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Puni Opus I

by Oliver Klimek on September 9, 2014

Recently I was sent a sample of the latest release of Puni distillery which is located in Glurns in South Tyrol, the German speaking part of Italy. Because this is a rather unique spirit it deserves a few more lines than I write in my usual tasting notes.

Opus I is supposed to be the first in a new product line exploring various maturation parameters. The spirit was disilled from barley, wheat and rye, all malted. Part of it was matured for two years in marsala casks, the other part for one year in ex Islay whisky casks followed by a marriage period of 5 months in a stainless steel tank.

There will be 350 50cl bottles with an ABV of 53,7%, available in Italy, Germany and France from the end of September 2014 for €68.

Tasting notes

Colour: Medium amber
Nose: A spirity sting is followed by aromas of pears, vanilla, ginger and nutmeg.
Palate: Fairly strong peat, pears in syrup, sultanas, hints of mature blue cheese, nutmeg and black pepper.
Finish: Medium long, sweet and smoky.
Overall: The marsala wine contributes a strong fruity sweetness which fights for attention with the peat. There is no winner.

Rating: 78/100 – Price Tag $$$$$ – Value for your Money $$$$$

Summary

This is an interesting youngster for sure. The combination of marsala and peat is a tricky one. This could already be experienced with the Ardbeg Galileo that in my opinion only was saved by the outstanding quality of the Ardbeg spirit from becoming a true disappointment.

Even though the Puni Opus I is surprisingly good for its very young age, I have two issues with it. Firstly, it is simply too expensive. Granted, small distilleries have significantly higher production costs per litre than larger ones, and to a certain extent I am willing to pay more than for a big brand because of this. But at a price point of nearly €100 per 70 cl bottle there is huge number of truly excellent whiskies out there, also from smaller distilleries, so the ‘value for money’ factor of the Opus I is not very competitive.

And then this is a very striking example of the modern ‘wood driven’ style that has been taking over the whisky industry in recent years. The quality of the product is almost entirely due to the quality of the used casks and their previous contents. The spirit itself is hiding behind wine and peat, and I wonder why such an unusual combination of three different malted grains was used at all, if we cannot really notice their subtleties underneath the layers of cask flavours. For producing a well tasting spirit drink in a very short time simple malted barley would have been just as good.

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