Without the Community there would be no Whiskybase, which is why we want to put a spotlight on some of our beloved members and showcase our diversity. Get to learn the person behind the avatar. In this instalment we talk to Julse from France.
Her nickname on Whiskybase is not far removed from her actual name. You know her as Julse, but in real life she goes by Julia Tovarova (28). She is the proud mother of a new-born son, lives with her husband in Moscow, and runs a fun whisky-related Instagram account. She sometimes has to explain to acquaintances that you don’t need to add coke for a whisky to taste good, and whisky isn’t as popular in Russia as she might like. But she’s slowly starting to convert more of her friends.
Did you actually like the first ever whisky you tried?
“No, not at all. It was an Ardbeg Ten, which I bought at an airport in 2012 when I was in Switzerland for work. I work for Siemens, and I make quite a lot of business trips. I picked it with my eyes, not because I knew if I actually liked the taste it. I just thought the bottle looked great, as well as the packaging and the glass that was included. When I tried it at home, I really didn’t understand what I tasted. What kind of stuff is this?”
I guess that didn’t discourage you from trying other whiskies. Otherwise this’ll be a very short interview.
“Haha, sure. For a little while there, that was it. I stashed the Ardbeg away, only to grab it again three months later. It was my husband who wanted to try it. At that point I had looked up some more information on how to drink whisky, and this time around I actually enjoyed it. The first time I wasn’t ready for the smokiness and peatiness of Ardbeg. It wasn’t at all what I expected. It smelled as if some fuel leaked into a lake. I actually thought I had bought a bad bottle.”
Now I’m even more surprised that you liked it the second time you tried it.
“My husband liked it better. He still likes peated whiskies, whereas I’m now more into other whiskies. One of my favourites is a Ben Nevis from Maltbarn. A couple of days ago we opened a Glen Moray bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, I also love that one. It is very fruity and has a very interesting finish.”
Does it mean that you and your husband share this hobby? And do you do whisky related things together?
“Well, he works a lot so that doesn’t leave much time for whisky. I’m more involved with whisky than he is. Of course we choose new whiskies to try together, and I then try to buy it. We have a good friend who helps us to import whisky to Russia, which I’m happy about because it is hard to get certain goods into Russia because of sanctions by the EU.”
Is it possible to buy good whisky in Russia itself?
“Yes, but it is very expensive. Sometimes two or three times as expensive as in Germany, for example.”
How popular would you say whisky is in Russia?
“Whisky isn’t very popular in Russia yet. Sometimes people really don’t understand that you don’t need to drink it with coke, and they are surprised at how much you can spend on a good bottle of whisky. However, some close friends of us did express an interest in whisky. Now we help them to discover whisky and to connect with the whisky community in Russia. It is great to have people that share your interest.”
You talk about the Russian whisky community. What can you tell me about it?
“There’s an online community on VK, a Russian social platform much like Facebook. We have a group called the Russian Whisky Society. That’s where I share my tasting notes on whisky and whether I think something is worth buying or not. I know some of the people in real life as well. We have meet-ups in bars. And for the last three years we also have whisky festivals here. I love it. You can try a lot of whisky or take samples home with you. The best thing about them is to meet all the other whisky enthusiasts.”
Since that first Ardbeg, I imagine your whisky collection has grown quite a bit?
“Yes, you could say that. When I was pregnant about a year ago, that was when our collection grew the most. Of course I couldn’t drink, haha. When I got married to my husband I gave him a bar as a present. At first we used it to store wine, but it all had to make place for whisky. Turned out we still didn’t have enough room, so a lot of bottles were just sitting on the floor. I since bought a new cabinet, but it is now completely filled with whisky too.”
Would you ever like to visit a whisky distillery? Or is that something you don’t really care about?
“I would like to do that very much. I’m really interested in distilleries. In about a year or so, when my son is a little older, I would like to visit Scotland. You can book organised tours here in Russia for a trip of five, six or seven days. I’d love to visit Ardbeg for example, but Bruichladdich as well.”
What would be your favourite whisky memory?
“Not too long ago I was on vacation with my husband and my son. We brought samples of several whiskies, like Ardbeg, Talisker and Ben Nevis. We went to a beach and also brought smoked salmon and some nice cheeses. Tasting the whiskies there, together with the food, was simply great. It was incredible to see how being on a beach impacted the tasting experience.”
Author: Thijs Klaverstijn