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Episode 12, Cyclops // PUNI, Italy's pioneering whisky distillery

Release date: June 16th 2035


Located in the Venosta valley of South Tyrol, just outside the city walls of Glorenza, stands Italy's first whisky distillery. Founded in January 2010 in Glorenza, PUNI distillery is a family-owned business and is run by Jonas Ebensperger and his fiancée Lena. The name of the distillery is derived from the Puni River, which originates in the Ötztal Alps at an altitude of 3,391 meters and flows into the Venosta valley. The ancient Gaelic name of the river establishes a similar connection to the region as the Gaelic names of Scottish whisky distilleries.


The Puni River
The Puni River

Pure alpine water and the valley's versatile climate offer a perfect stage for the grandeur of whisky. A labour of love and admiration for whisky led the Ebensperger family to establish the PUNI Distillery. The distillery's two traditional copper Pot Stills, painstakingly handcrafted and installed under expert supervision, became its beating heart. The distillery resonates with a blend of tradition and innovation, reflected in a design inspired by alpine barn window architectural style.


The year 2012 marked a new era in the Italian whisky landscape. After meticulous preparations and two years of construction, the ebullient PUNI team distilled the first Italian whisky. The inaugural heating of the Wash Still on February 24 was a moment of triumph, marking the birth of future Italian Malt Whisky, which was based on a unique mash bill of malted barley, malted rye and malted wheat. That autumn, the PUNI Visitor Center officially unveiled its doors, inviting people to experience the magic behind Italian whisky making.


2015 was a fruitful year. Having waited for more than three years, the first PUNI whiskies, NOVA and ALBA, were finally bottled. Each whisky offering distinct taste profiles, matured in a variety of casks, introduced whisky lovers to a new palate of flavours.


Growing from strength to strength, the range of PUNI whiskies has been continuously expanded. Today the core range comprises of PUNI GOLD, PUNI SOLE, and PUNI VINA — ARTE and AURA limited editions.


Leveraging the art of distillation, the distillery now produces 100% pure barley malt distilled whisky mainly sourced from Italy and its peated Malt sourced from Scotland. Maintaining the commitment to offer distinct flavours, The Italian Malt Whisky matures in a variety of casks, including ex-Bourbon barrels from the US, ex-Wine casks from Italy, ex-Sherry casks from Spain, ex-peated casks and Virgin Oak.


With its continuous experimentation and ambitious whisky-making prowess, PUNI Distillery aims to shape the future of Italian Whisky. As it evolves, the distillery will continue its pursuit of extraordinary aromas and flavours, promising patrons a journey of sensory delight with each sip of their drink.


Terroir

The prevailing climate and the type of cask both play significant roles in whisky maturation. The South Tyrolean climate is characterized by warm summers and cold winters. These considerable changes in temperature promote an accelerated maturation inside our warehouses. The local climate is a major reason for the mellow and distinguished taste of the Italian Malt Whisky, even after a relatively short period of maturation. PUNI source the water from the nearby Stelvio National Park – pure alpine water which is naturally soft and pure and therefore perfectly suited for whisky making. In addition to American ex-bourbon barrels, PUNI also utilize wine casks from South Tyrol, Marsala casks from Sicily, sherry casks from Spain, and virgin oak for maturing The Italian Malt Whisky.


Architecture

The distillery building itself reflects the harmonious combination of tradition and modernity in the PUNI distillery and its style: modern, elegant and daring. Designed by local architect Werner Tscholl, the cube is a fusion of classic architecture and modern inspiration. The striking design of the cube with staggered red concrete blocks is inspired by the traditional architectural style of barn windows in the region. The entire production of PUNI whisky takes place within the 13m x 13m cube.



Traditional Pot Stills

The PUNI distillery combines the methods of traditional whisky production from Scotland with modern and unique technological innovations to produce whisky of exceptional quality. At the heart of the distillery are two original copper pot stills, hand-forged in Scotland by the long-established family business Forsyths, which PUNI use to produce single malt whisky using the traditional pot still method. However, the stills are heated using an innovative system: instead of steam, PUNI use superheated water. This unique method enables precise and particularly gentle distillation. From 2012 to 2015, PUNI distilled a unique recipe using a blend of malted barley, locally malted rye and malted wheat. Since 2016, PUNI have also been distilling more classic single malt whisky from 100% malted barley, which is sourced from Italy, Germany and even Scotland.



Production

Malt

Malting is a controlled germination that converts raw grain into malt. The enzymes produced during germination are needed to break down the starch for the brewer or distiller during the mashing process. As the first Italian whisky distillery PUNI use 100% malt to create their whisky. PUNI source the malt from Italy, Germany and the UK and store it inside the cube in different silos.


Mash

Mashing allows the enzymes in the malt to break down the starch in the grain into sugars, typically maltose to create a malty liquid called wort. At each production day PUNI ground one ton of malt and mix it with 6,000 liters hot water. The clear wort is then pumped through a heatexchanger into one of their washbacks. The residue of the mashing – the so called draff – is collected by local farmers and used as cattle feed, as it is rich in proteins.


Fermentation

To convert the sugar in the wort into alcohol it needs to be fermented with the help of yeast. PUNI installed five wooden washbacks, each with a capacity of 10,000 liters, made from local larch and built by the last cooperage in South Tyrol. Filled with 6,000 liters of wort and with the addition of yeast PUNI let it ferment up to 96 hours. Due to the unusually long fermentation time, it is not only the alcohol fermentation, but also lactic acid bacteria can start to produce different flavours, which give PUNI's whisky light and fruity notes.


Distillation

The whisky is produced inside the 13m x 13m cube, below ground level. Since 2012 PUNI distill 100% Malt in traditional Pot Stills which are merged with state-of-the-art technology to ensure the premium quality of the whisky. Temperature control during distillation is vital to the taste of the whisky. Because of this PUNI conceived a unique heating system: instead of steam, overheated water is used to heat both stills. This makes it possible to control the temperatures very precisely during distillation and to be particularly careful when selecting only the best part of the spirit in the process.


Maturation

The most significant factors that influence the whisky during maturation are the type of casks used and the climatic conditions inside the warehouse. Besides classic Ex-Bourbon casks PUNI also use Italian Wine casks, Spanish Sherry casks and many more to mature their whisky for at least 3 years. The South Tyrolean climate is characterized by warm summers and cold winters. These considerable changes in temperature promote an accelerated maturation inside the dunnage warehouses. These conditions are amongst the reasons for the mellow and distinguished taste of PUNI's Italian Malt Whisky, even after relatively short periods of maturation.


The Ebensperger Family


The PUNI Distillery is the brainchild of Albrecht Ebensperger. Originally a builder by trade, Albrecht has an outstanding track record of restoring historically significant structures and castles in and around the Alps. The consolidation of a ruin requires a lot of knowledge and experience, be it in the area of ​​the original work techniques as well as in the historical building materials. Over the course of 25 years, Albrecht and his team of specialists have worked on almost two dozen castle ruins, partly on behalf of the State Monuments Office and partly on direct behalf of the private owners. It is this attention to detail, respect for traditional methods, family values and sense of responsibility and legacy that also anchors the ethos of the PUNI distillery.


Ulysses Whiskey x Art, Episode 12, Cyclops

Jonas Ebensperger, and fiancée Lena, have a vision for Ulysses Whiskey x Art, Episode 12 - Cyclops, due to be released on Bloomsday, June 16th 2035. The limited release of only 2,250 bottles will be a worthy homage to Joyce's Italian experience (1904 - 1920). Trieste was a significant place for Joyce’s personal and professional development. It was here that he developed and honed his craft, drawing on many of the elements and experiences of these years in his own writing. Join our journey and learn more over the coming weeks, months and years how our celebration of Ulysses develops into our own shared odyssey.



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