Touching down in Brussels we just had time for a mandatory beer and waffle before winging our way to Rome.
Thankfully the roads were empty at Midnight as our taxi driver tried to break the speed record for an airport to the Eternal City.
Rome is awesome and having been lucky enough to visit twice in the mid 80’s it was really fun to have Cindy along on her first trip.
It is a multicultural world and having sold Indian Single Malt to Canadians as an Australian I can pretty much say that nothing should be surprising. I did have to pause and wonder a little that on our Scotch sourcing trip we would be in need of an Italian rendezvous. Samaroli has been around as a company since 1968. At that time they were the only company outside of the UK buying up any notable amount of Scotch in barrel.
Driven from a fiery Italian passion for perfection Samaroli independent bottlings are amongst some of the very best that I have had in my short decade+ whisky career.
Antonio and Danielle, two great guys that are the driving heart of Samaroli, represent everything that is amazing about whisky with enthusiasm and the kind of cheeky non-stop zest for life that seems to define the Italian lifestyle.
Samaroli organized an amazing hotel right in the heart of the old city. Palazzo Navona was exceptional in both service and the incredible breakfast with fresh espresso every morning. The view from the roof took in the tops of some of the most famous landmarks in Rome. St. Peters Cathedral in the Vatican and the Pantheon just to name a few.
In warmer weather basking on the roof in the comfy chairs listening to the buzz and energy of the Roman streets below would be magical.
So day one we were careful to not overdo it at breakfast knowing that we would be having an extended lunch/meeting at Casa Bleve. Antonio’s family owns one of the best restaurants in Rome.
Antonio’s mum still runs the kitchen with an iron fist and carefully fawns over every plate that heads out to the appreciative clientele.
Cindy, Antonio, Danielle and I sat around talking whisky while being served a seemingly endless array of delicious tapas style plates of goodies. Washed down of course with some truly amazing wine. We then enjoyed some great Italian coffee with sweet treat home-made treats. This went on for so long that we actually didn’t get through all the whiskies we had to try. Having to reschedule another afternoon the following day to finish them off was tough 🙂
Left to our own devices Cindy and I strolled along the ancient cobblestone streets down to the Pantheon square and then over to Piazza Navona where we were sorely tempted to buy several fab pieces of local art before settling down in front of the Fontana Dei Quattro – Fountain of the Four Rivers – to enjoy some traditional wood fired pizza and Italian wine.
Cindy and I had to pinch ourselves a little as the moon shone almost full above the amazing scene.
As we meandered back we made it a longer walk and availed ourselves of the famous Gelato that would become a daily staple during our stay.
Back at Casa Bleve to get through not only the Islay Scotch offerings but then some single cask rums as well, turned into another 3 hour+ tasting. I was able to pair a small cigar which was delicious as the private function room had doors opening out onto the street and smoking is still a big thing in Italy.
With the secrets of what we are putting into this years calendar safely decided Cindy and I had a short time to freshen up before an evening that would rank as one of the best meals we have ever experienced.
1988 Samaroli Lagavulin
Casa Bleve has an astounding cellar and beautiful high ceilings with an ambiance that Italian restaurants outside of Italy would love to emulate.
Served by Antonio himself, we were taken through a dazzling array of courses and wine pairings before some truly incredible early Samaroli bottling’s to bring it all to a close. The 1988 Samaroli Lagavulin was stunning and a real rarity to even see this distillery as an Independent bottling.
If any of you ever get to Rome I promise that if you make the Casa Bleve a must stop for either dinner or lunch you will not be disappointed.
With the official work now complete, Cindy and I had a full Sunday to further explore the sights, sounds and tastes of the old city. We pretty much walked everywhere as it’s all so close. The Pantheon, Fountain de Trevi, Spanish Steps, Vatican (more gelato) & Campo dei Fiori market where we had lunch and filled the remaining space in our luggage with Truffle oil and Truffle salt to go along with the aged balsamic that Casa Bleve stocks in their little shop.
Our final walk that evening was to the Colosseum (we got a bit lost) and we had one last delicious Italian dining experience at Squisito Cook Risto Cafe overlooking the fully lit landmark and the full moon.
A huge thank you to Antonio, Danielle and the Bleve family for such amazing hospitality. An absolute treat for Cindy and I that has created lasting memories to treasure. We look forward to seeing you again soon.
With our trip winding to a close we were off to Frankfurt for a night stay. Our last evening we spent touring around Frankfurt and finished our trip with some local Schnitzel, beer and strudel at Haus Wertheym est. 1479.
We sure are looking forward to doing it all again next year. Anyone want to come along??
See you then.