Silvano Samaroli

Silvano Samaroli, Italy’s whisky legend

 

The career of the famous Italian bottler Silvano Samaroli began in Rome in 1968. He became the Italian importer for John McEwen & Co’s whiskies, namely the blends Chequer’s and Abbot’s Choice, as well as Linkwood and then Glen Garioch. In the mid-1970s, he bottled his first releases, spurred on by Edoardo Giaccone, for whom he imported a Linkwood 1957. After a visit to the Bruichladdich distillery, he selected two 10 year olds distilled in 1965, bottling them both at cask strength.

Samaroli learned the tricks of the trade from Cadenhead and regularly visited Scotland to select casks. Indeed, when it came to bottling his first casks in the 1980s, it was Cadenhead’s subsidiary R.W. Duthies he turned to,  using their services until the following decade when the partnership ended, with the independent bottler preferring to keep his casks. Dumpy bottles of Cadenhead are therefore found in a series produced by Samaroli in 1979. As Cadenhead already had an importer in Italy (Mario Rossi), the labels had to be changed, with Samaroli opting for watercolours that depicted life at Scotland’s distilleries. This habit of designing labels himself was something Samaroli kept up throughout his career. It was also during this period that two legendary bottlings were created, the Glen Garioch 8 Year Old 1971 and the Springbank 12 Year Old.

Other series followed, such as the mysterious Glen Cawdor, a name borrowed from Hamlet’s castle in famous Shakespeare play. The origins of the whiskies are unknown, although it is public knowledge that the range includes several Springbanks, including an incredible 1919 vintage for which only four bottles were filled. The most remarkable bottlings from this period, however, are without a doubt the sherry cask Laphroaig 15 Year Old 1967 and the Bowmore 18 Year Old 1966 Bouquet, probably Samaroli’s most sought-after bottlings.

 

Silvano Samaroli with some of his greatest bottlings Left to right: Laphroaig 1967, Springbank 12 Year Old, Tormore 1966

 

Samaroli also won fame with several bottlings of Longrow, a whisky he was so fond of he bought a hundred or so 1987-vintage casks, almost half of the distillery’s output that year. He was also a great lover of Glen Garioch, bottling part of his 1975 casks in the Coilltean series without using the distillery’s name so he could sell them faster, as he had bought so many.  For those curious to find out more, a full inventory of his bottlings can be found in Emmanuel Dron’s book Collecting Scotch Whisky. Note also that Samaroli bottled various cognacs and rums, including a West Indies Dark Rum from 1948 which went down in history.

The quality of Samaroli’s bottlings comes not only from his excellent selections but also from his personal vision of whisky and his profession. Most of his whiskies are bottled from one or just a few carefully selected casks, at cask strength, without artificial colouring or filtration. His innovative work on designing labels also set a precedent. And, finally, he was a mentor for many other great names in Italy’s whisky scene, including Moon Import’s founder  Pepi Mongiardino.

Since 2008, the company has been managed by Antonio Bleve, who has also become the brand’s owner. In parallel, Silvano continued to bottle casks in the range Singles of Silvano Samaroli. After his death in 2017, his wife Maryse Accorsi Samaroli continued this work with her own brand, Masam, a contraction of her first name and his surname.

 

Springbank 12 Year Old Samaroli

57.1%, 75 cl

2,400 bottles

Samaroli’s greatest whiskies are often equipped with vertiginous complexity. Such is the case for this Springbank, which is dominated by a waxy character and a myriad of fruits (Mirabelle plum, apricot, pineapple, Corinthian raisin) and citrus fruits (orange, kumquat). These are accompanied by smoky, medicinal and herbaceous notes. The sherry casks adds nuts, coffee, spices, balsamic vinegar and cured meat. An impressive whisky we could spend hours exploring without ever getting bored.

Glen Garioch 1971 Samaroli

59.6%, 75 cl

2,280 bottles

The same goes for this Glen Garioch, which reveals incredible maturity for such a young whisky. The first thing to hit the taster is the peat, which reveals a rare finesse, moving between its woody and marine aspects. The sherry is also supremely elegant, with notes of coffee, toffee and stewed fruit. Finally, there are the meaty, almost gamy, and spicy, almost hot, notes that add an additional facet to a whisky that is as powerful as it is refined. If ever it was needed.

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