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Botti da orbi – recensioni dal Milano Whisky Festival

The ubiquitous Marco Zucchetti is spending these days in Singapore: we imagine him well fed, on a triclinium, surrounded by young almond-eyed handmaids, sipping Martini while talking about some more urban topics. While he is amusing himself in such a way, we publish some of his unquestionable reviews, written during the Milano Whisky Festival 2018. We are privileged, let’s never forget that.

Every damn Sunday when the Milano Whisky Festival ends, as punctual as the rain on the day off, a mixture of fulfillment and melancholy falls on the fans. Psychologists agree in defining it as “rage because you have to wait another year before enjoying it like this again”. To exorcise it and start the countdown that separates us from the next Festival, everyone draws his own conclusions. This round, for example, in the general cosmopolitanism among Belgians, Germans, Frenchmen, Chinese and Vietnamese as never before, the Italians have stood out. So, without anyone coming up with sovereign ideas that fit in here like meat sauce in Glenlivet, here we are with some whiskies from the independent Italian bottlers who have distinguished themselves on the battlefield. Pardon, tastingfield.

Bowmore 21 yo (Valinch & Mallet, 47,4%)
Imagine the Nike of Samothrace, the very thin veils that cover it. The idea that a chisel has taken something so graceful from the marble is more or less as incredible as the effect of this whisky, gushed out with courtesy from that gruff rock that is Islay.
It is one of the 24 special bottles that Fabio Ermoli and Davide Romano have dedicated to the third anniversary of their V&M, so it has both the rarity and the celebration marks. The elegance is just that of a gala evening, with a delicate nose that plays between gren apple sorbet and white flowers, slate bathed by the sea and suggestions that one moment look like powdered sugar and the moment after like confetto. For more than skillful solvers: it takes time to get into it. The smoke is there, fragrant and in soft puffs, and together with the yellow fruit is the score for the freshness of the music. Which is melody, never escape nor saraband. The sweetness continues, the fruit is always fresh (white peach, grapes). It is dressed in mint green and rosewater, this 21-year-old charming and rural: the more time passes, the more it runs away among meadows and peat bogs. So, next to the herbaceous tones (maybe basil, maybe vervain?) that in the end become licorice, here it is showing its maturity: a sweet and only vaguely peppery wood and a waxiness of extinguished candle. The grace is not lacking, the pleasantness is not lacking either, the long and satisfying ending closes the circle. Is it a 21-year-old to be married, then? Well, it is certainly to attend, undoubtedly a long relationship. But she (pardon, it) is not one of those who overwhelm you with the intensity of a look. And a little bit of grit is nice to find even in the most romantic of daughters. 87/100.

Haddock 12 yo ‘Peated’ (2018, Wilson & Morgan, 56,8%)
Vacations in Scotland can damage a man’s psyche and you can start learning English names of fishes on pub menus. So, when you read the name of this whisky on the label, you certainly expects something salty, peaty and marine. Perfect, it would be like expecting a sausage to taste like kiwifruit. Because, actually, the only marine thing in this whisky from a secret distillery is the inspiration: that is Captain Haddock, a character from “Tintin” comic strip, who used to drink galloons of Loch Lomond (ahem…). The mystery deepens. The antique gold of the liquid says that here sherry had a part in the maturation. And the nose inspector confirms the suspicions: burnt caramel, crispy, nuts, dried plums and blueberry. A dark captain. And damn, it’s also greedy dirty. It’s bold, in perfect W&M style. There’s chocolate, roasted meat, soy sauce with an acetic note. The suggestion of umami makes the fantasy of dried mushrooms fly through the imagination. Yet behind the kitchen there is a beautiful pergola of wisteria and roses, with floral notes that carry honey in a kaleidoscopic nose. Many clues, but still the identikit does not come close. We need to move to the palate, to fully understand this chewy, tasty malt. The sherry here is astringent and strong. It is a gothic flamboyant, with gargoyles of bitter dark chocolate and coffee and spires of salted caramel. Scenographic and oily, with peat sprouting in the form of tar, an evident licorice and a balsamic side (it was the only thing missing in this triumph of suggestions). The finish is as long as certain beaches of the Waddenzee, closing rather winey and chocolatey. Great Scott!, in the words of Doc from “Back to the Future”. Not for fragile palates nor for lovers of pure flavors. It is the Pizza Capricciosa of whisky, for true wolverines. Excessive in everything, and yet so satisfying. It’s like cyclopean centripetal forces were pulling each one in the opposite direction, leaving us in between. We, bulimic passionate of taste, simply love this anarchy. But we admit we need a nutritionist. 88/100

Caol Ila 10 yo (2018, A&G Selection, 59,8%)
There is a children’s book entitled “Looks like this, looks like that”. The differently-youngsters from the ‘80s will remember it. It was a booklet to teach that appearance deceives. Among the various drawings, there were Mr. Ivo and Mr. Tono. The first one – blue eye, blond moustache and tie – behind him held a huge stick. The second – who looked like a brigand, but dressed as an AC Milan hooligan – held a rose behind him. All this is a preamble because this Caol Ila is like Mr. Tone, “who seems bad, but he’s good instead”. Yes, because with such a strong abv, a 10-year-old malt from Islay is usually a stick on your palate. Actually, it’s like having a pastry. Because peat is as civilized as a Swiss citizen and it politely queues. Precedence to white melon, banana macaroons and herbaceous notes (celery!). It is as marine as the breeze, but icing and vanilla bring the nose back into the field of sweetness. Where even the palate is at ease, because behind a bonfire ash (now more evident) the malt opens gently. Cookie, nutmeg, vanilla again. The cereal beats even monster abv of almost 60 degrees, which are integrated perfectly. There is a complete sphericity in this whisky, where salt, pepper and smoke chisel the surface, but do not affect the core. Where the malt – herbaceous and sweet – seems indifferent and superior to everything. In short, here Mr. Ivo does not have the rose in his hand, but neither has the stick. Rather it hides a magic wand, capable of transforming a potentially blackened whisky into a high intensity bonbon. A caress in a fist. 87/100

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