You may not know much yet about The Bookinist, a small independent label from Ukraine, run by Anatoliy Berezovskiy. But that is about to change. Also, you might’ve read about some other bottlings Anatoliy was involved with, called Scyfion. I’ve reviewed several of their releases, as havesome others.
What connects Scyfion and The Bookinist is their fondness for wine cask finishes. The important difference is that Scyfion’s releases have all spend time in Ukrainian wine casks, while the two Bookinist whiskies were finished in casks from well-known wineries from Bordeaux.
But that’s not why they caught my attention. It’s the labels that really stood out. A lot of thought and care went into this Ardmore and Glen Garioch. They honestly are some of my favourite looking whiskies ever. So, I asked Anatoliy if he’d be willing to answer a few questions. Being a very kind and accommodating person, he immediately answered in the affirmative.
(This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.)
Where did the idea for The Bookinist come from? And why did you choose The War of the Worlds and The Brother Karamazov?
The idea first came to me when I decided to quit my previous job and wanted to start a new chapter of my life tightly tied with whisky. Whisky had bursted in my life during my wedding in 2013. Someone, either by malicious intent or as a gift, had put a Laphroaig 10 on my table (red pill for most of us). And it was like … turn on, tune in, change all.
Both books are my favourites from different ages and I wanted to dedicate the first two releases to these particular books. The War of the Worlds captured my imagination when I was a kid, it was my first science fiction book and it impressed me deeply! As well as The Brothers Karamazov, a book which is constantly worth re-reading, it always offers you something new for your thoughts and soul experiences. I find both books and whiskies are a perfect match and companions for each other.
Can you talk a bit about the artwork for these releases?
The labels were created in design studio 43 Oz in Moldova. These guys are magicians, they materialized my thoughts and wishes. Both labels were hand crafted to reflect the essence of the book. If we are talking about TWoW, here the book offered the solution by itself — retrospective of old England with a tripod overhanging and pressing above it. In case of The Brothers Karamazov, the task was harder. A lot of characters and events. So we decided to display the father and son. I hope the labels will inspire to read!
The Ardmore and Glen Garioch are from 2019 and so far the only Bookinist releases. Do you plan on releasing more? And if so, will they be available outside of Ukraine?
Yes, I’m planning to release more. Some are maturing to be bottled this year. And some for the next year. I’m working to launch both The Bookinist and Scyfion on the European market. Hopefully soon, maybe this year. But due to COVID things got more complicated.
Can you give me some details on the wine casks the Ardmore and Glen Garioch were finished in? (Mouton Rothschild and Latour Martillac)
It’s the first time for both whiskies to be matured in these type of wine casks. Both classics Quercus robur barriques from two glorious Bordeaux wineries. I was lucky to find them, they are rare birds on cask market. Two powerful, intense wines with different characters and richness to add to whisky.
You clearly love both wine and whisky. What attracts you to these drinks? Which was your first love?
The history, complexity and time consuming process behind it all. The poeple who make it. And never-ending variety of aromas and tastes of whisky and wine, that’s what attracts me. My first love was whisky, after that I was trying to learn why wine influence is so different, from Jerez to Tokaj, and from Tuscany to Bordeaux. And that became my second love. It’s so cool to discover this world, there are so many gems in it! Various terroirs and types of grapes make sure you never stop being curious.
Many whisky drinkers are skeptical when it comes to wine finishes, yet you seem to embrace them. What case can you make for finishing whisky in former wine casks?
Whisky has a long history with sherry and bourbon casks. It’s traditionally a win-win and predictable combination! And I love it, and some of my future releases are now maturing in these casks. Wine cask influence is not always predictable and it’s very specific in its taste qualities. And this union can be unsuccessful. But when whisky and wine cask perfectly match and balance, and the whisky is not overpowered by wine influence, it becomes fascinating. Very complicated and smooth, with all the advantages of marvelous red dry wine. I love to experiment, and that’s pushing me forward to seek for outstanding combinations of interesting casks from remarkable wines and fantastic whisky.
How do you match a wine cask with a certain whisky? What kind of characteristics are you looking at?
I must love both! First you have to find a good whisky. The winery must be willing to sell this cask to me. It’s always quite a challenge. I rely on my instinct, taste, but there is no recipe. It’s always terra incognita.
Glen Garioch 2008 11 Years (57.5%, The Bookinist, 317 bts.)
Finished in a Mouton Rothschild Wine Cask for 10 months.
Nose: Whispers of pralines and red berries, but also linseed oil and butter, followed by a whiff of burlap and barley husks. Some blackcurrants and also gentle sulphur notes, which is not uncommon in wine matured whisky. Citrus aromas (mainly oranges) become stronger over time. Taste: Roasted hazelnuts and soft yet juicy red fruits after an initially sweet, sugary arrival. Touches of menthol and tobacco as well. Sour cherries too, but there’s also an unexpected ashiness and whiffs of ginger and cracked black pepper. Finish: Lingering red fruits and notes of raw sugar. Long.
There’s quite a lot to like here. For one, this Glen Garioch is far from a dime a dozen and has a nice complexity. At times it lacks a little balance, but I enjoyed this.
Ardmore 2008 11 Years (59.4%, The Bookinist, 216 bts.)
Finished in a Latour-Martillac Wine Cask for 10 months.
Nose: A quick hit of cured meat, followed by charred wood, smouldering embers and some struck matches. Burnt caramel, honey, dried tobacco leaves and peanut skins, as well as some toffee, cherries and apricots. Taste: Creamy mouthfeel and quite an intense arrival, courtesy of meaty peat smoke, ginger, pepper and a touch of rubber and spent matches. Tamed by water, I find notes of almonds, bitter chocolate and toffee as well. Finally some prunes and raisins. Finish: Lingering spices and dried fruits. Ashes. Long.
The palate, which is a little agressive, is outshined by the nose, yet there’s plenty good things to taste here.
Neither of these are perfect, sulphur being the main culprit, but both are interesting and aventurous. In my experience, Glen Garioch and Ardmore are at their best when they’re closer to 20 years of age instead of 10, when they tend to be a little more unpolished. The wine maturation has brought good aspects too, providing meaty, fruity flavours.
Many thanks to Anatoliy for the whisky and his time. Hopefully we’ll be able to meet in person again soon!