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Saturday
Jun102017

One More Round of Villa Zarri

Emilia-Romagna is a beautiful place. Located just north of Bologna, the Villa Zarri estate is set in between rolling hills of green. The property itself dates back to 1578 and has hosted scores of parties, concerts, exhibits, and events over those many centuries, but distillation at the site is a rather recent development in context. Everything Guido Zarri does in the distillery is exactly as is done in the Charentes: the grapes are same varietal, the stills are the same shape and size, the proof of the spirit comes off just over seventy as it does in Cognac. It's in the barrel room, however, that Guido changes direction. Rather than age his brandies in used Limosin oak, he starts each distillate off in new oak casks to impart color and intensity before transferring them into refill barrels over time. He also does not top up the barrels to prevent evaporation, instead choosing to transfer the brandies into fewer and fewer barrels as they begin to lose volume. The result is a richer, darker, and more oak influenced spirit; one that does not require coloring agents or added sugar to soften the mouthfeel. The brandies are impressive and all encompassing from the very first sip. But, if you're a modern spirits fan, wait until you taste that concentrated flavor at 59.7%

This most recent batch of Villa Zarri represents the remnant of our previous cask, of which we only bottled a portion. Rather than change the label and go through the whole TTB approval game again, we left it at "24 years" even though it's older than 25 at this point. Why should you buy this brandy? Simple: rarely has a grape distillate ever come this close in my mind to mimicking the best parts of Scotch, Bourbon, and Cognac all in one tidy, cask strength, single barrel package. You get the richness of of the Brandy on the nose; oodles of caramel and creme brulée. You get the power and oak dominance of a Bourbon on the entry, with big spice and bold strength. You get the nuance and complexity of a Scotch on the finish with candied fruit, hints of earth, and rancio notes for minutes after swallowing. There's a reason we went crazy for this bottle last time around. It's the same reason we're crazy about it this time: it's a dynamic, delicious, and dangerously drinkable spirit.

1991 Villa Zarri 24 Year Old "K&L Exclusive" Single Barrel Cask Strength Italian Brandy $99.99 - Nestled into the hills of Emilia Romagna is the Villa Zarri distillery, a small production run by Guido Zarri with a stunning portfolio of traditional Italian recipes and impeccable aged brandies. The Cognac-style brandies are distilled on an alembic pot still by from Trebbiano (the Italian version of Ugni Blanc, same as Cognac) and aged in French Limousin oak for at least 10 years. They are unadulterated, have no added caramel or sugar, and are like fuller, richer, more interesting versions of their French cousins. I was absolutely smitten with the 10 and 21-year-old brandies the first time I tasted them; so much so that I immediately requested barrel samples to hopefully purchase older, higher proof selections directly for K&L in the future. Guido was excited about working with us on a project and provided us with an incredible 1991 vintage 24 year old brandy at cask strength, combining the richness and the finesse of great Cognac with the power and depth of a fine single malt Scotch. It's not only one of the best brandies I've ever tasted, it's one of the most reasonably-priced spirits I've ever tasted for the quality involved. At nearly 60% ABV, there's a lot of heat, so a drop or two of water really helps open up the fruit. Underneath all that power is plenty of rich vanilla, sweet oak, lush stone fruit, and Cognac-like finesse, but without all the sticky additives. What you get here is almost like a Glenmorangie version of brandy. 

-David Driscoll