It’s not often that a whiskey brand remains under the radar in the way Luca Mariano has. Unless you’re currently residing in Kentucky, there’s a chance you haven’t seen a bottle of this or heard the name before. This brand landed on the scene with big plans. I’m happy to bring this product to the front page today and discuss it a bit, and share some tasting notes as well. Let’s kick this thing into gear!
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In the bourbon world we see bottles adorned with labels touting family history, secret recipes, and many other things along those lines; however, what we don’t often see is a crossover from Italy to the U.S. that spawns a whiskey brand to bridge the gap between the two.
Francesco Viola, owner of Luca Mariano, has found a way to tie his lineage–and family names–together in a modern way. With bourbon! Pulling the Mariano name from his grandfather, and pairing it with his son’s name (Luca), he launched the brand Luca Mariano as a means of continuing a hand-me-down hobby in the form of distillation.
According to the Luca Mariano website, Francesco tinkered with distilling in his home garage until he was made aware that doing so was–let’s just say–not quite compliant with the law. Rather than calling it quits, he decided to take the long and difficult path to creating his own whiskey brand.
This is what the brand has to say:
The Viola family has been perfecting their Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Rye Whiskey recipe for over 100 years. Now, they are excited to release it to the public. Luca Mariano bourbon and whiskeys are aged in charred, new oak barrels to perfection and inspected thoroughly before bottling, ensuring only the highest quality of bourbon and whiskey in every bottle.
The long-term goal of the brand is to include distillation, aging, and a visitor’s center on the premise of the 300 acre farm they purchased in Danville, KY in 2017.
In all honesty I think the details surrounding the beginning of the brand are a bit difficult to make sense of. But details are easy to iron out, whereas bourbon is not. Let’s have a taste of the product and see what it has to say for itself.
Nose – Classic bourbon notes roll immediately out of the glass. I don’t mean this is a negative way at all, but this is almost a textbook example of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. Vanilla, some rich charred oak, undertones that are sweet brown sugar and a touch of powdered sugar.
Taste – Delicate and very easy to get caught-up in. A layer of sweetness rolls right out of the gate. Next to nothing when it comes to ethanol. Caramel corn mixed with caramel candies with a quality oak backbone. There’s a soft vanilla tone that hangs out as well. While not incredibly complex, this checks off the box as being quality bourbon.
Finish – While not incredibly long, the finish rolls off very evenly and I find myself wanting to go back for another sip.
Bourbon Finder Grade: B
Having no idea what to expect with this product right out of the gate, I found the back label of the elegantly-designed bottle a bit confusing. It tells us the whiskey was distilled and aged in Kentucky, but bottled in Michigan. Meanwhile, Luca Mariano is based in Danville, KY.
The press material implies Italian heritage and a substantial lineage of distillation, although the product (currently) is contract-distilled off-premise. So while a few things about the brand’s marketing might be confusing to a consumer, I’m concerned with one thing above all else: the quality of the liquid–and the quality is there.
I’ll be curious to see what the Luca Mariano brand will roll out once it’s own still is online but, for now, the product they’re releasing is contract distilled at Wilderness Trail Distillery, and is a fine example of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. Cheers!
TheBourbonFinder thanks Luca Mariano for graciously providing us a sample of their product. Being able to try new things in the whiskey space, without strings attached, is an opportunity we greatly appreciate. Per our review ethos, we provide objective reviews and commentary on media samples of spirits and products; remember, friends, these are the good old days of whiskey!
Our grading system: As mentioned in our About Us page, we’re excited to share bourbon with our friends, family, and readers. There are enough critics, cynics, and curmudgeons in the whiskey world as it is, so our goal is to foster the bourbon community in a positive way by bringing fun and entertaining content whenever possible–as such–we decided that applying precise scores to whiskey was simply too serious for us (and didn’t accurately showcase variability in taste from day to day). We use a simple grade school system to apply a grade to the whiskeys we review because we feel it is indicative of the whiskey’s grade for us on that particular day. A grade of a “B” today may very well be a “B+” or even a “B-” on another day, so rather than focusing on a precise score today that may not stand the test of time, we are just sharing our overall grade of that pour for that one tasting. Pour a bit and enjoy, friends, these are the good old days of whiskey!
I got into bourbon for the flavor and experiences associated with it. As I found more bourbon I enjoyed, the need to dive deeper into the history, brands, and technical side of things converted me into a total bourbon geek.