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Interview with Ralfy Mitchell

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Όταν μου ήρθε η ιδέα για μια ενδιαφέρουσα συνέντευξη που θα εγκαινιάσει την κατηγορία αυτή του φόρουμ, πριν από κανα μήνα θα ήταν, το μυαλό μου πήγε κατευθείαν στον Ralfy.

Πέραν του ότι είναι πλέον μια πολύ αναγνωρίσιμη προσωπικότητα στους φανατικούς φίλους του ουίσκυ, αλλά και σε πολλούς λιγότερο ενθουσιώδεις, παγκοσμίως, αυτό που με έκανε να τον επιλέξω, είναι το γεγονός οτι στην ουσία ο Ralfy είναι "ένας απο μας", ένας αγνός και ταπεινός whisky fan.

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Για όσους δεν γνωρίζουν τον Ralfy, ας ρίξουν πρώτα μια ματιά στο σχετικό θέμα παρουσίασης του στο φόρουμ ΕΔΩ

Η συνέντευξη έγινε με τη μορφή ερωτωαπαντήσεων την περίοδο των Χριστουγέννων του έτους που έφυγε, και εκτός των δικών μου ερωτήσεων που αποτελούν την πλειοψηφία, υπάρχουν ορισμένες και από άλλα μέλη του φόρουμ μετά από πρόταση μου.

Ελπίζω να τη βρείτε ενδιαφέρουσα

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WF: OK, Ralfy, let’s start from the beginning. When and how exactly did you started appreciating good whisky and single malts in particular? No one forgets his first time, right?

RM: First proper time for appreciating a Whisky was 15 years ago when my father gave me a bottle of Bunnahabhain 12yo as a visiting gift. I ignored it for a year until I ran out of rum, so used the Bunnahabhain instead in my tonic water. As soon as I ran out of tonic water and added tap water to the malt, I started to notice the smell and flavour. That is now many years and many hundreds of bottles ago.

WF: Which whiskies were your favorites in the bar at the time? Did you sometimes betrayed whisky for other spirits?

RM: My first whisky favourites were Highland Park, Bunnahabhain and JW Green label, which was hard to find at the time. ... but never purchased in Bars, too expensive in these places and usually unsuitable glasses.

WF: By the time you eventually acquired a ‘taste’ and a ‘critic consciousness’ for whisky, have you felt that some of the choices you made in the past were wrong? Have you regretted some of your previous purchases?

RM: When buying whiskies, if one is adventurous, then mistakes will be made, thanks to there being very poor quality whisky being bottled (Thank goodness there's plenty of good options). It's all about managing the risk of bad choices, and letting a Distiller know when their product is poor (I’ve done that a few times).

WF: Every whisky enthusiast has his preferences. Could you name your top 5 Scotch Whisky distilleries?

RM: My top five Scotch Distilleries are (in no particular order) Mortlach, Springbank, Bladnoch, Ardmore and Caol Ila.

WF: Suppose you worked in a distillery. Which job/task would you like to do?

RM: If I worked in a Distillery, my favourite job would be as the Boss of a small craft Distillery with complete production freedom and a good team of workers along with classic-signature Stills.

I would hate to work in modern mass-production Distilleries where everything is churned out with no reference to quality.

WF: Pretty recently, you became the newest certified member of the well known Malt Maniacs. How do you feel about this? Being now on the “other side” (a more formal that is), has this changed your “whisky attitude”?

RM: When I was asked to join the Malt Maniacs it was flattering and an honour, however I do appreciate that I really don't fit into the group situation being a bit too individualistic, . . . so I will give it a year and see how it goes.

I hope to contribute a few more interesting E-pistles and so far they guys involved have been considerate and not too Industry-orientated as one might think.

WF: Also, you were one of the judges of the just released MM Awards 2011, how did you find the whole thing? What was your experience? By the way, correct me if I’m wrong, I think out of all the entries, only 7 didn’t get an award, reminds me of the IWSC awards, what’s your opinion about awards in general?

RM: It was a real hard task judging for the MM Awards as my samples got held up in customs for three weeks and I had no choice but to review 18 samples a night (6 hours of concentration and spitting out good whiskies). I doubt it is something I will be volunteering to do again as for me, whisky should be fun and relaxing, not a chore.

Generally Awards have a place in guiding drinkers, but should not be taken too seriously.

WF: According to various historical papers, whisky in its very first form , “uisge beatha”, produced and consumed in every little farmhouse in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland many years back, was a non-matured raw spirit enriched with herbs. I wonder why today we don’t see on the self any such “whisky” product, it could be a good opportunity to taste the “real stuff”, don’t you think?

RM: there is a potent association of uisge beatha with illegal moonshine and the Whisky Industry don't want that association. Distillation without a licence is illegal in Scotland with big prison sentences for those who 'moonshine'

The nearest we get today is "new-make" (also called 'clearic') and I reckon Glenglassaugh make the best !

WF: I know many Greek malt lovers who also enjoy a good wine every now and then. How about you? Do you sometimes have a mood for wine? Any particular? Are you familiar with any Greek wine variety, such as Mavrodaphne from Patras, Vinsanto from Santorini, Robola from Kefallonia and so on.

RM: There is not really a good availability of Greek wine in Britain, and my main wine choice tends to be red Chilean Carmenere and Merlot. I do however look forward to tasting Greek Whisky made in ceramic stills like those found in recent archaeological digs on Rhodes. Ancient Greeks distilled, and this is a good time for Greek Industry to reinvent the tradition.

WF: And how about whisky finishing in such a wine cask type, would it be a success?

RM: Whiskies are matured in wine casks so long as they are oak and no more than 700 litres capacity, results vary but if done professionally can be excellent.

WF: Rum. I believe Dave Broom started the affair many years ago through his articles in Whisky Magazine and then suddenly during the next years until today, almost every whisky critic/writer/journalist etc. (including you…) is talking/writing about Rum and is suggesting it to whisky people. OK, if it was Beer we were talking about I could understand, it has a lot in common with whisky, but Rum? Why? What’s so special about it and even then, what does Rum share with Whisky? Why not Cognac or Vodka or Tequila or whatever?

RM: Rum is an excellent option to whisky, the reason being there is more availability of well priced quality rum of individuality and complexity at a time when whisky is getting expensive and quality is falling away with some brands.

It's not just rum, there are now some very good gins, vodkas, tequilas, cognacs and other spirits around due to demand for these things and on-line retailers in particular stocking them.

WF: We’ve seen and keep on seeing a lot of experiments/innovations regarding whisky production from every corner of our planet and of course Scotland. How come we haven’t seen a Scotch Pure Pot Still Whisky yet? Do Scottish distilleries hate so much unmalted barley?

RM: We haven’t seen a Scotch Pure Pot Still Whisky yet as Scotch Whisky makers are stubborn and conservative and unwilling to do something that might make less profit with higher costs.

If I owned a Distillery in Scotland, I would make Pure Pot Still !

WF: More and more distilleries are launching rare limited edition bottlings which generally cost much more than what an average malt lover/consumer can afford. In your opinion, is this just a marketing trick that will fade away, or is it a way for a distillery to be differentiated, to be more distinct, to show off?

RM: Distilleries which launch rare limited edition bottlings are partially about putting interesting Malts out there, partially to make higher profit, and partially to generate interest and 'collectability' which in turn is supposed to make their whisky more sexy ! . . . the collectors must always be the ones to decide on collectibility, not the Distillers.

WF: Over the last decade we’ve seen old distilleries changing hands and acquired by independents (like Βruichladdich, Glenglassaugh, Benromach etc.), apart from small farm-sized brand new ones, which were built again by independent people, driven by love and passion(like Daftmill, Kilchoman, Abhainn Dearg etc). On the other hand, in 2010, a new malt whisky distillery fired its stills in Roseisle by Diageo, with a capacity of 10 million litres per year. Will this, and other such moves in the future, mean that we are entering a new era of malt whisky production where there will be two kinds of distilleries, the small independent ones, focusing on tradition and craftsmanship, and the bigger, mass production ones?

RM: You make an important point here, due to the increasing variance of production styles between craft Distilleries like Kilchoman and mass-production factories like Roseisle we are now entering an era of two types of whisky, intrinsic quality malts from small hands-on producers and volume-brand flavour-experiences from Corporate multinationals.

It just the way of the World, there is not blame to be attached. Many spirit drinkers around the World are not interested in quality of smell and taste, they just want to get drunk whilst believing adverts that suggest glamour and sexiness !

WF: I had the pleasure of tasting the Kilchoman 3y.o. ‘inaugural release’, and I’ll be as plain as possible with this one. Is Kilchoman Islay single malt the killer of giants?

RM: Kilchoman is further proof that for those who appreciate quality of flavour, a little option exists for those who care.

The quality of what we as humans consume adds significantly to the quality of our life.

And moderation instead of excess matters too.

WF: Economic recession and whisky, do they fit together? Sales in Greece have declined significantly by the way.

So as it is, whisky business is flourishing, the numbers show increased sales globally over the last years, also due to the fact that whisky has conquered new developing economies such as India, China etc. Do you think that the growth will continue for a long time? Some fear that sooner or later we will end up in a difficult situation just like in the early ‘80s.

RM: The Whisky Industry claims sales are 'booming' Worldwide. I do not believe that this is actually true, there is a Global recession happening and it is Global. Whisky, like all Industries has good times followed by bad times. It will happen sooner rather than later.

WF: Nevertheless, it seems that even under this difficult situation, Greece and the rest of the so-called ironically P.I.G.S. (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain), still hold a large share of export whisky sales. Taking also into account the warm climate these countries have, isn’t this a big paradox or what? Recently, I read somewhere that India, (another warm climate country…) consumes more whisky than Scotland produces. How do you explain this fact?

RM: Whisky sales high in economically depressed Countries and hot climates ? . . . I suppose alcohol is a solace and comfort in hard times. Incidentally, India carefully restricts imports of Scotch Whisky.

WF: What is your opinion about collectors who collect whisky bottles not for the fun of it, but only for profit, those who treat the stuff just like shares in a stock market, those who see it as an investment and nothing else? Have you ever met such a guy?

RM: Good luck to the collectors,(I know a few) I don't blame them for speculating as the Banks around the World are just screwing people, and Whisky is a bank-free investment option, . . . but beware of fakes.

I only buy to drink, either now or in a few years time, when some whiskies deteriorate in quality.

WF: In accordance with the previous question, pretty recently Aldi supermarkets company offered a rare 40yo Single Speyside malt for a mere 49.99GBP. There were just 3.000 bottles available and all gone before even doors opened at that day (I read somewhere that people went outside the stores as early as 2-3 hours before just to make sure they ‘ll get one). Next day most of those limited edition handsome decanter bottles with the precious content were for sale on e-bay. How do you feel about this? Is this normal? Is it a sacrilegious attitude? Is it both?

RM: Aldi's super-economy old Malt was simply good marketing and people had fun with the chase.

I did not join in with this little whirly-gig !

WF: “Wood makes the whisky”, a well known phrase in the whisky business. What is your comment? (let me guess…. “people make the whisky”).

RM: Wood does make a whisky, or any flavoured Spirit, and is all down to the producer knowing from experience what works and what does not.

WF: Angel’s share. Romantic, but the truth is evaporation losses add an extra cost during maturation, at least from a whisky producer’s point of view. Is it true that somewhere in secret labs and warehouses, some of them big companies are experimenting by wrapping casks with cling-on films and stuff?

RM: Angel's share is a load of publicity flannel, we never hear about the devil's share do we ? It is all about acceptable customs and excise loss-limits on alcohol in whisky due to (variable) evaporation of alcohol during bonded maturation. 2% is the 'standard' but if it happened in real life no whisky casked at 65% alcohol would last more than 24 years.

You will notice that there are plenty of old whiskies at high strength ! Due to the climate at Highland Park Distillery, they have very little 'angel share'. Devil's share is when casks leak or are stolen from.

The situation where Some (Corporate) Producers are wrapping casks in cling film or painting over with wax is not so much about preventing "angel's share" evaporation, but more about trying to seal up casks so as to stop leaking due to the poor standards of coopering and cask preparation.

WF: Maturation. We know it happens in the cask, BUT, does it also take place in the bottle, in a much slower pace ? Some people find changes in a whisky, after many years in the bottle. One of the strongest and oldest myths of whisky busted?

If actually oxidization does happen in an unopened bottle, what is the best way to protect the content from spoiling, if someone wants to preserve it for many years? Is immersion of the neck of the bottle in liquid wax and left to dry in the air a good method? I know some people are doing this.

RM: Whisky will certainly change over time in a sealed bottle and the extent and impact will vary a lot, however deterioration will take hundreds of years. What is important is storing in dry, cool conditions over the long term.

WF: Now, I’m not sure if you have mentioned this in one of your vlogs, if yes just skip it. You have in front of you a full bottle of whisky. If you slightly hit the side of it with a spoon you will hear a nice bell-like noise. Now grab the bottle, shake it thoroughly and hit again...ooops! the noise now is dull. What’s the explanation on this weird thing?

RM: The bell-ring bottle and dull 'thing' that happens with bottles is due to the gas induced into the liquid when the bottle is shaken. The gassed-up liquor is less conductive of vibration and so the bottle sounds dull. Un-shaken, the more solid liquor will conduct vibration better and the bottle will sound more resonant when struck.

WF: Dram warming in the glass before nosing. Is it necessary or not? Does it help bringing out the aromas? Make them more intense maybe? Whatever the answer, personally I find rubbing the Glencairn glass with my hand very amusing...

RM: Particularly in a cool climate, dram warming is important, but should be done carefully and gradually.

WF: Let’s talk about some terminology now. ‘Vatted Malt’ or ‘Blended Malt’? ‘Pure Pot Still’ or ‘Single Pot Still’? Which ones do you prefer and why?

RM: Vatted, Blended, single pot-still, . . . it just does not matter when the real quality of what we have bought is there in the glass, quality is quality, no matter how it is done and we should avoid too many label-assessments.

WF: Do you thing like many others that the term ‘blended malt’ is confusing?

RM: 'Blended Malt' is confusing, I use the term 'malt-blend'.

WF: Name, in your opinion, the 3 best things that happened regarding whisky during the last years and the 3 worst.

RM: 3 best things that have happened to whisky,

choice availability, flavour variety, World whiskies

3 worst,

alcohol abuse, Scottish complacency, and dumbing down of some brands.

WF: Which is your favorite whisky writer? Favorite whisky book?

RM: "Whisky" by Aeneas MacDonald

WF: Apart from enjoying/tasting whisky, and uploading new whisky stuff on your blog and utube channel, is there anything else that occupies your free time? Any other hobby?

RM: Apart from whisky, my other hobby is motorbikes, I have several including a Triumph, BSA and Moto Guzzi

WF: What about sports? Assuming you are a football fan and knowing you have Glasgow connections, which club do you support, Rangers or Celtic?

RM: Rangers & Celtic, . . . a big pile of poor quality mediocrity

WF: Now a question that has to do with your rather unusual profession. If you could turn back time, which whisky legend/baron would you like to have the honor to …..take care of, during his last trip?

RM: None of them, I always find more to discover in the company of ordinary Distillery workers

WF: And finally, which 3 whiskies (see, I’m generous…) do you want Santa to bring you this Christmas?

RM: Santa, dear Santa, send me three bottles of Brora !

...........................................................................................

WF: Ralfy, on behalf of whiskyforum.gr and HMWS ,thank you very much for responding to our questions.

RM: Thanks for the invite guys to answer a few of your questions, and I hope you find my ramblings to be of some interest. Good luck with your Whisky (and other Spirits) moments and may I conclude by saying that I look forward someday to sipping some authentic new-generation Greek Whisky !

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Excellent "job" Celtic!

Μεγάλη στιγμή για το μικρό μας γαλατικό χωριό (whiskyforum & HMWS) και μεγάλη προσπάθεια από τον πρόεδρο που δείχνει την αγάπη του για το malt whisky.

Νομίζω ότι με λίγη προσπάθεια, θα μπορούσε ο Πρόεδρος να φέρει τον Ralfy κοντά μας σε ένα event (βάζω νέους στόχους!).

Σημαντικό μήνυμα που βγάζω με την πρώτη ανάγνωση των απαντήσεων είναι ότι ο Ralfy δείχνει μία ροπή για το παραδοσιακό malt whisky, μακρυά από marketing & "collecting" θέματα.

Επίσης (για τους Indiana Jones της παρέας) υπάρχει ακόμα εκείνο το moonshine....άρα πρέπει να πάμε Σκωτία μεριά για αναζήτηση!

Θα επανέρθω με πιο αναλυτικά σχόλια....:moil:

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Μπράβο Celtic! Πολύ ενδιαφέρουσα συνέντευξη. O Ralfy κάποιες φορές απαντούσε μακρυά από την ερώτηση, αλλά αυτό δεν είναι δικό σου θέμα. Congrats.

(δηλαδή θα κάνεις συνέντευξη και στον αλσατό που κατευθύνει τις αγορές και προωθεί τα προιόντα του ινδού και των γερμανών tongue.gif)

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Το forum μας ανεβαίνει επίπεδο με κάτι τέτοια! Συγχαρητήρια!

ΥΓ. Διαβάζοντας μερικές από τις ερωτήσεις ήταν πολύ εύκολο να καταλάβω ποιος τις έκανε. Μου φαίνεται ότι παραέχουμε γνωριστεί τόσα χρόνια...

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Μόλις τελείωσε η πρωινή μελέτη της συνέντευξης.

Δυνατό ξεκίνημα,Well Done Κέλτη!.

Νομίζω ότι με λίγη προσπάθεια, θα μπορούσε ο Πρόεδρος να φέρει τον Ralfy κοντά μας σε ένα event (βάζω νέους στόχους!).

Δε χάνουμε τίποτα να ρίξουμε μια (Guest Star)πρόσκληση όταν κανονιστεί ένα HMWS event.

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Νομίζω ότι με λίγη προσπάθεια, θα μπορούσε ο Πρόεδρος να φέρει τον Ralfy κοντά μας σε ένα event (βάζω νέους στόχους!).

Δε χάνουμε τίποτα να ρίξουμε μια (Guest Star)πρόσκληση όταν κανονιστεί ένα HMWS event.

1ον - πρόεδρος δεν υφίσταται από τη στιγμή που η HMWS δεν είναι τίποτα άλλο παρά μια κάπως οργανωμένη ομάδα-παρέα, αντιλαμβάνεστε τι εννοώ. Αυτού του είδους και άλλες παρόμοιες ενέργειες από μέρους μου, είναι υπο την ομπρέλλα διαχείρησης του whiskyforum.gr

2ον - η συνέντευξη έχει σε μερικά σημεία πολύ ζουμί από μόνη της. Σε συνάρτηση και με αυτό που έγραψα "1ον" δεν βλέπω το νόημα για κάτι τέτοιο - ακόμα τουλάχιστον - και το βρίσκω και πολυέξοδο. Η σχετική κουβέντα όμως εδώ είναι off-topic, άν είναι να συνεχιστεί παρακαλώ να γίνει στο HMWS section.

Πολύ ενδιαφέρουσα συνέντευξη. O Ralfy κάποιες φορές απαντούσε μακρυά από την ερώτηση.

ναι όντως, δεν ήταν μια live συνέντευξη όμως και ετσι δεν υπήρχε η δυνατότητα για σχετικές επερωτήσεις.

(δηλαδή θα κάνεις συνέντευξη και στον αλσατό που κατευθύνει τις αγορές και προωθεί τα προιόντα του ινδού και των γερμανών tongue.gif)

έχω αρκετά άτομα στο μυαλό μου για μελλοντικές συνεντεύξεις. Ο αλσατός δεν συμπεριλαμβάνεται σε αυτά. :tongue:

(φυσικά όμως μπορείς να του πάρεις συνέντευξη εσύ ο ίδιος για λογαριασμό του φόρουμ άν επιθυμείς, όπως και όποιο άλλο παλαιό μέλος, αρκεί πρώτα να υπάρχει η σχετική ενημέρωση).

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έχω αρκετά άτομα στο μυαλό μου για μελλοντικές συνεντεύξεις. Ο αλσατός δεν συμπεριλαμβάνεται σε αυτά. :tongue:

Το αντίθετο θα με προβλημάτιζε... tongue.gif

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Διάβασα τα ξημερώματα το 1/3 της, πριν ανέβω στο βουνό για την καθιερωμένη πεζοπορία μου και την βρήκα εξαιρετική.

Αύριο το πρωί με ησυχία και το καφεδάκι μου, θα την απολαύσω!

Μπράβο Celtic!

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:clapping: :clapping:

Πολυ καλο,και μπραβο γιατι εγινε με τον Ralfy και οχι με καποιον αλλο.

Το ειπα αυτο γιατι θεωρω τον Ralfy ενα αγνο ανθρωπο που οντως αγαπαει το ουισκι και αυτο που κανει,ενας τυπος που ασχολειται σχεδον παντα με τα απλα προσιτα ουισκι(απο αποψη τιμης και ευκολιας στο να τα βρεις) και οχι με ουισκι που δεν μπορουμε να τα δουμε(που και να τα πιουμε) ουτε με κυαλια.

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On 12/1/2012 at 10:04 PM, Celtic said:

Όταν μου ήρθε η ιδέα για μια ενδιαφέρουσα συνέντευξη που θα εγκαινιάσει την κατηγορία αυτή του φόρουμ, πριν από κανα μήνα θα ήταν, το μυαλό μου πήγε κατευθείαν στον Ralfy.

Πέραν του ότι είναι πλέον μια πολύ αναγνωρίσιμη προσωπικότητα στους φανατικούς φίλους του ουίσκυ, αλλά και σε πολλούς λιγότερο ενθουσιώδεις, παγκοσμίως, αυτό που με έκανε να τον επιλέξω, είναι το γεγονός οτι στην ουσία ο Ralfy είναι "ένας απο μας", ένας αγνός και ταπεινός whisky fan.

 

κοιτά να δεις που ακόμη βρίσκω θέματα που δεν έχω διαβάσει...:good:

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