Capovilla Distillato di Vino 1998 for LMDW 60th Anniversary (~18 years)
Background: Capovilla is known for his grappas and eau-de-vies, distilled in a bain-marie still. On rare occasions, he distils grape wine. Even rarer is his wine distillate aged in wooden barrels. This is one of them, and quite an old one at that, bottled at the cask strength of 60% a.b.v.
Nose: remarkable weight and density; there is a rich, musty creaminess underlining the entire aromatic profile; a very solid and rigid structure all around; nail polish; varnish; gasoline; lawn clippings; bergamot oil; high-quality vegetable-tanned leather; candle wax; beeswax and propolis; sandalwood incense and talcum powder for days; sweetness abounds deeper in the glass; grape perfume; dried figs and black dates and raisins; loads of jackfruit-adjacent notes, such as fresh and overripe jackfruit, and batter-fried cempedak; vanilla cream; dark milk chocolate; concentrated black tea with milk; freshly chopped ginger and ginger candy; the previous associations combine to give the impression of a cup of strong teh halia; fried coffee beans with butter; the sweetness is balanced by a heavy dose of earthiness; petrichor; wet forest floor; the tobacco notes are especially intense, as if I just walked into a humidor with people smoking their cigars; the base notes are more savoury than sweet, with occasional touches of brine; salmiak liquorice; salty green bean paste; salted caramel cookie dough; dark soy sauce; olive tapenade; XO sauce; chicken essence.
Palate: wonderful body, syrupy as hell; a strong grapiness maintains its presence as the throughline of the palate, around which other flavours come and go; the front-palate is deeply earthy, herbal and nutty; tar; gasoline; leather; salmiak liquorice; a big, spicy cigar; grass jelly; green herbs like fennel and coriander; crushed walnuts; sesame paste; brown sugar; dark milk chocolate; delectable confectioneries in the vein of black forest cake and Christmas spice cake; a concentrated blend of milk coffee and milk tea, called yuan yang in this neck of the woods; meatiness lays the groundwork for the mid-palate; sweet, smoky pork -– in part caramelised char siew, in part bak kwa; smoked beef brisket; jamon iberico; then comes the tropical, estery sweetness; batter-fried banana and cempedak; mango lassi; pineapple and passion fruit juice; the back-palate is awashed with umami to balance the preceding sweet funk; olive tapenade; canned sardine; salty tau sar; vegetable tempura, with a focus on lotus root; french fries; some churros for a balance of the sweet and the savoury.
Finish: very persistent; minty coniferous notes dominate at first; camphor and herbal ointments the likes of Tiger Balm; sweet and creamy notes follow; vanilla; milk chocolate; mocha latte; creamy Cuban cigar; the salted nuts and cream cheese combination I associate with my favourite Port Charlottes; some rubbery sweetness -– grape bubblegum, blackcurrant-flavoured Ricola Fresh Pearls; egg custard; shortcrust pastry; the aftertaste comprises mashed potatoes and its standard unctuous, garlicky gravy accompaniment, vegetal brine a la kimchi, salsa verde and similar salty, tart and earthy herbal concoctions, liquorice, tar, cling wrap, butterscotch and raisins.
Conclusion: are all ridiculously good bottlings, ridiculously priced? It seems true for scotch whisky, but I am sure it did not use to be so. Ditto for rum. An ex-employee of LMDW once recounted to me the lengths he would go to, in 2012, to implore regular customers to give the Velier-bottled Caroni rums a chance for under $150. It is a blessing, then, to be able to experience hidden gems in other spirit categories. And they could be more common than we think -- if we care enough to explore. Sometimes it is easier to drop $1000 on something we know we will like, than to take a gamble on that $100 bottle that looks different on paper. But in doing the former, we are forgoing a chance to discover something magical, something like a certain Zind Humbrecht marc, or indeed, the subject of this review. This is brandy unlike any other I have had; so dense and compact, exhibiting traits of a big funky rum, a very old rye and a dirty sherried malt, while being categorically a grape distillate at heart. Immense stuff.
Score (assuming a normal distribution with mean 50): 94/100
Image Courtesy of u/zoorado.
Filling a bookshelf? We picked these for you.