The strange story of Scotch whiskey made in Italy – Italian Cuisine


The rebirth of Scotch whiskey passes through barrels of Marsala and Passito di Pantelleria. But it is not true that you need to be an expert to appreciate a good Scotch. Word of the start-up Dream Whiskey

"Staying at home is the new going out", the trend was rampant even before the pandemic danger, but like any trend it is nothing more than the return of an old fashion. At first restaurants and clubs were only for occasions and friends were invited to their home, for lunch or dinner, and later the coffee killer was offered. Sherry or old man, it was customary to have at least a few bottles at home to receive and end the evening with. In the 1980s, television was crowded with alcohol advertisements that promised the "full taste of life" and saw the birth of Milan to drink. Grappas, bitters, fernet were popular products, but even then the whiskey was for connoisseurs, those who knew how to recognize with their eyes closed the "light color, clean taste" of their favorite brand. The collective imagination stopped there, the yuppies, the gift bottles and a world that no longer exists. Because instead whiskey lives a new youth, especially in Italy and thanks to the Italians.

The old Italy-Scotland link

Scotland and Italy in terms of whiskey have much more in common than one might think. One example above all: the J&B whiskey brand was founded by a Bolognese, that Giusterini became Justerini, and even the mother of Guglielmo Marconi (he, the inventor of the radio) was Irish and his surname was Jameson, daughter of the founder of the Dublin distillery of the same name. Not even Italian whiskey is new: in the 1930s many Italian distilleries began to import whiskey and label it as Italian, to circumvent autarky, and in 2012 inaugurated the Puni distillery in Val Venosta, which works with barley malt , rye malt and wheat malt. But there is more, and the made in Italy in the case of whiskey is a matter of taste.

Italian talent scouts

In Scotland there were essentially two professions: the distillers, who produced whiskey, and those who made the blends, that is, bought spirits from different producers and mixed them together. He is an Italian who in 1968 invents a new professional figure, the selector, who buys, bottles and labels a product with his own name. Silvano Samaroli, from Bologna, becomes a name in the sector and opens the way to various "talent scouts" who are now a real phenomenon, even in Italy. A Milanese case is that of Dream Whiskey, start-up of Marco Maltagliati, passionate and great connoisseur, and of partner Federico Mazzieri, degree in economics, master of specialization in food and wine and previous experiences in food multinational. Their idea: to democratize Scotch Whiskey.

We Italians like Scotch, Single Malt

We Italians are not big drinkers of spirits, we prefer wine and beer. According to the IWSR 2019 report for Italy, if the whiskey category makes up 8% of the Italian spirits market, scotch whiskey represents 3/4 of all the whiskey consumed in Italy. The value in 2019 of these exports was almost 60 million pounds, up 9%, and among the Scotch the Single Malts market recorded particularly positive results and the value of exports increased by 25%, proving the presence of attentive consumers interested in higher quality products. This thanks to a historical relationship, but also to the work of Scottish Development International, a government agency with offices in over 40 countries that supports trade and investment, including Italy.

The dream of democratizing Scotch whiskey

«Scotch is perceived as difficult, elitist. It seems you have to have some preparation, be a connoisseur. But it is the Italian vision. In Scotland it is different, it is part of the local culture, it is a popular product and has a close link with nature, the territory, craftsmanship ", explains Francesco. There are many multinationals such as Diageo that have taken over the distilleries that had closed or were in crisis in the 1980s, reopening them and putting them back into production, but alongside the big names, new independent realities gradually emerge; with a phenomenon comparable to that which occurred in Italy for micro craft breweries. "The Scottish specification is tight, the method has remained the traditional one, but it is the barrel and the aging that make the real magic", Marco explains to me. "Whiskey ages in a magical land, that of castles and dragons, knights and princesses, in the midst of unspoiled nature and with perfect weather conditions", alias rain and terrible humidity. The traditional warehouses where the barrels are left are made of stone, have a floor in the ground and two windows for natural ventilation. But wood is the protagonist, and research is done by looking for Italian barrels (of Marsala, Passito, Barolo and important wines) and using them to refine Scotch whiskey. Marco and Francesco travel all over Scotland in search of special barrels, and bottle them individually. The goal is to simplify, with annual collections comparable to those of fashion. To date they have released as Dream n ° 1, aged 10 years in an ex bourbon cask, and Dream n ° 2, aged 7 years: the first 6 in an ex bourbon cask and the last in a Madeira cask (also available online ).

Whiskey is young

To break the mold, however, in addition to the bottles, a different relationship with the product is needed. You can read the blog in Italian Angel's Share, active since 2009 and very up to date, to participate in tastings or trade fairs. Dream Whiskey organizes guided tastings, very different from those "for connoisseurs only", and trips to Scotland in which to discover the field of distilleries, bars, territories and whiskey culture. «Whiskey is rejuvenated, explains Giuseppe Gervasio Dolci, creator and organizer of the Milan Whiskey Festival (the most important dedicated Italian event). «Over 50% of the visitors are children under 35, also thanks to the social networks that have brought young people closer. Single Malt is made to be tasted in purity, it is a complex distillate, but with the revival of cocktail bars and the culture of drinking, an excellent product like this is also being mixed; even if at the counter it is bourbon and blend that dominate it . What about women? «Many women.

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Whiskey, whiskey or bourbon? Mini-guide

Whiskey is generally a cereal distillate. Malt whiskey those based only on barley, but there are also rye whiskeys produced with a prevalence of rye or bourbon whiskeys, with at least 51% of corn. Scotch whiskey is only the one produced in Scotland aged in cask for at least three years (in Scotland it cannot be produced in a different way, as required by Parliament's Scotch Whiskey Act). Whiskey, however, being a distillate of cereals, can be produced all over the world, in fact there are whiskeys produced in Ireland and the USA, and Japanese, Indian, French, Scandinavian (and even Italian) whiskeys. The most widespread category in the world is that of Blended scotch whiskey, that is a product obtained from different cereals and by mixing whiskey from different distilleries. The Single Malt instead come from a single distillery that distills only barley, while the Sigk Cask come from a single barrel, the finest. Scotland distinguishes five regions of whiskey production, each one different in climate and landscape, and therefore in its final taste. The smell of peat? Obtained from the smoking of barley, a typical process of areas such as the Isle of Skye and Islay rich in peat.

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