Tag Archives: Torino Distillati

Monte Stambecco Amaro

I first came across Amaro after a particularly fine and delicious Italian meal. My host called for a bottle, informing me that it was perfect for aiding digestion. Amaro is Italian for bitter and that was my abiding memory of it, but it seemed to do the trick. Most commercially available Amaros trace their roots to recipes concocted in the 19th century in monasteries or pharmacies.

If you are looking for an Amaro that is out of the ordinary, then Monte Stambecco Amaro might just be the one. Taking its name from the Ibex or long horned mountain goats that gambol on the Alps near the Vergnano family distillery, Torino Distillati, in Piedmont, it is produced by the Master Distiller, Beppe Ronco. Its particular twist is to use a distillate of Marasca cherries from Pecetto, making it the first in the world to do so.

The starting point is a pure base spirit which is made from Italian wheat and has been distilled five times. The cherries are then soaked in alcohol, squeezed in a basket press and then distilled in a copper pot. Thirty botanicals are then distilled in a vacuum still, including sweet and bitter oranges, coriander seeds, marjoram, oregano, wormwood, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, gentian root, lemon peel, cinchona, rhubarb, yarrow, and saffron.

Sugar is then added for flavour and caramel for colour, before the spirit is chill filtrated to a temperature of minus five centigrade. The final stage before bottling is to blend it with pure mountain spring water, producing a liqueur with an ABV of 35%.  

The design of the bottle also reflects this attention to detail. Dumpy, with a cherry red stopper, and glass heavily embossed with bumps, its labelling is bold in a classic Italian style, white lettering on a blue background and an image of the ibex at the centre. It certainly stands out from the crowd on a shelf.

The spirit has a gorgeous chestnut brown colour with a hint of red. The aroma is unmistakably that of cherry with a hint of the spiciness of cinnamon and cardamom, and to the taste it is mildly sweet, although not excessively so, the bitterness of some of the other botanicals in the mix giving it balance to produce a wonderfully complex liqueur.

I drank it neat with a couple of ice cubes and it made for a distinctive and enjoyable drink. Alternatively, it can be drunk as an ice cold shot or in a cocktail, perhaps a twist on a Manhattan, a Stamhattan, you might say.

It is imported into the UK by the enterprising Biggar & Leith and while their claim that every home bar should have a bottle of Stambecco may be a bit presumptuous, it is certainly one to bring out for that special occasion. It is also the nearest I shall get to Italy for quite a while.

Until the next time, cheers!

Gin O’Clock (110)

Do you like lemon? Until the ginaissance got fully underway, a slice of lemon was the most popular form of garnish to dress a gin and tonic with. Nowadays, if you order a “fancy” G&T in a bar, it is likely to be presented to you with a wider range of garnish, especially co-ordinated, at least so they say, to compliment the flavours of the gin of you choice. Call me a philistine, but it is an unnecessary addition to the drink and can distract from the underlying taste of the gin. I prefer mine just with a decent tonic and a bit of ice, not too much as that dilutes the gin too.

If you are looking for a hit of lemon in your gin without having to go to the trouble of slicing the fruit up, then Malfy Gin con limone may just be right up your strada. The clue, of course, is in the name. Welcome to lemon overload. I have reviewed their grapefruit offering already but the lemon gin is the original and, still, the Vergnano family’s signature offering. They use two types of lemon, Sicilian and ones grown on the Amalfi Coast. The latter are renowned for their aromatic qualities and have more oil glands than other varieties. To reduce the high oil content in the spirit and to eliminate the possibility of louching, after distillation the spirit is chill filtered.

Malfy continue the local theme with a base spirit made from Italian wheat and junipers grown in Tuscany. Grapefruit and orange are also included in the mix. Distilled at Torino Distillati distillery it has an ABV of 41%, strong enough to make its presence known but not too strong that it spoils an evening’s drinking.

The bottle is striking in an understated sort of way. With a squat and cylindrical body leading to a short neck and a wide wooden top with a pale blue artificial stopper, it uses the circular shape of lemons to good effect in its design. The labelling is a mix of lemon yellow for the edging and the name of the gin with a vibrantly pale blue background. The colour combination is aesthetically pleasing. At the rear of the bottle there is a description of the product in white, but the typeface is too small for my rheumy eyes to decipher with ease. Alas, other than lemon there is no indication what has gone into the mix.

So, what is it like?

On removing the stopper, the sensation was overwhelmingly one of lemon, but more subtler aromas started to make their presence known, a more bitter orangey smell and just a hint of the juniper. In the mouth the crystal-clear spirit was incredibly lemony, a crispy, zesty sensation as though the rind had been freshly squeezed just for your drink. The lemon, though, does not get it all its own way. There are hints of juniper and liquorice to give it a more rounded gin taste and while the aftertaste is predominantly one of lemon, there is detectable some elements of spice and pepper.

It can only be described as a heavily lemon-led gin, but, interestingly, once I moved from tasting it neat to adding a tonic, the lemon dial seemed to go down a notch or two and the other elements were given more room to breathe. It made for a refreshing and interesting drink, a contemporary, flavoured gin that, if you like lemon, will be hard to top. Perhaps it is the quintessential summer gin.

Until the next time, cheers!

Gin O’Clock – Part Ninety Two

Italy is considered to be the birthplace of gin, courtesy of some monks on the Salerno coast who came up with the idea in the 11th century. It is probably to my eternal shame since I started my exploration of the ginaissance that I had not, at least as far as my alcohol-sozzled brain will allow me to recollect, sampled the Italian twist of my favourite spirit. The opportunity to redress this glaring omission came this Christmas with a gift of a bottle of Malfy Gin Rosa.

Malfy Gin is made by Torino Distillati which, as its name suggests, is based on the outskirts of Turin in an area better known for its production of quality liqueurs such as vermouth. Founded in 1906 the distillery was acquired by Seagrams in the 1960s but regained its independence after a management buy-out organised by the current owner and brains behind the operation, Carlo Vergnano.

This offering is their take on the current craze for flavoured and coloured gins. Regular readers of these posts will realise by now that I’m not the world’s greatest fan of flavoured gins, preferring my gins to be distinctly juniper-led. However, I am always willing for my prejudices to be challenged and, perhaps, overturned. So, I was keen to see what I would make of it.

First things first, the bottle. It is distinctive with frosted glass, a stubby base, leading to a short nose and a cork stopper. The distinctive blue colouration of the Malfy labelling is bordered with a pinky-orange, denoting the Sicilian pink grapefruit which is a primary constituent of the gin. The front label is round containing the brand’s name and the initials G.Q.D.I which the circular logo informs me stands for “Gin Qualita Distillato Italia”. Nice to know as well as the fact that its ABV is a pleasing 41% and that it is gluten free, according to the square label at the back.

As for the botanicals, there is juniper, Sicilian Pink Grapefruit, a variety that has a deep pink colour and is ripened in the low temperatures of an Italian winter, Italian rhubarb, angelica root, lemon peel, coriander and orris root. The grapefruit and rhubarb are infused in the spirit for 36 hours, time enough to give the drink a distinctive rosy pink hue.   

Removing the cork stopper, despite appearances the internal stopper is synthetic but with a nice twist, bearing the trademark Malfy blue colour, the immediate impression is a hit of grapefruit followed by citrus and, eventually, a hint of juniper. I began to fear that the juniper was going to be a distinct also-ran in this concoction. In the mouth I was in for a bit of a surprise. The immediate hit was that of grapefruit, but the taste was not as astringent as I had anticipated, toned down by the sweetness of the rhubarb, I imagine. Then the more traditional elements of a gin began to make a fight-back, with the end result, by way of the aftertaste, that there was a slightly bitter, crisp, lingering, not in an unpleasant sense, finish.

What surprised me was the transformation that came about with the introduction of a tonic, Fever-Tree Mediterranean, since you ask, which seemed rather appropriate. The overall impression was that the spirit became a tad sweeter and that the juniper and more traditional elements in the mix were given that extra boost to make their presence felt.

I found it a crisp, summery drink, one that was complemented by a premium tonic and one that would probably make a good base for a cocktail. It has not changed my overall opinion on pink and flavoured gins but in its particular sector of the gin market, this was a class act.

Until the next time, cheers!