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First new Disaronno in nearly 500 years to hit shelves

Disaronno Riserva is the brand's first new innovation since the original liqueur was created in 1525.Disaronno Riserva is the brand's first new innovation since the original liqueur was created in 1525.
Disaronno Riserva is the brand's first new innovation since the original liqueur was created in 1525.Courtesy of Disaronno

Italian liqueur Disaronno has been swirling in cocktail glasses for 490 years. It took that long for the company to get around to making a new version of the alcoholic beverage.

For the first time since the liqueur was created in 1525, there will be another version of Disaronno. This one is called Disaronno Riserva. Just 10,000 bottles are being produced, and the new beverage will begin to hit retailer shelves in October.

But patience comes with a price. Disaronno Riserva is being sold at $349, a sky-high price considering the regular amaretto retails for about $20. It also packs a stronger punch, with 40% alcohol by volume versus Disaronno’s 28%.

The new liquor is a passion product for Augusto Reina, chief executive of Disaronno owner Illva Saronno Company. He’s pursuing a strategy that a lot of other liquor brands have popularized by taking his brand to a more upscale crowd.

That’s where much of the spirits growth has occurred in the U.S. and other western markets in recent years. Other notable brands, like Jack Daniel’s whiskey and Absolut vodka, have also launched pricier versions of their spirits to compete for the bottle service crowd or liquor connoisseurs that are willing to open up their wallets for limited edition concoctions.

The new Disaronno comes at a time when the brand could use a jolt. U.S. sales slipped 3.2% to $15.6 million in 2014 from the prior year, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI. For the broader spirits category, sales were up 2.2% over the same time period.

Is there a way to justify the much-higher price point for Disaronno Riserva? Perhaps not completely. Some of that is certainly attributed to savvy marketing, and Illva Saronno is almost certainly going to pull in higher margins from the pricier liqueur.

But Disaronno also says part of the cost is due to the more complex manufacturing process for Riserva. Riserva is a combination of Disaronno and blended Scotch whisky and is aged in vintage wine barrels in Sicily. The result, the company says, is a spicy sweetness as well as light, almost vanilla-almond flavors. Because of the aging, the stock is fairly limited. And that investment is costly for the Italian company.

“With Disaronno, you can make it very well but you can do it on an industrial level,” said Stefano Battioni, general manager of spirits at Illva Saronno. “You need to wait for Riserva.”