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.

Caroni 12 & 15 Year Old, Last of the Trinidad Molasses

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Founded in 1923 Caroni was situated in the heart of the Caroni plain’s sugarcane plantations and produced some of the finest heavy rums in the world (much of it found it’s way into blends prepared for the British Navy). Closed in 2002 it was one of some 50 producers that existed in Trinidad, now only the Angostura distillery remains and produces from Guyanese molasses since the collapse of their domestic sugar industry.

The selections below are two different Caroni bottlings from the legendary importer Velier direct from the Italian market. Both are produced from some of the last Trinidad molasses and were aged entirely in Trinidad before being shipped and bottled in Scotland. Storage in two different warehouses, both favoring evaporation in topical conditions, support the two different releases. The barrels were intact since the liquidation of the distillery.IMG_3477

Caroni, 12 Years Old, Dist. 2000, Velier 50% ABV Tasting Notes

Caroni, 15 Years Old, Dist. 1998, Velier 52% ABV Tasting Notes

Gambarotta Amaro, 1980’s


Gambarotta Amaro, Serravalle Scrivia (Piedmonte) 30% ABV, 1980’s

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The recipe and build was passed on to Gian Battista Gambarotta from the great grandson of a 17th century monk Father Stanislao. Founding his production in 1832 in southern Piedmonte, due north of the Ligurian port city of Genoa, Gian Battista enjoyed great success with this medium style loaded with orange peel, carob root, chinese rhubarb, gentain, etc. His untimely death forced the family to sell to Inga, a family house of Sicilian origin, already in the area for grappa production who carried on his recipe til the later half of the 1980’s.

Fratelli Branca Medicinal Brandy, Milan 1940’s 42% ABV


Fratelli Branca Medicinal Brandy “Puro Distillato di Vino” Milan, 1940’s, 1 Liter, 42% ABV, Direct Italian Market.

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Fratelli Branca has produced brandy since 1888, expanding their production beyond their iconic bitter to meet the growing demand for French cognac in the later portion of the 19th century. For the first 120 years the brand was simply marketed as Branca Old Brandy before being rebranded as Strevecchio (meaning “extra old”) in 1985.

The current expressions are blends of multiple ages of Trebbiano grape based distillate between the ages of 3 and 10 years old. Branca’s Medicinal Brandy was a pure and unblended Trebbiano distillate briefly marketed in the early 20th century that under went much longer aging regiments. Released as a seasonal product that victoriously held its own with the most famous foreign brands. Medicinal was often seen on Italian brandies as a mark of higher quality and proof, as evident by this lost and rarely seen product.

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Cordial Campari, Sesto San Giovani 1960’s


Cordial Campari of Milan (Lombardy), 1960’s, 750ml, 36% ABV

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Almost solely recognized for their production of Bitters di Torino, or Campari Bitter, Fratelli Campari Successori’s (the first iteration of the company we now know as Gruppo Campari) second generation of production/ownership also produced Cordial Campari.

Cordial Campari was a sweet aromatic liqueur with an ABV of 36% obtained by the double distillation of a maceration of fresh raspberries in Italian brandy. The resulting alkoxide was aged for an extended time in large oak barrels, with the subsequent addition of sugar and water.
Developed by Davide Campari, son of founder Gaspare, in 1888 he eventually consolidated all of his production in 1904 to a brand new facility in Sesto S. Giovani, with in the metropolitan borders of Milan. While Davide died in 1936 Cordial Campari was continually produced until current ownership decided to focus solely on Campari Bitter and other acquired brands in 2003.

Cordial Campari had a brilliant following in aperitif style consumption with soda, straight as a digestif and as a cocktail modifier through out its life time (i.e. Blue Sky Cocktail). The spirit itself was fairly one dimensional in its youth, some what reminiscent of maraschino, pruma, or any number of classic sweet liquors so popular through much of the 20th century. Under proper storage Cordial Campari does take on some very pleasant and mild oxidative notes over time. Biscotti, toasted almonds, hazelnut, carmelized trimoline, etc. are a few of the descriptions that come to mind as a wonderful back drop to its rich and full red fruit. It works exceptionally well in back vintage stirred cocktails that would commonlly call for maraschino (Brooklyn, Improved Whiskey Cocktail, Martinez, etc.) and makes an exciting cobbler variation in combination with a fino sherry.

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G.B. Pezziol “Cynar” Padova 1950’s


G.B. Pezziol “Cynar” Padova, 1950’s, 1 Liter, 16.9% ABV, Direct Italian Market.

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Cynar has long since dominated a large, and some what lesser known genre of amaro, called Carciofo (literally translating as artichoke). Its a relative new comer to not only amaro but Carciofo, alcoholic macerations focusing on plants from the family Asteraceae (artichoke, cardoon and blessed thistle being the trifecta of focus), being developed and marketed between 1945 and 1951 in the city of Padova within Italy’s northern Veneto.

Cynar owes it origins to the long standing health benefits of artichoke (latin name Cynara cardunculus). First documented by Lucius Columella of the Roman Empire in the 1st century he spoke to artichoke’s health benefits and culinary applications. After a stint in the military he later dedicated his life to farming and agriculture writing extensively about the subject in a number of texts the most important being Res Rustics, or Agriculture. His initial impression of the plant dealt not only in basic consumption but also maceration by boiling less edible parts of the plants, such as its leaves, in water or wine.

After thousands of years of admiration in a plethora of liquid mediums it seems as if Lucius Columella’s original assessment of the health benefits from maceration and decantation remain correct and confirmed. Leaves have well proven choleric action (the liver increases bile production) which allows the body to better increased the release of liver born toxins. The actual chemical responsible is cynarine, a hydroxycinnamic acid, that is still actively used in modern medicine such as the drug Sulfad (Silibini) used for children afflicted by liver chirrosis. Cynarine also inhibits taste receptors, making water (and other foods and drinks) seem sweet.

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The idea for a commercially marketed carciofo came about in 1948 though had it not been for a local grocer and pastry chef some 100 years earlier it never would have existed. In 1840 Gian Baptist Pezziol opened his grocery store in Piazza Cavour of Padova (Padua). He specialized in confectionary products, particularly nougat, and in an effort not to waste egg yolks he ventured into a marsala and egg based liquor called “Zabajone Benedictine” that we know today as VoV.
The beverage exploded in popularity owing to it being marketed as an energy tonic. The first buildings of G.B. Pezziol’s distillery opened in 1845, and were continually enlarged over the next 55 some years. The Archduke of Austria was said to have been a huge fan after it was presented to his court in 1856, it was even prescribed to combatants of WWI and WWII for its energetic properties under the name of VAV2.

VoV remained extremely popular throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s and is still made today by Molinari Spa. It was the success of this product which made the G.B. Pezziol production facilities such an attractive item for purchase when they went up for sale in the 1930’s. Millionaire Angelo Dalla Molle acquired the properties and began to expand the production capabilities of two new products: Pezziol Menta and Cynar. He conceived the idea of marketing a brand of carciofo, Cynar, in 1948 and created a new plant near Via Facciolati. Turning to a young Rino Pinton Dondi, chief engineer of production and the second generation of the same family to oversee Pezziol, the duo executed research and development over the next few years finally debuting the product in 1950.

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Cynar experienced almost immediate success through power house public relations, iconic advertising (the famous add featuring actor Ernesto Calindri sitting in waves of traffic proclaiming: contro il ogorio della vita moderna! “(for) against the strain of modern life!”), proper brand and production management and thorough capitalization. Finally purchased by Groupo Campari in 1995, the production is now centralized in Milan with in the neighborhood of Sesto San Giovani.

The bottle(s) pictured about represent some of the earliest production of Cynar. The ABV has remained consistent through its history but current expressions are from an entirely different wine base. These older bottles also utilized a longer aging process in large oak barrels, have no artificial coloring and flavor was derived solely from the original 13 botanicals via maceration with no essences or extracts.