The Hellenic Malt Whisky Society (HMWS) is a whisky club first established back in 2010 in Greece.
The HMWS team was kind enough to spare some time on their experience of starting the Society and to share some of it through the Inside the Cask blog.
Why did you decide to start a whisky society? How did the HMWS start?
The Hellenic Malt Whisky Society was founded in Athens, Greece in 2010, by a group of friends sharing the same passion about Single Malt and whisk(e)y in general, although our relationship can be dated back to 2006, when we initially gathered at a dedicated whisky shop and created a small online community.
Whiskyforum.gr was the online platform that enabled us to exchange our experiences, ideas and opinions regarding whisky on a daily basis and of course, to organize our whisky tasting meetings.
In late 2008, the idea of creating the first ever independent (i.e. not related with any company or spirits importer) Whisk(e)y Club in Greece was introduced to whiskyforum.gr members, and as a result, the Hellenic Malt Whisky Society was founded in 2010 as a group of friends with a specific mission.
What has happened since 2010 and how did you evolve as a Society?
A lot has happened since 2010, and the major change was that the HMWS took under its control the whiskyforum.gr. From day one, the primary mission of the HMWS was, and still is, to empower, finance and maintain whiskyforum.gr as an open, free and accessible to all, online platform/resource of whisk(e)y related information.
During that time, we dramatically increased content by adding topics, translations of Distilleries’ histories, links to external sources, interviews, tasting notes and other whisky related subjects.
As a result, we are happy and proud to be Greece’s most vibrant, complete, updated and, even if we say so ourselves, the most valuable source of information regarding whisk(e)y in the Greek language and probably one of the most complete “whiskypedias” in general.
It is important to highlight the fact that all this content is available for free to all our members, friends and visitors without any obligation or limitations, and we strive to the best of our abilities to have all educational content translated and presented in the Greek language.
The one thing though that has remained unchanged is that we are still a group of friends, with most of us going back to 2006. We also still have the same unchanged passion for Single Malt (well… not only Single Malt, we also have some rebels that love Bourbon, Irish or even Japanese Whisk(e)y!).
New members have joined the Society bringing new ideas and a passion for a more active and extrovert society, something that led to more actions and activities.
How did you publicise the HMWS (to find members)? What is the benefit for the members?
Funny thing is that it took us about 10 years to decide and open a Facebook and instagram account. Still, the only aim of those accounts is to provide access to forum content and articles that we consider of interest, in general for whisk(e)y either in Greece or globally.
To this point we need to mention that a lot of our members do not really care about Facebook and social media and prefer to interact through our forum.
Having said that, it is obvious that we do not “search for Society members” per se. On the contrary, we really love to see people visit and “use” our forum and to freely register as forum members. We think that this is the main reason that kept us and the forum alive for almost 15 years, and the reason that we are still going today.
The main benefits as HMWS members are probably the true friendship and camaraderie and maybe the bragging rights that comes with belonging to the most exclusive whisky brotherhood in Greece.
Also, as with every other whiskyforum.gr member, the knowledge sharing and exchange of information/experiences can be considered the number one benefit, whatever someone is searching about whisk(e)y can be found with a little search in our forum and/or by asking the fellow members, we are always happy to support!
We think that this free and open spirit community of people and the friendships we forged during this journey throughout whisk(e)y in the past years is probably the most important benefit and our proudest achievement.
What kind of people have joined the HMWS?
The pool of our members is of course whiskyforum.gr and as such we have all kinds, from novices, new to whisk(e)y and enthusiasts, to hardcore connoisseurs, collectors and even people working in the spirits industry.
Needless to say, we strive to be as inclusive as possible and we are really proud of how the HMWS is open to both male and female members, and of course the same applies to whiskyforum.gr.
What kind of events have you organised? Any trips to Scotland?
No surprises here! Our events have to do with whisky tastings, either with physical presence or, these days, online. Still, we try to keep these events informal and even unorthodox, as we are not really fond of typical and classic “table sitting” structured tastings. We like to discuss the whiskies, exchange flavour notes, and have fun in an informal friendly way rather than having a “classic” presentation.
We also participate often with other group events as we do have an open relationship with them in Greece and abroad, especially with our good friends of The Cyprus Whisky Association.
We are very fortunate and proud that in the past two years we have been an affiliate member of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and that we managed to have organized the first two “The Gathering Event – Athens”.
Apart from member’s private tours in Scotland and Ireland, which we always try to help with, we have also organized a few trips with some of our members, starting back in 2014 visiting distilleries in Scotland. In our last trip in 2019, we visited the SMWS The Vaults in Edinburgh and at this point, we would like again to express our thanks to you Andre as well as to Iain McAlister for the exquisite tour and excellent hospitality we received at Glen Scotia distillery last November.
Although we are a whisk(e)y club, we have a great respect and affinity to all quality spirits so another important activity for us is that we try to visit and have additional insights towards spirits, especially Greek alcoholic products since we don’t have, as yet, a whisky distillery in our country.
With this in mind, we have organized two amazing visits to the famous House of METAXA, where we were introduced to the history and heritage of METAXA, the Original greek Spirit.
We have also organised and visited multiple times the amazing Oenotria Land winery and wine museum.
Last but not least, we visited our good friend and whiskyforum.gr member, Stelios Zacharias and his family, at the Muses Estate winery and The Lost Lake distillery, where we also had an introduction to the distillation process and a complete tasting of their spirits and wine range.
Finally, we are happy to mention at this point that we do our best to contribute and donate to those in need both as a Society and forum. To this aim, this year we donated the medical material needed to equip the medical office of KYADA (the nonprofit organization of the Municipality of Athens for homeless people and those in need).
What other projects has the HMWS worked on/ developed?
Above all, our greatest achievement would be of course the creation and maintenance of whiskyforum.gr. We are proud of it, the open and free spirit and the content of the forum. We are also very pleased to see that members of HMWS have created or participated in the creation of other groups or clubs about Whisk(e)y in Greece and that what started in 2010 is still alive, strong and growing.
Regarding “projects”, we try to find interesting things to do. We have two HMWS bottlings with our logo, a peated Glenturret and a 12yo Caol Ila from our friend David of Chorlton Whisky.
In 2019, we decided to embark on our first long term project, a nice “whisky journey”, we actually consider this more as a friendship commitment for the years to come. So we bought our first cask, a peated oloroso sherry cask from High Coast Distillery in Sweden.
We also have started as a project our English language section with interviews from whisk(e)y personalities. It is an amazing way to understand how the people of the industry think about whisk(e)y and also an alternative way of learning about it.
What are your friends and whisky peers say about your Society?
Friends are very important and we are extremely fortunate to be able to count some of the Whisk(e)y world’s greatest personalities as our friends and to have some of them providing their kind comments and advice to the society and to our forum.
Please see below some of our friends’ messages to our forum and Society…
Mrs. Angela D’Orazio (Mackmyra Distillery)
“Have fun my friends, enjoy the road of and the inquiry of learning about new wonderful things like great whiskies. Never become whisky illuminated assholes though.… Maybe let in some unconventional ideas in the club to make it stay alive and let some creative women be a part of the organizing of it all…. (to the HMWS female members) Take more space. Add your special touch to the whisky society – that will make everyone happy and maybe the society will thrive just because of you.”
Mrs. Juliette Buchan (The GlenAllachie Distillery)
“Never lose track of what you set up to achieve and stay true to your goals. Remain humble, open minded and people focus. It is always great to see female members in traditionally male dominated Whisky clubs. Never forget that you (female members of HMWS) are opening the door for the next generation of women, contributing to a more inclusive and more diverse society. You are the ambassadors for an amazing product which should be enjoyed by all.”
Mr. Adam Hannett (Bruichladdich Distillery)
“Scotch whisky is a huge- huge area with so many differences; so many amazing distilleries out there, so many people doing amazing things. I think it is a wonderful time to be able to explore whisky to deal with what these people are doing. As we talked about new distilleries are coming and a lot of exciting things, so yes, just keep on enjoying whisky. That’s the main thing, as long as enjoy it, that’s the main thing”.
Mr. Ian Logan (The Glenlivet Distillery)
“Please do not lose that inquisitiveness, there is always something to learn regardless of how much you think you know. Share your knowledge, share your whisky, share your passion. The whisky, any whisky, is always the star not the people around about it. In most cases the whisky was there long before us and will be there long after us too. Treat all whiskies equally, everyone involved in making them is doing their utmost to make sure you have the best experience possible”.
Mr. Roger Melander (High Coast Distillery)
“Try many different types of whiskies. Dare to cross boundaries and even try things that you don’t think you would like. Sometimes you are pleasantly surprised. Read a lot and be source critical whether it is a book or website. Knowledge is an easy burden.”
On behalf of the Hellenic Malt Whisky Society and whiskyforum.gr
Thank you Andre and Inside the Cask!