We talked with Burkay Adalığ about his new book Maltın Peşinde and his whiskey journey that started with the “Angels’ Share” website.
Burkay Adalığ describes whiskey as “life changing”. Because his passion for whiskey has completely changed Adalığ’s life. With the website called “Angel’s Share”, which he opened in 2013 to write whiskey, his passion for whiskey was not only growing day by day, but also helped him discover his passion for writing. Adalığ, who wrote the books Meleklerin Payı and İmbikten Kadehe in the past years, is now meeting with his readers with Maltın Peşinde. We went on a journey from Cihangir to Scotland with Adalığ, where we came together to talk about Maltın Peşinde.
Maltın Peşinde takes us on a journey to Scotland, but before that I would like to talk about your whiskey journey…
In fact, Maltın Peşinde also tells the story of my journey a little bit. My paths with whiskey crossed during my university years; I drank whiskey back then and was interested, but not like today. Years passed and I started to write whiskey by opening meleklerinpayi.com as a hobby project in 2013. Then I discovered that my real passion was not whiskey and Scotland, but writing. Already since high school, I have been writing poems, promotional articles for books and cinema articles for magazines. While he was already fond of writing, blogs began to experience their golden age in the early 2010s. It coincides with the times when my passion for whiskey also increased. I chose to write whiskey because I was interested and loved it, of course, there was no whiskey blogger in Turkey back then. When I started as a hobby project, the day came when I became a whiskey writer.
In fact, many disciplines come together in your life, how did your doctor identity affect your whiskey journey?
There was any whiskey writer who also doctor before, so I was asked what the drink’s relation to health was. However, the drinking culture was weak until ten years ago, and many people drank to get drunk. Nowadays, it is consciously drunk for pleasure. The contribution of my doctorate was in this aspect the most, I write my articles using a double hat. Sometimes I wear my doctor’s hat, sometimes my whiskey writer’s hat.
If you had to choose one of these two professions, which would you choose?
This is never possible for me because I’m always a person that do several things at once. For example, my hobby before whiskey was classical music. I devoted almost 25 years to classical music; we established the Orfeon Chamber Choir, the first choir in Turkey to go abroad and receive awards. In every aspect of my life, there was always something else besides being a doctor. In recent years, I have specialized in spirits such as raki, tequila and vodka, as well as whiskey. My next book will probably be about raki.
What do you think about drinking culture of Turkey?
There is a very significant increase in Turkey’s drinking culture. Not only in terms of consumption, but also in terms of information. In fact, I see our country ahead of many European countries. For example, even in Scotland, types such as single malt or blend are not as well-known as they are in us. I once gave a training at the Clubhouse where I taught whiskey for five hours. I could not believe the questions that came at the end of the training, until they reached almost wood chemistry. We are really at a very good point in the drinking culture. However, I think we still lack a lot in raki.
What about the rate of our whiskey consumption?
I have been following the industry minute by minute since 2013, when I started writing whiskey. In those years when I started writing, there were 50-60 whiskeys in the industry. In fact, I started to go to Scotland, to whiskey fairs in London to taste whiskeys that are not available in Turkey; because it was not possible for me to become a whiskey writer in the way I wanted by tasting the whiskeys we had. Thus, I tasted nearly 1,600 whiskeys in 7-8 years. Nowadays, there are around 500-600 types of whiskey in Turkey. Taiwan or India whiskeys that we tasted at fairs years ago can now be found in us. There has also been a really big increase in whiskey culture. When we look at the volume, according to the ministry data, while around six million liters were drunk in the past years, twenty million liters have been drunk in recent years. The 2022 figures have not come, but we will probably see a figure of over twenty-five million liters. In order to understand the whiskey culture in Turkey, we can look at the following figures: Raki is the most consumed high-alcohol drink in our country, official figures indicate that 33 million liters are consumed. Whiskey’s is around 25-30 million. If it goes on like this, whiskey consumption may even surpass raki at some point.
What do you attribute the increase in whiskey consumption?
In fact, there are many reasons; companies started to invest much more. On the one hand, I have an influence because there was no one who wrote whiskey and promoted whiskey on social media before. Whiskey writers before me had a perception that whiskey was a very luxurious drink. I positioned it as a whiskey that you can drink however you like.
Let’s talk about Maltın Peşinde. How did the idea to write the book come about?
In my first book, I devoted about 30-40 pages to Scotland. However, since the number of pages is limited, I briefly talked about its history, whiskey and whiskey regions. That’s why a lot of information and memories about Scotland were left out of the book. It was gradually revealed in those days that I should write a book about Scotland. Not long after, I wrote Maltın Peşinde, which is both a memoir-travel book and contains encyclopedic information on the back. The book covers all distilleries, it is also the first book in the world to cover so many distilleries. It was a book that blended both memories and encyclopedic information about whiskey. One of the most frequent comments I received from readers was that they enjoyed reading the book, while others felt like they were traveling to Scotland.
How was your first trip to Scotland? And when?
My first visit to Scotland was at the beginning of 2012, coinciding with the time I haven’t written whiskey yet. Two of my very close friends from university were going to watch a rugby match in Scotland, and they invited me. I accompanied them, but I went not to watch a match, but to wander around the city and visit the whiskey museum in the city. Of course, being in the homeland of whiskey impressed me a lot. After watching Ken Loach’s “The Angel’s Share” on his return to Scotland, my love for Scotland was deeply inflamed. Thus, the story of “Angels’ Share” began.
How would you plan a route for those who are going to go on a Scotland trip “in search of the malt”?
If they are going for the first time, I would recommend them to see Edinburgh and Glasgow first. If they are planning a three or four day trip, I suggest they stay in Edinburgh center and visit Glasgow, which takes about an hour and a half by train. They can tour several distilleries in Edinburgh. In addition, Edinburgh is a city full of history, its museum must be seen. Shopping opportunities are also extensive; It has a historical street that you can think of as an old Istiklal Street, a place where you can have a pleasant time. They can also stop by Speyside while staying in Edinburgh. Speyside is a whiskey region that can be reached in about three hours by train from Edinburgh. All the famous distilleries gathered in an area of approximately forty kilometers are here. Although you don’t have time to visit all the distillery, you can see the architecture and shop for whiskey from their stores. For those going for the first time, I can also say that Scotland is not a country where public transport is very common, you are in the middle of nature after you leave a city. A country where it is more convenient to travel by private car.
What is the perfect time to go Switzerland?
On my last trip, a taxi driver told me that Scotland has two seasons, July and winter. It’s definitely a cold country, it doesn’t make much sense to go between October and March. It can be scheduled between May and October. It has an amazing climate that changes even during the day, my February suitcase and my July suitcase are almost the same for Scotland.
Which whiskey types should be tried?
I always answer this question with an example of classical music: I would never say Rachmaninov’s piano concerto or Beethoven’s violin concerto for someone who has just started listening to classical music, because it requires a slightly more developed palate. Instead, I say start with symphonies, Beethoven’s “5. For example, Symphony. Whiskey is like that, if your palate is not very developed, I recommend blend whiskey.
Cafes and bars…
I recommend those who know a little more to go to whiskey bars in Scotland. Because they can give you a menu with a lot of choice, almost five to a hundred whiskeys. On the other hand, seafood and restaurants are very good. It has quite a few restaurants with Michelin stars. Although they do not have a very rich culinary culture, it is possible to find quality restaurants and whiskey bars. For a pleasant afternoon, you can taste a different flavor by dripping whiskey on the oysters at a whiskey bar.
BURKAY ADALIĞ’S CHOICES
*Edinburgh Castle is a must see, as is Balmoral Castle a little further north.
* Those who have time to go to the north can visit Eilean Donan Castle, which is located on the tip of a peninsula, which we see a lot in movies.
*If you’re a “Harry Potter” fan, you can see the famous viaduct and steam train in the movie. You can also visit Diagon Alley Street, which has narrow shops that we saw in the movie. And you can also add the cemetery from which the names of the heroes in the book were inspired into your plan.
*Edinburgh’s side streets are interesting; Hallway-like structures that lived during the plague period in the Middle Ages can be visited. Special tours called Mystery are also organized here.
* Those who like to explore nature can go to the Isle of Skye for mountain biking or hiking.
What is the most special whiskey you have ever tasted?
It was the period when I didn’t know much about world whiskeys and started to hear their new names. In 2015, I bought a small bottle of Taiwanese whiskey from a very large whiskey store in Paris, the European center of Japanese whiskeys is France, by the way. Then I met a friend on the banks of the Seine and tasted whiskey. It was incredible whiskey. The taste of whiskey was still in my mind when I wrote it to my website six months later. Of course, the Seine, the Notre Dame seen from behind, also had an effect. Another interesting moment was a whiskey I tasted at my friend’s house in Gümüşsuyu: I had traveled the world all year and tasted almost two hundred and fifty whiskeys. However, the whiskey I gave the top score that year was that whiskey I drank at my friend’s house in Gümüşsuyu in December.
What makes whiskey special for you?
Unlike many drinks, whiskey is a drink that needs to be kept for a long time after it is produced. I think the fact that it is kept on hold for about 10-15 years makes its story special. So, I also liken whiskey bottles to a time capsule. When I drink whiskey, I feel like I’m drinking a date, I really like it.
How should the correct whiskey-cigar pairing be?
It’s a complicated matter, but the most important point is to pair it with a lighter whiskey if we’re going to smoke a heavy cigar, or vice versa, with a lighter cigar if we’re going to drink a heavily flavored whiskey. It should balance like a seesaw.
Let’s come to the economic part, is whiskey collecting an investment?
Absolutely yes, it has become a separate field, especially in recent years. I even provide consultancy on this subject, just as there is stock market consultancy, it is now also in question for whiskey. There are such bottles that they will be worth three times as much in six months from the time you bought them. There is a concept called “Whiskey Auction Index” and some brands have higher values. We know that some brands will appreciate in a certain period of time, especially if they have a special bottle. Ankara whiskey was a cheap whiskey on the bottom shelves, but its prices have skyrocketed as it is no longer produced. There are now 25-30 thousand bottles that change hands.
Talking about investment and rare things, how are you with watches?
Since the last years of high school and the first years of university, I wear watches to match my outfit. I would choose my watch according to the dress and ring I wore. After a while, the dials started to attract my attention, especially the watches that rotate once a day. The Sturmanskie on my wrist is such a watch, the watch Yuri Gagarin wears while going into space. I started collecting such interesting dials in time. I can describe my collection as follows; There are many dial and strap options, each of my shirts and jackets has a separate watch. I have almost three hundred hours. It is also very interesting that my grandfather, a musician, used to separate and reassemble the mechanism of watches at home as a hobby. I can say that my grandfather, whom I have never seen in my life, genetically passed me a passion for watches.
How would you describe the place of whiskey in yours?
Life changing. My passion for whiskey and my writing has actually changed my life very markedly.
How do you feel when you drink a good whiskey?
I would be very happy. I always say, the best whiskey is the one you have access to at the moment. You go to a friend’s newly opened cottage, grab a cheap whiskey from the fridge and drink it with your friends. At that moment, that bottle that comes out of the fridge becomes the most beautiful whiskey in the world.
Your main passion is “writing”; So, who do you read?
Murathan Mungan is an author that I can say if he wrote a grocery list, I would read it. I think he is one of the best writers of Turkish. While reading Mungan’s sentences, I am always impressed by his language, maybe I know all the poems in Yaz Geçer by heart. I love the novels of Yasemin Özek, who is also the editor of Maltın Peşinde. I love French and Russian classics; I think there are few books as well written as Anna Karenina.