Past Finds

We write regularly about rare spirits we've uncovered, which you'll see below. These updates are posted a bit after they're sent to our mailing list, ensuring dedicated customers get first option to purchase rarities. If you'd like to get on the list, please do—and feel free to contact us with specific requests.

Very Olde St. Nick “Rare Private Stock” 12 Year (Swiss Export Paul Ullrich AG)


Very Olde St. Nick Rare Bourbon
“Rare Private Stock”
12 Years Old, 114.3 Barrel Proof
1990’s Release, Even Kulsveen
Swiss Export, Paul Ullrich AG
750ml

IMG_5258Very Olde St. Nick is a brand of extra-aged bourbon that has come from many different sources over the past 30 years of its existence. The brand was created in 1984 to capitalize on the extra-aged bourbon trend in Japan and Europe. At that time, Julian Van Winkle provided the bourbon and bottled Olde St. Nick at his facilities in Lawrenceburg, KY.

Eventually, Julian ran out of old bourbon and the brand began to be bottled by Even Kulsveen of Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD) using Heaven Hill stock. KBD bottles a variety of highly sought after brands such as the Willet Family Estate Bourbon.

Currently, VOSN is very hard to find and most of the bottles are dusties. It appears that VOSN, like many other export-only sourced-whiskey brands, has stopped production as the market for sourced-bourbon has become tight. Recently, Frank-Lin Distillers have taken over the sourcing and bottling of Olde St. Nick and plan to bring it to the U.S. market.

The Tequila of Olmeca and Sauza; 1970’s and 1980’s

Don CenobioIn 1873 Don Cenobio Sauza (pictured right) founded Sauza at La Perseverancia distillery (pictured below). He was the first distiller to call the blue agave spirit “tequila” and was the first to export the drink to the United States. The brand remained family owned and operated through the following two generations expanding the company and eventually distributing world wide as Sauza was considered among the premium tequila of thetequila25 world.

By the 1970’s the family had decided to form a partnership with the leading Spanish brandy producer Pedro Domecq. This lead to their eventual purchase of the entire company in 1988 and after another some 26 years of sales and acquisitions Beam Suntory currently owns the brand.

The two bottles below represent some of the final expressions before the family’s complete departure from production and oversight. They are both 100% blue agave blanco expressions in wonderful condition without any signs of oxidation.

IMG_5146

Tequila Sauza Destileria de Aguardiente de Agave “La Perseverancia” NOM 1102 Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico 44% ABV, 1980, 750ml, Mexican Market

IMG_5147

Tequila Sauza Destileria de Aguardiente de Agave “La Perseverancia” NOM 1102 Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico 40% ABV, 1970’s, 750ml, Italian Market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite its long history tequila was only recognized as a spirit unique to Mexico in 1974 and it wasn’t until 1978 that Normas Oficial Mexicana (N.O.M.) was established to regulate all of the agricultural, industrial and commercial processes related to tequila. As a result a number of distilleries in older bottles aren’t represented in the current system. While introduced in 1967 Pernod Ricard’s Olmeca brand was manufactured at La Martinena, one the original Cuvero distilleries, till it was moved to Destileria Colonial de Jalisco, overseen by Maestro Tequilero Jesús Hernández, when it opened in 1994. The brand has ever since exploded but the below bottle is all blue agave, with plant ages from 7 to 8 years.

IMG_5148

Olmeca Tequila Destileria La Martinena Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico 43% ABV, 1970’s, 750ml, Italian Market

Dr. Leonardo Spadoni’s Ravenna Fernet


Leonardo Spadoni Fernet
Ravenna, Emilia-Romanga
1500ml, 51% ABV, 2000’s

Amaro production, and especially fernet, has been in constant consolidation since the 1980’s. Lack of domestic consumption compiled with smaller producers lacking the infrastructure and capital to compete with larger houses in fo
spadonireign markets has forced many closures. However, the multi-generational company of Molino Spadoni S.P.A. began to manufacture its fernet in the 1990’s after the current CEO, Dr. Leonardo Spadoni, took over from his father.

The company began in 1923 and remains one of the leaders in Italy’s milling and grain processing industry focusing mainly on farina, polenta and various other flours. While somewhat unorthodox in the U.S. its quite common for agricultural focused companies to embrace amaro production as well (Bonomelli is another fine example, the majority of their production is olive oil but is supplemented by some 3 different styles of amaro).

Dr. Leonardo Spadoni

Dr. Leonardo Spadoni

In contrast to the growing trend of light bodied fernet Dr. Spadoni’s formal education in chemistry, compounded with his passion for traditional Italian beverages, drove him to create a product with a deep homage to the intense styles of deeply spiced, oxidized and bitter fernet.

The label proudly boasts its style with the Italian phrases: “Forte di Erbe” and “Pieno Grado” and at 51% ABV, with two periods of co-maceration seperated only by a single rectification these phrases are an understatement.
In addition to Tempus Fugit’s Swiss “monastic style” Fernet del frate Angelico, Spadoni has pushed the benchmark for traditional fernet. Loaded with black aloe, saffron, myrrh, Chinese rhubarb, galangal, myrtle, Seville orange and 13 other botanicals loaded with volatile oils and alkaloids this is a very unique product. Rarely seen out of Italy we are making steps to have this be yet another staple in Sole Agent’s portfolio.

 

Felice Bisleri’s Ferro-China From 1933


Felice Bisleri & Co. of Milan
Ferro-China
920ml, 25% ABV, 1933

s-l1000Few, if any, Italian bitters have such a fascinating story and visionary behind them. Born in Gerolanuova, in eastern Lombardy, in 1851 Felice Bisleri lead a fascinating life starting at age 15 when in 1866, with the outbreak of the third war of independence, he ran away from home to enlist in the Volunteer Corps of Giuseppe Garibaldi Italian involved in the invasion of Trentino.

He was awarded the Silver Medal of Military Valor for his actions at the Battle of Bezzecca in July of 1866, where he continued fighting despite being injured. While the true unification of Italy didn’t occur til after the First World War Felice departed military service after the capture of Rome in 1871. Returning to Lombardy, still yet 20 years old, he settled in Milan and began to try his hand at a number of jobs before settling in the field of pharmaceutical chemistry.

640px-Felice_BisleriHe married in 1875 and took over a modest shop that was equiped with a basic chemical laboratory. An avid reader he was self educated in his field and in 1878 he had distilled a bitter beverage tonic that eventually became Ferro-China. Thanks to his tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit, in some ways a precursor of the times, he was able to brand and offically market his product by 1881 and eventually left his shop for a large facility at Via Solair, 11 Milano (a building that exisists to this very day though long since converted into apartments).

While he created a number of other medicinal compounds, as well as authoring a number of important paper and books, Felice remained best known for the China. TIMG_4801he addition of iron salts is what differentiated his from the slew of chinas produced at that time in Italy (French chemist Joseph Caventou never patented his method of chinchona extraction in 1870). The flavor profile is deep and intense, still blossoming with red fruit components and the soft earthy bitters so many people favor in aged China.

Lighter in body then the majority of its former competitors its elegance is reinforced by a mild copper penny, metallic and blood like finish. The tactile sensation on the palate is worth exploring this bottle alone. The formula of Ferro-China Bisleri had been passed down through the generations, but by the early 2000s there was a void in consumption prevailed and it was later sold.

Sanchez Romate’s “Cardenal Mendoza” Gran Reserva Solera Brandy de Jerez 1971 & 1982

In a market where consumers continue to remain infatuated with whisk(e)y, rum, and other spirits bottled with extensive barrel aging and oxidative flavor profiles its unfortunate that Brandy de Jerez largely slipAmontillado_Palido_Sanchez_Romate_Hnos_Jerezs people’s notice. Brandy de Jerez is one of the most regulated spirits in the world; their regulatory council strictly enforces the type of stills used, area of production, solera aging, type of barrels and base wine.

First produced by the Moors, already experts in the field of distillation having mastered basic retorts and pot stills, Brandy de Jerez was created from the already famous local wine: sherry. With sherry being the base wineries took on the majority of production in the following centuries, Sanchez Romate being one of them. While officially founded in 1781 they didn’t commercially produce their brandy until 1887 when it was brought to market under the name “Cardenal Mendoza” (In honor of Pedro González de Mendoza (1423-1495), a historical figure who played a crucial role in the conquest of the Muslim kingdom of Granada).

tumblr_mz3mt12MFL1tobxiuo1_500

An example of a rudimentary “alquitara”, a basic pot still originally used for production of Brandy de Jerez as introduced by the Moors in the mid 14th century.

It was the founder’s, Juan Sanchez de la Torre, 4th generation that moved the company’s focus to distilled spirits and while they continue to produce a few wines their concentration on brandy remains to this very day.

By the 20th century very few people still used the traditional copper pot stills that were heated by direct fire in a discontinuous process. Today Romate uses a combination of steam heated pot and column stills to achieve the necessary distillates for aging and eventual blending. The pot stills are used to obtain spirits of low alcoholic content, between 40° and 70°. Holandas is the term used in Jerez to refer to these wine spirits low in alcoholic content, which are of greater quality as they require the distillation of the best of wines and better evoke the raw material from which they are produced. Column distillation, which are more modern and efficient since the wine is introduced continuously, obtain strengths of between 70° and 94.8°.

By law the brandy must be produced exclusively within the municipal boundaries of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. It then must be aged in American oak casks with a capacity of 500 liters that previously contained sherry. Finnaly, the traditional aging system of criaderas y soleras is used.

b2d3e332963233.56b37eaec5aba

The cellars of Sanchez Romate in Jerez de la Frontera

Of the three classifications of Brandy de Jerez the bottles above are: Brandy de Jerez Solera Gran Reserva. This requires the longest aging, with a minimum average of ten years and a total content of volatile components of 250 mg. per 100 cc. of pure alcohol.

These back vintage bottles are also another 5% higher in ABV then current production. In addition the spirit in the bottle are considerably older then current expression because of their place in the solera system. Aged in former Pedro Jimenez and Oloroso sherry casks its sees an average of 15 to 17 years in barrel.

IMG_4926

Sanchez Romate “Cardinal Mendoza” Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez 45% ABV, 750ml 1982 (left) and Sanchez Romate “Cardinal Mendoza” Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez 45% ABV, 750ml 1971 (right)

The intensity of the bouquet starts with waves of prunes and raisins. Deeper aromas also arise such as orange rind, peppermint and roasted hazelnuts. It is rich, heavyweight brandy that tastes of dry cocoa, toffee, caramel, bananas foster and tonka bean.