Did you know that Turks had a whiskey until very recently? Sounds very strange doesn't it?
Ankara whiskey has the distinction of being Turkey's first, only and "unfortunately" last whiskey. In this article, I have described the emergence of this whiskey and its slow mingling with the dusty pages of history. Most importantly, I shared my comments about the Ankara whiskey that I just tasted in this article.
How Ankara Whiskey Comes Out?
The story of Ankara whiskey began in the 1960s. By producing Turkey's own whiskey, which was a closed economy in those days, it was aimed to prevent foreign exchange from going abroad and to increase the incentive for domestic goods.
For this purpose, Tekel added a small whiskey section to its Ankara Brewery. When the trials between 1957 and 1964 were successful, whiskey production was started in 1964. The production volume is said to be around 200,000 liters. While this volume remained the same for many years, it was increased to 500,000 liters with the investments made in 2002. Within the scope of the investment, 1000 whiskey barrels of 500 liters were also imported from France.
Grain and rice (at most ratio) were used in the making of Ankara whiskey. Although the use of rice is contrary to the definition of whiskey in the Food Codex today, it is said that rice is preferred both in order to reduce the cost and because of the appreciation of whiskey with added rice in the trials.
In the production process, in which two distillation processes are carried out like Scotch whiskeys, alcohol levels of 30-35 degrees after the first distillation and 72-75 degrees after the second distillation are obtained. Oak barrels were preferred in accordance with the rules of the main whiskey countries for the maturation of the produced alcohol.
After distillation, the alcohol level was diluted with water to ratio and left to mature. Maturation period is determined as 5 years. Although it is not very obvious, this phrase is also on the bottles.
It is possible to find Ankara whiskey in different bottles in the market. “Do all these bottles contain the same whiskey, or do they contain different expressions of the Ankara brand?” Unfortunately, we do not know the answers to their questions.
History of Ankara Whiskey
Although the reviews about it were not very bright, Ankara whiskey took its place on the shelves for a long time. With the abandonment of the closed economy policy in the 1980s, import of liquor became free, and thus many suitable imported blended whiskeys entered the domestic market.
Although Tekel took some actions to combat these imported whiskeys, these efforts were inconclusive. In the following years, the demand for Ankara whiskey and production decreased accordingly.
'This malt whiskey exceeds the quality of foreign whiskeys. But due to the shortcomings of Tekel in marketing, it was not presented to the manufacturer with a good appeal. Now we will give our people the same taste with a European bottle.”
Tekel Chairman and General Manager Sezai Ensari – 2003 / Hürriyet – News by Sefa Özkaya
The production of Ankara whiskey started when Tekel was privatized in the early 2000s. Mey Drink, and later in 2011, the world liquor giant diageoIt ended in the process of being sold to .
The Scottish type stills used in the production of Ankara whiskey were purchased by the Virginia distillery and sent to America.
Ankara Whiskey, which was once on the shelves of all houses and bars, is now very difficult to find in the market. I can say that the ones found are collectible bottles and their prices are quite high.
Ankara Whiskey Tasting Notes
As of my age, I did not have the opportunity to taste this whiskey when Ankara whiskey was still in production and was easily available. But I am very lucky that a close friend of mine shared with me the Ankara whiskey in his whiskey collection so I could taste it.
I feel really lucky to be able to taste this hard-to-find whiskey, which, even if found, probably has an antique value.
Let's get to the tasting notes…
Ankara Whiskey (Turkish Single Malt, abv)
Nose: Sugar and vanilla stand out in the first sniff. Immediately after, there are chemical odors that I can call glue and cleaning material. With a little airing of the glass, vanilla becomes clear. Following that, I got coconut (like Malibu) notes.
Palate: It has a very burning, sharp character and numbs the palate a lot. I can compare it to the numbness in the palate after smoking a heavy cigar.
It is sweet as on the nose, but spice is more prominent. Although not intense, there are also oak, sugar and vanilla flavors.
Finish: It's pretty short. Warm, spicy and very little vanilla.
In general, I can say that I found Ankara Whiskey better than I expected. In that sense, it really surprised me.
I can't say that I enjoy its very spicy and sharp character on the palate. In addition, its unbalanced structure and short finish are its other downsides. However, some aromas and bodily structure on the nose and palate are satisfactory.
Who knows, maybe if production hadn't come to an end, different Turkish whiskey brands would still be in our lives in addition to Ankara whiskey. In fact, whiskeys with different characters would be produced in every corner of our wide geography.
Think about it, elegant and balanced whiskeys are produced in the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, sooty and salty malts are produced in the Black Sea coasts, or light and fruity blends are produced in the Marmara region…
Who knows, maybe Turkey would be one of the countries that pioneered the whiskey culture like Scotland, Ireland or America…
– Bülent Yardimci (2003), “Whiskey cheaper than spirit vs. Yeni Raki”, www.milliyet.com.tr
– Bozkurt Karasu (2010), “Malted memories recovered…”, www.bozzy.org
– Kerim Yanık (2018), “What's wrong with Tekel, it has a taste on the palate.
– Mehmet Yalçın (2017), “Let's drink the water of life too”, www.t24.com.tr
– Sefa Özkaya (2003), “Ankara whiskey with a Scottish image”, www.hurriyet.com.tr