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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 let us know—and feel free to contact us with specific requests.

Dom Bairo Elisir Amaro 1970’s

Don Bairo Elisir Amaro of Aprilia (Lazio, 21% ABV) 1970’s, 1000ml

With its origin documented back to the 15th century Don Bairo was created by Peter Michaeli (better known as Peter Bairo) and originally came from the town that bears his name in the region of Canavese, Piedmonte. Long established and far pre-dating the arrival of many other monastic orders and amaro production from anti-clerical sentiment in the early portion of the 20th century, Don Bairo was a wine based maceration later fortified with neutral brandy. By the 20th century production had begun under the watchful eye of Buton, on a much larger scale, at the facility in Aprilia. The bottles available stem from the last decade of production before the brand’s termination.dombairo ee6e3da7-c3c3-42e0-ac04-4dfad4c1407f

Dom Bairo represents a tradition as old as Carciofo. Dark, deep and brooding aromatics of Chinese rhubarb, caramelized ginger, mocha, sun dried raisin, roasted almond, etc. Drinking much lighter than the nose would elude to it shows fantastic balance between a mild bitterness relieving the palette from its upfront sweetness and great natural acidity.

Alpestre; Tonic of the Marist Brotherhood

Distilleria San Giuseppe “Alpestre” Fratelli di Carmagnola 1970’s, 49.5% ABV, 750ml

The glorious, Italian, bone dry, high ABV expression of mountain herbs known as Alpestre owes its origins to a French maceration known as Arquebuse. Towards the end of the  seventeenth century, in the area of ​​Lyon and the Rhone-Alpes, it had been birthed in monastic orders. Its name stemmed from rudimentary firearms, of the same name, to which monks originally “prescribed” to French soldiers injured by these guns.IMG_3693

The Marist Brotherhood was created in 1817, though they wouldn’t have offical approbation from the Holy See until 1863, by Priest Marcellin Champagnat in La Valla of Lyons. It was this order that is formally accredited with creating Arquebuse but more importantly codifying its production. Supposedly by one specific friar, Emanuel, an expert in herbs, decantation, and maceration who combined the essential 34 botanicals and finalized the recipe in 1857.

In 1904 the brothers were forced from France due to anticlerical sentiment that had been building in much of Western Europe. They found refuge in Northern Italy’s region of Piedmonte and specifically the town of Carmagnola, with in the Turin province, due to the area’s long standing allegiance with the Catholic Church.

The first photo below showcases a portion of their original residence just outside of Carmagnola. (A small hint of modern windows can be seen to the left of the exhaust, also part of the property. In addition, rows of herbs in the foreground cultivated for production.) While they have since stationed their order in a newer building the property still hosts the production facility for today’s expressions of Alpestre. The second picture is of the loading dock and the only branding on the entire 10 acre area.
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Between 1904 and 1920’s the popularity of Arquebuse flourished throughout Western Europe, inspiring hosts of other production. By 1929 the Marist order re-branded their product to what we know it as today: Alpestre. This was not only in an effort to separate themselves from other production (the advertising below showcases some of the first transition to the Alpestre brand), but Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime had come into power in 1922 and began to prohibit the use of non-Italian names.

pubblicita-alpestreProduction has remained largely unchanged to this very day, other than nearly countless different iterations of labels and bottle formats. The chosen 34 herbs, including chamomile, angelica, anise hyssop, lemon verbena, artemsia, st. john’s wort, etc., are macerated, some dry, others fresh. After the desired concentration of flavor is acquired either from either single or co-maceration the solids are removed, the resulting tinctures are blended and distilled once.

The resulting distillate is then aged in large, used Slovenian oak barrels for varying amounts of time. Today, Alpestre is marketed in a 4 year format at 44% ABV and a 30 year old expression at 49.5% ABV. Both expressions were chosen by the Onesti Group who acquired the brand and worldwide distribution rights in the mid-90’s. Prior to that everything that was bottled was a minimum of 10 years old and bottled at its true strength of 49.5%.

Alpestre remains an exceptional product to this very day but expressions produced under direct supervision of the brotherhood remain the most sought after. It is the most underrated genpy offshoot that exists. As age worthy as Chartreuse, in fact more so, with no added sugar and botanicals specifically cultivated for its production on estate property. Back vintage expressions of Alpestre can stand up to any other bottle on the market. Everyone can look forward to varying vintages and bottlings of Alpestre becoming staple components of the Sole Agent portfolio.

Family Averna and the Iconic Amaro of the Order of Capuchin

On an evening during the mid nineteenth century Padre Jerome PietrelucPadreadjustia of the Order of Capuchin in Caltanissetta (pictured to the right) urgently summoned to his bedside Salvatore Averna. Padre Jerome had been ill for some time and, feeling close to his end, he wanted to leave Salvatore a parchment that detailed a rare drink recipe, made with Sicilian herbs, which the monks used to prepare as a miracle cure for malaria and digestive disorders. His motivation for such a gift was due to Salvatore, and his family’s, long established roots in Caltanissetta and being a great benefactor of the convent as an extremely pious individual.

Or so the story goes….

It is confirmed that the order did indeed invent the tonic that would later be marketed as Averna. It is also true that Salvatore Averna had tasted the liquor multiple times during his life. He had often expressed the desire to produce it for himself, family and friends as a “hobby”. Whether or not the recipe was in fact donated to him as the legend tells or if Salvatore “purchased” the recipe from the brotherhood is something we will probably never know.

In 1859, Salvatore did purchased the old convent of the Capuchins, which by the early seventeenth century had moved closer to the city (see picture below). Building a new house for himself and his family he began to give away bottles of the Capuchin bitter to his friends and loyal customers, which he had started to produce in the basement of his new house. Tales of Salvatore’s generosity with the spirit quickly spread, particularly around Christmas, and the liquor’s rchiesaeputation grew in Sicily and on the mainland as well.

This fame quickly motivated Salvatore, and his sons Emilio, Michele and Francesco, to open a new production facility in 1868. In the neighborhood of Xiboli, with in Caltanissetta, they officially debuted the family amaro, now marketed as simply Averna, to the Sicilian public.

After the death of Salvatore and his brothers, Francesco Averna was the sole heir to the company. Production was still quite limited with in the small facility of Xiboli.  Then in 1923, Francesco Averna, immediately after being made Commander by King Vittorio Emanuele III, died suddenly. At the helm of the company was now his wife Anna Maria Ceresia Averna, with six children to look after. She was certainly the first real entrepreneur and lead the business through some of its toughest years and eventually unprecedented growth and success.

World War II took a serious toll on Sicily as the 6 week allied campaign in the summer of 1943 lead by General Patton, General Bradley and Field Marshal Montgomery drove from the southern beach heads to the main cities of Palermo and Messina directly through central Sicily and as a result Caltanissetta. Much of the towns infrastructure had been damaged or overhauled during German occupation and by the wars end in May of 1945 it was clear the following years would be of reconstruction and revitalization of the Italian economy. During those years, Francesco Pisa enters into Averna as plant manager who, working with Anna Marie and surviving childern of the conflict Emilio, Paolo and Michele, create the success of following years. In 1958 a new factory was constructed in conjunction with the renovation of the old factory. Anna Maria and her sons continued to move the business into a much more dynamic nature then how it was originally concieved.

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In 1966 the company appeared for the first time in a television commercial and by 1978 dominated the amaro market in Italy. As the fourth generation took over following Anna Maria’s death Fratelli Averna had been one of the largest companies in the province of Caltanissetta. Ever expanding to meet demand the family began overseas distribution of Amaro Averna, in the 1980’s and in 1989 the Group acquired the Villa Frattina, Friuli-based company that produces grappas, wines and sparkling wines.

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On April 15, 2014 the Campari group offered a sum of some 100,000,000 euros for the acquistion on the company. The financial transaction was completed in June of the same year offically marking the end of 146 years of family ownership and management. Today, in addition to the historic factory in Caltanissetta in Xiboli district, Averna is also produced at plants in Novi Ligure and in Finale Emilia. Finale Emilia has become the main production plant of the group as its larger and more modern but the infusion is still produced in Sicily and bottled in Finale Emilia.

Pre-Fire Evan Williams Single Barrel Vertical 1992-1995

“Flames leapt hundreds of feet into the air and lit the sky throughout the night. Witnesses reported seeing whiskey barrels explode and rocket across the sky like shooting stars … a two-mile long stretch of the creek that supplied process water to the distillery was set ablaze for a brief time.”
-John C. Birkmire. April 2009


On November 7th, 1996 tragedy struck the 61 year old Heaven Hill (DSP-KY-31) as a fire erupted in warehouse “I” eventually destroying some 90,000 barrels of whiskey in addition to the majority of their production facility. The cause was never determined due to the extensive damage and while only 7 of their 44 warehouses were destroyed Heaven Hill was still forced to source additional distillate from neighboring producers. They also acquired the Bernheim distillery (DSP-KY-1) in Louisville.

The four bottles listed below are all 10 year expressions under the Evan Williams label distilled between 1992 and 1995. Being single barrel bottlings the whiskey contained in them is 100% original Heaven Hill juice. Now nearly 20 years after the fire any expression from Heaven Hill that is solely composed of pre-fire distillate is extremely rare and collectable.

Evan Williams SBV 1992-2002 Cask 037, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 43% ABV

Evan Williams SBV 1993-2003 Cask 292, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 43% ABV

Evan Williams SBV 1994-2004 Cask 001, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 43% ABV

Evan Williams SBV 1995-2005 Cask 012, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 43% ABV

Old Fitzgerald 6 Year Export Only, Dist. 1956/Bot. 1962, Stitzel-Weller

Old Fitzgerald 6 Year Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Bottled in Bond
Export Only
Distilled in 1956, Bottled in 1962
Stitzel-Weller Distillery (DSP-KY-16, Shively, KY)
4/5 Quart
43% ABV

Starting in 1870 “Old Fitz” was originally produced for rail and steamship lines and private clubs in the south. Released to the public in 1900 it became one of the most iconic brands in American whiskey production. While currently produced by Heaven Hill the most treasured back vintage bottles, such as this one, were produced under the supervision of Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle prior to his death in 1965 at the Stitzel-Weller distillery. He acquired the brand and softened the mash bill with the addition of wheat, taking note from one of Stitzel-Weller’s founders A. Ph. Stitzel.tumblr_m37nooi60z1qexonqo1_500

Stitzel-Weller was closed in 1992 and the brands it produced were subsequently moved to the Bernheim distillery and later divided up between Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hill.