The Bartender Magazine Italian Aperitivo Tour continues with a trip to the Gruppo Montenegro facilities.
One of the great things about this Aperitivo Tour was that it allowed us the opportunity to see right into the heart of some of the brands we know and love. We were taken on a tour of the Gruppo Montenegro distillery and facilities which are located just outside Bologna with hosts Matteo Bonoli (Master Herbalist) and Rudi Carraro (Global Brand Ambassador for Amaro Montenegro), who then took us back into the centre of Bologna for one of the highlight meals of our entire trip.
The Amaro Montenegro story begins in Bologna, Italy in 1885 where Amaro Montenegro was created by Stanisalo Cobianchi. Stanislao abandoned his family’s wish for him to join the church and instead he traveled the world, collecting botanicals. Upon returning home to Bologna, he established the Cobianchi Stanislao Steam Distillery. Following years of experiments, his Elisir Lungavita (elixir of life) was born. 11 years after Stanislao created Elisir Lungavita, the Princess Elena of Montenegro married Prince Victor Emmanuel III and would soon become the Queen of Italy. Stanislao renamed his amaro after Princess Elena, calling it Amaro Montenegro.
There is a lot of secrecy surrounding the recipe for Amaro Montenegro which is something common with pretty much every amaro and vermouth in Italy. Bonoli (who has an all-access pass to all areas of production) tells us that in order to limit the exposure to the production processes the extraction plant is located in Teramo while the blending happens in Bologna. The people that work in Bologna and Teramo never meet.
Master herbalist since 2015, Matteo Bonoli is the steward of the recipes for Amaro Montenegro and the company’s other spirits. They also produce bucketloads of Vecchia Romagna brandy right here, a product Bonoli worked on for many years also.
He is one of our tour guides, along with Global Amaro Montenegro Brand Ambassador Rudi Carraro. It’s a tour not afforded to most people and we are supplied with lab coats, hair nets and sensible factory floor footwear. There is a lot of secrecy surrounding the recipe for Amaro Montenegro which is something common with pretty much every amaro and vermouth in Italy. Bonoli (who has an all-access pass to all areas of production) tells us that in order to limit the exposure to the production processes the extraction plant is located in Teramo while the blending happens in Bologna. The people that work in Bologna and Teramo never meet.
In a small tasting room in the middle of the factory floor, we are treated to a tasting of the range, everything from the full range of Vecchia Romagna (including the relatively Riserva Anniversario – a unique blend of old and new brandies the youngest of which had spent 23 years in oak) but with a big focus on the Amaro Montenegro. Amaro Montenegro is made with 40 botanicals using three processes: boiling, maceration, and distillation. Some of these botanicals include: sweet & bitter oranges, petite dried oranges, coriander seeds, marjoram, oregano, artemista blend, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. We got up close to these botanicals including ‘The Premio’. (see more below).
The Six Notes & The Premio
Bonoli explains to us that there are 12 essences of Amaro Montenegro, which are then blended into six notes. The final and fundamental element of this unique Amaro is called the ‘Premio’ (it’s so potent you can’t taste it). Created by the Master Herbalist, the Premio, meaning ‘prize’ in Italian, is a micro-distillate that creates the unrivalled, delicate, complexity of Amaro Montenegro. It’s what makes it unique. Amaro Montenegro is the perfect base for both classic and experimental cocktails and yet, with such a unique and complex flavour profile, it is also a cocktail all by itself.