We present an interview with the Puni distillery, a brand of Italian excellence, the result of the passion and creativity of the Ebensperger family.
We would like to thank them for their constant availability and kindness.
WHISKYART: The first Italian whisky distillery looks a lot at the Scotch distillate, with which you also share the family tradition and some of the climatic conditions: would you like to tell us a little about how the passion for Scotch came about and how it led to the birth of Puni?
Puni: Certainly one of the first steps took place in the early 1990s, when founder Albrecht Ebensperger discovered the fascinating world of whisky during a sommelier course. From there, his passion for the Scottish spirit grew steadily, and it didn’t take long for the rest of the family to become enthusiastic.
After five years of various trials and experiments, with different malted grains, subsequent chemical analyses and countless tastings with sommelier friends and experts, the Ebensperger family realised that they would be able to make a whisky of absolute and unique quality and goodness.
So in 2010 the family decided to realise their dream and build a real whisky distillery in Glorenza, the first whisky distillery in Italy.
In contrast to Scotland, where there is a constant temperature of 10 to 15 degrees and relatively high humidity throughout the year, here in the Vinschgau Valley we have a very varied climate. The Summers are very hot and dry, but the Winters are rather cold and wet. These climatic differences are ideal for producing a young whisky, as the variations in temperature accelerate the maturation process in a natural way.
WHISKYART: How does your process differ from the classic Scottish process?
Puni: Apart from the climate, the method of heating is one of the things that makes the PUNI distillery unique. The family has developed a method of heating the stills with superheated water instead of steam. This method allows the most precise temperature control possible and enables us to retain only the best parts of each distillation cycle. The most important factor in distillation is temperature development. He who controls the temperature, controls the quality of the distillate.
This concept is not only important for the production of whisky, but also for the production of other spirits. For hundreds of years the best European distillers used superheated water to heat their stills.
The distillery introduced the bain-marie heating method to the world of whisky production. Thanks to this unique heating method, very precise core cutting, long fermentation and significant temperature differences during storage, our whiskies are very smooth and balanced even at a young age.
WHISKYART: What are the difficulties of producing whisky in Italy?
Puni: Every pioneering activity has its uncertainties and difficulties: we could not rely on any existing scheme to create our whisky.
From the beginning, we focused on producing a high quality whisky, which unfortunately resulted in a lower yield, but we always went on our way without compromise.
Of course, there were many challenges; nobody had ever built a whisky distillery in Italy before. Luckily, however, we could count on over 50 years of experience in the construction and operation of Scottish distilleries from our principal consultant Harry Cockburn. With his help and that of various Italian engineers, we were able to realise our idea.
It can be said that this is a challenging path, which requires enthusiasm, patience, organisation and a lot of passion, but it also gives great satisfaction.
WHISKYART: The casks used so far for the distributed bottlings are divided between, let’s say, classic choices (Bourbon and Sherry) and more unusual ones such as Marsala and former Islay whisky, in an ideal embrace with Scotland and the south of Italy: what guides you in your choice? And can we expect other unusual casks?
Puni: The choice of ageing casks and maturation period is a crucial part of producing a whisky, and we use different types of casks to mature and age our whiskies.
What drives us is the passion to not only create whiskies that we like, but also to make a product that tells our story and the land where it originates.
WHISKYART: There’s no doubt that, with increasing ageing, your whisky is also growing in quality (personally, I really enjoyed last year’s Aura), with attention also paid to the management of releases, which is always very balanced: what’s in store for 2020?
Puni: We have a number of initiatives in mind for the future.
By the end of this year, we will be presenting a new whisky. It will be a special whisky, complex and rounded in character, which has been maturing at our distillery for almost seven years.
It will be the first edition of a new line of whiskies, always produced in limited editions which, in our opinion, best represent the art of creating a whisky.
WHISKYART: This year a very big challenge has been added, for everyone, represented by the pandemic: how is it impacting your work and how do you foresee it affecting your future and the future of the whole whisky world?
Puni: Our distillery, like many others, has taken all the necessary measures to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 in our country.
We do not yet know what the consequences of the pandemic will be, in this period of general uncertainty, the future is a blank page for now.
We remain optimistic and positive to face this challenge.