74€, 0.7 l

Nose:  intriguing sweetness from the Marsala barrel stands in strange contrast to the peaty notes from the Islay barrel. Dark fruits, cloves, pepper, aniseed, the fruity tartness is well hidden beneath the sweetness of dry plums, and fresh figs. In the background some hay.

Mouth: some ashes, wood-like and very dry, mild spices

Finish: medium length, dry 

Overall impression: The Marsala barrels add nice fruit aromas and a certain sweetness which takes the tip from the natural tartness of the distillate. The ashes tame the excessive sweetness and stand up in a rather suspense-stricken contrast to the latter.


Puni Nero, 43%, limited edition, 3,000 bottles


3 years matured in Blauburgunder (Pinot Nero) barrels, 52€, 0.7 l

Nose:  tart aromas of white wine intermingle with the sweeter fruit aromas  to a nice sweet-and-sour-contrast which reminds me of wine gums. Dry oranges, currants, and sweet honey come on top of it.

Mouth: nice beginning, a little bit dusty, wood-like, rather spicy, solvent and grapefruit


Finish: medium, dry


Overall impression: less sweet than the Puni Alba, with a well-balanced sweet-and-sour contrast. The complete maturation in Blauburgunder barrels has left its marks, the whisky is all together rather on the dry and edgy side.

My Verdict:

Puni is still in its days of infancy, but the first results are promising. The concept of regional ingredients and barrels from local wineries is clearly recognizable.

The wine casks were a good choice, their sweeter aromas bring a pleasant contrast to the slight tartness of the basic distillate and offers a pleasant alternative to the vanilla woods and sherry lakes of many recent Scottish bottlings.

There is still some fine tuning to be done and I'm looking forward to  longer maturation periods, however, the direction is right.

 

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