We’ve brought you coverage of whiskey from Sweden, Germany, even Finland. Now we’re getting our first taste of whiskey from another unusual location: Italy, which is hardly a country known for producing the spirit. Turns out Puni has been being produced here by the Ebensperger family in the Alpine town of Glorenza, Italy for 10 years — making Puni is the first and only Italian malt whisky.
And now it’s finally hitting the U.S. market.
Not only is Puni unique as the sole Italian malt whisky, but Ebensperger also employs an unusual recipe using three different malted grains — barley, wheat, and locally-grown rye — to create a signature mash bill. The local rye grows in the foothills of the Alps near the Ortler mountain range in the Trentino-Alto Adige region, where the distillery sits as a landmark to modern Italian design and distillery innovation. The Alpine climate contributes to the particularity of Puni’s whiskies, which are aged on the family’s stunning new distillery campus.
Puni’s whiskies carry no formal “front label” age statements, but quite a bit of production information is available, which you’ll find in the tasting notes below.
Puni Gold Italian Malt Whisky – “Matured in first-fill ex-bourbon casks, establishing the house style.” 5 years old. A youthful but fully approachable bourbon-barrel-aged malt which could definitely pass for a young Scotch. The unusual thing here is a hint of curry powder on the nose, which appears alongside plenty of vanilla and some more rustic wood elements. The palate is soft but a bit spicy (perhaps the rye influence showing), heavy with traditional malt trappings and some notes of baked apple, burnt banana, and walnut oil. There’s a well-toasted cereal note and some interesting lingering on the finish. There’s a hint of the frontier style of American single malts here, but the overall composition is fairly easygoing. Worth a look. 86 proof. B+ / $90
Puni Alba Italian Malt Whisky – Matured in Sicilian Marsala casks and finished in ex-Islay barrels. 3 years old in total. That’s a strange composition, and Puni Alba is an appropriately strange spirit. The nose is heavy with winey notes that approximate Pedro Ximenez sherry, with its significantly nutty, spicy qualities. Leathery and earthy, the Islay influence doesn’t really come through on the nose at all. On the palate, the whisky reveals itself as extremely dry, with a thick and unmistakable layer of Marsala wine immediately hitting the palate. Smoky-peaty Islay notes are also evident, but in moderation, and they fade to reveal a whisky of surprising astringency, with a heavy note of green vegetation. Some sweetness does finally emerge on the finish, but this comes across a bit like overcooked fruit, never totally complementing what’s come before. It’s definitely a complex experience, though. 86 proof. Reviewed: Batch #4. B / $110
Puni Vina Italian Malt Whisky – “The first in a range of limited edition wine cask-matured whiskies and aged in ex-Marsala casks from Sicily.” 5 years old — apparently fully matured in Marsala barrels. This is less complex than Alba, and that works to its favor, those thick, slick Marsala wine notes pouring over the lip of the glass alongside a leathery, nutty, sherry-like character, giving it a richness and austerity that demands attention. The palate has a bold density and depth of flavor that offers notes of charred applewood, baking spice, and toasted coconut, while the finish finds again those classic, oxidized Marsala notes. Into Marsala wine? If so, it’s for you. 86 proof. B / $100
Puni Sole Italian Malt Whisky – Aged in bourbon casks for two years and finished for two years in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. 4 years old total. Here we see Puni with a more elegant construction, though there’s plenty of wood, almond, and cut grass notes on the nose. A significant and pungent mothball character overlays everything, but not in a particularly negative way. On the palate, the whisky is particularly malty, with notes of caramel, pastry dough, and a rustic hemp rope character, dusted with elements of green herbs and more of that grassy character. While the finish isn’t overtly focused in a single direction, it does offer plenty of charming qualities — and is arguably the most interesting whisky in this lineup. 92 proof. Reviewed: Batch #2. B+ / $100