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 sagara-kun from France.
France is the biggest export market for Scotch whisky in terms of volume, so we simply had to talk to a French whisky enthusiast. Turns out we picked a Frenchman who loves to travel. We spoke to Guillaume Barth (28), also known as sagara-kun on Whiskybase, when he was in Singapore. At that time he had already been exploring Thailand and Malaysia for months.
You’re currently traveling the world. What kind of whisky related stuff have you done so far?
“I like to try a lot of different spirits. Sadly I’m in South-East Asia now and they are not really into spirit drinks. The Thai whiskies I’ve tried are just disgusting. Malaisian ones are not much better. I heard they make good rum in Thailand, but I haven’t found it yet. There are a few whisky bars in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, but they are way too expensive. Luckily, I go to Singapore a lot and can recharge myself at the Auld Alliance Bar.”
Looks like you haven’t encountered a new favourite drink yet during your travels. Are there any other ‘malternatives’ that you like?
“I like rum, but not all types. I’m mostly into Caroni. It’s a little different from whisky. I really like Cognac too, I have quite a few bottles at home. But not necessarily what the big Cognac houses put on the market. It is often reduced with water and really light. The really good Cognac can be found at small houses. For its age it is quite cheap compared to whisky.”
How did you get into whisky?
“My whisky journey started four years ago. With a friend. We were interested in mixology and were touring the best cocktails bars of Paris. Of course whisky is a base for many cocktails, and it didn’t take long before I only drank whisky cocktails. In 2013 my friend invited me to Whisky Live Paris. I still remember starting with Jameson, Famous Grouse and then… Chichibu. That was it. I fell in love with Japanese whisky. Two months later, I bought my first whisky that cost more than 100 euro. It was the beginning of a nightmare for my wallet.”
Do you still enjoy a good cocktail? Or are you now all about whisky?
“Sure, I go to cocktail bars at least once a month. I think you need a bartender to make a good cocktail. You need someone who really knows what he’s doing. But I drink far less cocktails than I do whisky. I also stopped buying bar equipment, and mostly drink whisky now. The bottles I open are not to be used in a cocktail, although I’m not at all against using a good whisky to make a good cocktail. Just maybe not a Karuizawa, haha.”
It was a Japanese whisky that made you a believer. Do you still mainly drink Japanese whisky?
“It’s true that when I started I was really into Japanese whisky. Karuizawa and Yoichi are my favourites. I’m a member of the Private Karuizawa-group on Whiskybase. We used to do a lot of bottle shares, but now Karuizawa is too expensive. Other Japanese whiskies too, by the way. That is why I moved to Scotch, which might be even better because you’ve more choice. I adore old Longmorn, Bowmore and Laphroaig.”
Did you ever visit a distillery? Like in Scotland or Japan?
“Never, even though I visited Scotland a couple of times in the last few years. I would like to, of course. The occasion just hasn’t been right. If I go to Japan again during my world trip, I’ll try to visit as many as possible. But to be honest, visiting distilleries is not as important to me as trying new whiskies.”
So you’ve been to Japan before?
“Through the Karuizawa-group, I had the chance to go to Japan and taste all 54 whiskies in the Hanyu Playing Cards Series. Together they’re worth about 500.000 dollar now. Stefan van Eyken organised this event and I can’t be more thankful to him. It was a once in a lifetime experience. I don’t think I’ll taste them ever again. This event also gave me the opportunity to meet more than 30 whisky lovers, mostly Whiskybase-users, from different countries. I still visit some of them when I travel.”
It seems as though whisky went from a hobby to almost a lifestyle in a short period of time. How did that happen?
“When I’m passionate about something, I give everything. I was interested in whisky before, and drank it sometimes in a restaurant after a meal. Now I spend Saturday evenings involved in online whisky auctions. It’s not that I have a huge salary, I just spent a big part of it on whisky. The young whisky enthusiasts I know, their collections grow really fast. There’s a fear of missing out: if you don’t buy now, in two months it might be twice as expensive. Now that I’m travelling on a budget I’m not spending as much, and that is actually refreshing.”
Would you say you are a collector, drinker or investor?
“All three. I’m a drinker above all and I love to open and share my bottles. But with around 170 closed bottles, it’s hard to deny the fact that I’m a collector too. As for investor: it’s hard not to think about selling some bottles today. I only sold a few for now, but it’s really tempting to sell more to maybe travel one more year. In four years, the worth of my collection may have doubled. Can I really afford to open a Karuizawa now?”
Do you think you’ll ever lose interest in whisky?
“Tasting whisky? No. Buying whisky? Probably. If I can’t buy anymore, I’ll just drink what I have. I’ll probably survive for a few decades, haha.”
Author: Thijs Klaverstijn