Emporio whisky

Emporio whisky

Whisky collecting is alive and well in Italy Angelo Matteucci's travels have brought him into contact with some of the great characters in the business.

Collections 16 Jun 2000 | Interviews | By Angelo Matteucci

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When Valentino Zagatti opened the door of his house in Lugo di Romagna, a broad smile on his face, it was a great moment for me. After years of writing letters I was at last meeting the man who is known as someone very special among the Italian
whisky fraternity.Valentino, a collector for many years, is blind, but the sensitivity of his touch is such that he recognises bottles just by handling them. He was just a boy, 11 years old, when he lost his sight in 1945 after stepping on a mine left over from
the war.His interest in whisky began by chance in 1960; the result of giving up smoking. After he packed in the cigarettes, Valentino found himself with some spare cash and started buying bottles of single malt.The hobby developed and soon Valentino found himself part of an international community of friends and enthusiasts. Even those who do
not collect themselves are happy to track down specific bottles he is looking for. He now owns 4,000 bottles; 2,400 of which are individual whiskies. The man has a remarkable memory and is a treasure trove of facts most other people have long forgotten. “What is the most precious bottle you own,” I asked him as we surveyed his collection. There was a long silence which I expected. After all we Italians are known for our sense of style and never choose lightly. “There are three,” Valentino finally said. “A poitin, a Glenlivet and a Springbank. The poitin is very old and has a hand written label – it is the bottle I wish my daughter Atty to have one day. It was bottled by me. “The Old Vatted Glenlivet Whisky, was one of 22 bottles salvaged in 1974 from a shipwreck that happened in 1898. The third bottle, Springbank, was distilled in 1952, unique label issued in 1988 after the air crash to help the Lockerbie Disaster Fund.”His favourite whiskies are the Scottish single malts, but he remains a severe judge and is outspoken about recent ‘lighter’ single malts compared with the same brands of the past. When he was asked to write a book about his collection, Valentino responded, “I have always kept notes in Braille regarding all my research about each bottle I own, so the book is ready.” Called The best collection of Malt Scotch Whisky (advertised in Whisky Magazine, Issue 7), it has set the seal on Valentino’s happiness. After 45 years collecting, he now finds himself in the limelight and is thoroughly enjoying it.
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