Every cloud has a silver lining and while the Covid-19 pandemic was the final curtain for an untold number of businesses across the world it was the genesis for two American entrepreneurs to create a business that is truly worth toasting – Altamura Distilleries.
On his 50th birthday Frank Grillo, weary of the American rat race, vowed to move to Italy within the next ten years and enjoy life in the land of his ancestors. The pandemic accelerated his timeframe and within five years the passionate cook and Italophile had moved with both his husband, Justin Breland, and best friend, Steve Acuna to Puglia, Italy.
Although Frank has enjoyed a very successful career as a marketing leader at several Fortune 500 telecommunication companies as well as marketing agencies and smaller innovation-based businesses he has always had a penchant for food, cooking, wine, and the joy that comes from sharing those passions with family and friends.
Some of his earliest memories are of the afternoon-long Sunday suppers with family in his grandmother’s New York home. His food blog It Has a Nice Taste is a tribute to the understated complement his grandfather would give commenting on his grandmother’s ‘Sunday Sauce’.
To commence his Italian adventure, the first step was pursuing Italian citizenship for which he was eligible to apply via his great-grandfather’s Italian citizenship before immigrating to the U.S. in 1904.
The second step was deciding what to do to satisfy his entrepreneurial ambitions and something that involved food or spirits was the obvious choice. Having made the decision he sought to research the area and discover opportunities. Their ‘research’ involved trips to Milan, Venice and other Italian cities to sample food and wine and discover the growing Italian cocktail culture – sometimes life is hard!
It was during this research where he became familiar with Altamura Bread. This bread has been produced for centuries in Altamura in Puglia and is the only bread to receive a PDO status meaning it has a protected designation of origin. The bread must be made with high durum wheat from Altamura and a few surrounding communities.
Frank wondered how the growing passion for cocktails combined with the Altamura wheat in their landmark bread would fare in producing spirits to supply the increased demand for high-quality vodka, gin, and whiskey. In truth it’s all about the wheat and the unique provenance of the wheat grown in the area which bring a truly unique flavour profile to Altamura vodka. And thus with a goal to create the first Vodka distilled solely from Altamura wheat with the purest essence of the raw material subjected to fermentation, Altamura Distilleries was born. The vodka is elegant and refined on the palate and rich in the notes that derive from the terroir and the use of Altamura wheat.
The vodka was launched at an extravagant, star-studded party – if you knew Frank and Steve you’d expect nothing less – at the uber-exclusive Paragon 700 hotel in Ostuni. In addition to the who’s who of the region, leading Italian bartenders from across the country were flown in to participate at the event and create bespoke cocktails that showcased the unique clarity and purity of the wheat vodka.
Frank and Steve are not only both extremely passionate people but their attention to detail is flawless. Being media-savvy every component from bottle design, logo and Altamura branding has been created to relay a message of the brands heritage and vision. The company also plans for a wheat gin in the near future and even whiskey a few years down the road once it has had time to properly age.
While Puglia is an area renowned for its traditions and food, Altamura represents the future of exciting innovations taking place in the region. In a world where there are so many vodka brands emerging onto the market – Altamura Distilleries have ensured that you are able to differentiate the ‘wheat from the chaff’!