Water of Life – Puni
Italy is not exactly an epicentre when it comes to the distilling of whiskies and after attending a tasting about two years ago, I was pleasantly surprised about being proffered a dram from a very sleek bottle of what has its source in the Italian equivalent to the Scottish Highlands, i.e. a distillery that derived its name its accompanying rive and water source Puni.
Located in the Vinschgau valley, Puni Distillery sources its rye locally before it its being married with the foundation that barley provides and wheat, which is responsible to add a sweet note to the mash bill before its alchemy is channelled through handcrafted copper pot stills.
Puni’s Alba Whiskey can be considered to be its core expression and is a young one at that as it just passed the minimum of three years maturation that Scotch standards prescribe. Now, what might raise eyebrows because of the short maturation period, should be seen in the local context and, more importantly, the local climate and the mastery that informs their curation of casks, of which there are plenty to choose from in the wine country of Italy. After an initial period in Italian wine casks, the spirit spends time in what makes Puni specifically interesting for me: The whiskey is refined in second-fill bourbon barrels that have up to two and a half decades under their belts aging whiskies from Islay and thereby adding the island’s idiosyncratic iodine, sea spray and peat to the equation, resulting in a rich and complex flavour profile.
There is a natural aspect to Puni’s whiskies as their emissions are not chill filtered, which at times add a bit of haziness to the appearance and an aroma that meanders steadily between fruity, tarty and herbal territory heavily informed by the locally sourced grain and dried fruits.
Oily in texture, on the top of the roof is where Alba comes to life as dark fruity flavours are accentuated by grassy notes with spicy chocolate highlights, that are framed by a deliciously subtle smokiness.
The finish culminates and “dawns” (Alba being Italian for “dawn”) with a crescendo of peppery spice, dominant vanilla flavours and dried fruit.
Puni’s Nova expression is matured in American oak casks before being refined in what was previously used for cognac, i.e. French barrique Limousin oak casks.
What tickles the nostrils is more on the citrussy side of things, with a backbone of ripe apples and vanilla and toffee.
The floral flavours that serenade the palate are counterpointed by dried pears and the trademark Puni sweet graininess that is rounded out via spicy white peppery notes.
The finish is deliciously crisp, lean and subtle with sweet chocolate, herbal and cinnamon notes.
image from company website