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SB meets… Frank Grillo, Altamura Distilleries

The co­-founder of Altamura Distilleries in Italy’s Puglia region discusses the company’s plans to expand into new markets and spirits categories.

Co-founder Frank Grillo (pictured left) hopes to progress Altamura into gin and whisky

Which markets is Altamura Vodka available in and where would you like to launch into?

We are available in Italy, Austria, the UK, India and four US states. For 2023, we will look to expand in the US, add Spain, France, Germany and Greece, and enter China and Australia. For 2024, we will expand to all of the US, enter Mexico and look to expand in Asia.

What flavours are derived from using local wheat to make the vodka?

The durum wheat of Altamura gives the vodka a certain umami that I like to describe as the flavour of sautéing mushrooms and finishing them with some vermouth. The mouthfeel is creamy, and it finishes with an elegant smoothness. In the just released Vodka Masters results, where we won two Gold medals, the vodka was described as having a ‘luxurious’ texture.

How is Altamura Vodka best served?

It is a great vodka for mixology, lending itself to both savoury and sweet cocktails. To experience it for the first time, I highly recommend a classic Martini served in the style of The American Bar at The Savoy: three parts vodka, one­part classic dry vermouth. I am biased towards Carpano, and a dash of orange bitters, stirred and served with a lemon peel. The umami in the vodka pairs exceptionally with the flavours of a great dry vermouth.

How important is the on-trade?

The on­-trade is enormously important to us – we have focused extensively on engaging the highest echelons of the mixology world. We see ourselves as making ‘paint’, and the mixologists are the artists that use our paint to create liquid art. We think the unique profile and mouthfeel of our vodka can be an inspiration in cocktail making.

We have engaged with some of the most renowned names in mixology: Paradiso, Maybe Sammy in Sydney, Rome’s Drink Kong, Locale, Sidecar, The Donovan, Gucci Garden 25, Palazzo Experimental, the Atrium Bar at the Four Seasons Florence and the Aman Venice, to name some.

We participate in important trade events like Tales of the Cocktail, Venice Cocktail Week and the Rome, Berlin, and Athens bar shows, and we are always seeking opportunities to support guest shifts in all of our markets.

Tell us about your plans to move into gin and whisky.

Beyond our vodka we will produce gin and American­-style whiskies using the exact same wheat that we use in our vodka. We intend on distilling and racking the whisky in Altamura.

We intend on releasing the gin in 2024. We’ll distil the first whisky in 2024 also, but that will be in the barrel for at least four years before release.

Are you planning additional spirits?

With the strong interest in flavoured vodkas we intend to introduce a few Altamura options that respect the terroir it comes from. We’re looking at savoury profiles like a tomato vodka using Datterini tomatoes and a green pepper vodka using mild Friggitelli, both of which are grown in Puglia as examples.

How are plans progressing to open a gin and vodka distillery in Puglia?

We expect to begin distilling in Puglia in mid­-2024.

What do you have planned for the year ahead?

It’s about continued execution as we expand our market presence. We’ll participate in more events globally, add new marketing platforms like TikTok, and also make the vodka available in more formats like one-­litre and 500ml bottle sizes.

This interview can be found in the October 2023 issue of The Spirits Business magazine, out now.

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