Founders of the Miva Whisky Club

        What is a whisky workshop? If you’re reading this, you probably know something about it, but if you’re new to this concept, let me explain the basic principle to you. It’s a guided tasting of a selected line-up, sometimes blind (the bottles you’re drinking are revealed later), where you interact with your lecturer or moderator as they talk about a specific topic related to that line-up. Commenting and/or discussion are crucial parts of workshops and if you have any doubt about the information or the drink, you should ask the lecturers. They often use visual aids like PowerPoint presentations and various pictures, cask heads or sometimes they opt for nothing. It usually lasts between 45 and 120 minutes. It’s different than a tasting party because the main goal is to educate you about the whiskies you’re drinking and for the audience to interact with the lecturer; you can learn about fermentation, distillation, ageing, history of the distillery, about barley, etc. Even though you can learn something about whiskies at tasting parties, interactivity isn’t as important as it is in this case.

        In this interview, we’ll be talking with the founders of Croatia’s whisky club aptly named Miva Whisky club (its location is Miva’s HQ). Tomislav Tuđen and Jure Andrijašević are the guys responsible for this club, together with some help from their friend and colleague Dario Grabarić. To be perfectly transparent, I’ve been going to their workshops, but the main goal of this interview is to hear their perspective on some questions I had for them. During my visits, I also asked different people about the workshops in general and their opinions, so let’s begin:

Dario Grabarić, Jure Andrijašević & Tomislav Tuđen

In the begining

        Their story started in the spring of 2015 when Jure hosted a dinner party, elegantly combining food and whisky, and the idea of having a whisky club sparked in his mind. In December, the club was officially founded and they hosted its first workshop with an introduction to different kinds of whisky available. This concept exists in the entire world, but back then it was still in its infancy in Croatia. As Tomislav said, “Our main goal was and still is to promote the culture of responsible whisky drinking. Quality, not quantity.“

        The workshops are held once a month, the exception being August when everyone’s on their holiday, and they’ve had 46 workshops so far. They are regularly held on the first Tuesday of the month unless stated otherwise. Transitioning from 2017 to 2018 Jure was on a business trip in Norway, so Dario jumped in and subsequently became a co-lecturer alongside Jure. That way there was more diversity so people had more options. Nowadays they are fully booked, and due to the lack of time and bottles, they’ve decided not to do the workshops twice a month. Logistics can be such a pain. 

        Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Our interviewees said the following, and I quote Jure here, “It doesn’t matter who was the first, second or third. We must all work together to raise awareness of this noble drink and to promote the culture of responsible whisky consumption and exploration.“ While I completely agree with this statement, it would be only fair to mention the other people involved as well. There was a store called Vom Fass, whose lecturer was Dario Grabarić, and they held a couple of workshops from 2014 till 2016. The 1st Whisky Fair was held in February 2015 and you could attend workshops as well. Moonshine Whiskey bar held a few workshops also worth mentioning. Otto & Frank also had a few of them combining food and whisky in 2016. For all of these venues, workshops were again led by D. Grabarić. Also, in that same 2016 Tomislav Ruszkowski started hosting his workshops and whisky gatherings at Bornstein wine bar. So as you can see, there was a lot happening in these years whisky-wise; you could even say whisky was beginning to find its audience in Croatia. However, a significant role was played by a whisky forum called Whisky – sve što ste htjeli znati a niste imali gdje pitati (Everything you wanted to know but didn’t have the opportunity to ask). It was established in 2011 and got into gears in 2013. During those days they were immensely active – there were discussions about everything whisky-related. At the time whisky was considered a bit snobbish in Zagreb (everything more expensive than JW Black Label, Chivas 12YO or similar drinks ranging around 25-30 euros). Eventually, it became apparent that there are enough people who want to learn about this drink, so you could say it snowballed from there. Through the activity of the forum members, first workshops guided by Dario Grabarić came to life, and the organisers of the 1st Croatian Whisky Fair knew they could count on that audience. So while the idea of Miva’s Club is 100% Jure and Tomislav’s, a part of those forum members became the first members of Miva’s Club and some of them are still regulars today.


Anyway, Tomislav says there are currently 40ish active members with new people joining each workshop to see what the fuss is all about. Given that space is limited to a maximum of 28 people per workshop, unfortunately, sometimes they happen to be unable to receive all applicants. In such cases, members take precedence. Workshops are also great for meeting new people with similar hobbies and that’s important because now you can explore those same hobbies even further or perhaps exchange whisky samples. Jure said that he noticed a very high-quality circle of whisky lovers had been created around the club which, in addition to participating in the workshops, had gone on their own exploring the world of whisky. He also added that was the best confirmation and justification for the existence of such a club.

        It’s important to know that anybody can join them (contacts are available at the bottom of the article) and a good thing to know is that you don’t have to be in the wine, beer or spirits industry, there is a diverse array of member professions ranging from architects, accountants, lawyers, brewers, programmers and students to music composers for adult movies; yeah there is music in porn.

I would also like to single out one member who came to every single workshop and he lives 250 kilometres away (in Rovinj). Unfortunately, or fortunately I should say, in the meantime he’s gotten a little kid and another is on its way, so he’s busy with more important things right now,” said Tomislav.

Bistro Jadranka - Miva

        Word of mouth is still the best way for them to advertise, but they recently opened an Instagram profile. The workshops cost 27 euros (≈200 kuna) for members and 33 euros (≈250 kuna) for non-members. The annual membership fee is 47 euros (≈350 kuna) and includes numerous bonuses. Some workshops can be more expensive (usually a couple euros more or around 50 kuna) than others, but they are marketed as such in advance, via email.

        When I asked Jure about his opinion on what he considers to be the goal of a workshop he said, “It is to connect a theme to the whisky line-up. Usually through a story that contains something about the production process or specifics related to the topic in question or the whisky itself. All of this is done in order to gain new knowledge through whisky tasting and to get some insight, but also to learn a little trivia and have fun; a little general culture and non-culture, history and current trends, as we like to say. Since the beginning of the club we have been practicing blind tastings of all our samples. The reason for that is that we want the participants to trust their senses and develop a critical attitude towards what is in the glass without the positive or negative prejudices they have or might have towards the brand, age, price, or bottle/label appearance.“

        In these 46 workshops, they’ve covered all regions of Scotland, went to the USA and back, went to Taiwan, Japan, Ireland, etc. There have been workshops about the importance of distillation and ageing, blending, whisky cocktails and distillery line-ups from Springbank, BenRiach, Big Peat’s Christmas editions, Kavalan, Glenmorangie, Glenfarclas and Amrut. But that’s not all, there was a beer workshop hosted by their club members who happen to be brewers, a Cognac & Armagnac workshop, wine & whisky workshops, gin workshops, finding the right glass workshop, a visit to a local distillery… There were also a lot more workshops with interesting topics: Game of Thrones, new distilleries and their whisky, distilleries that produce more than 10 MLPA, peated variations, etc.

        Even though this is a whisky club dedicated to lovers of the Uisce beatha, they love trying other stuff as you can see in the text above. Whether it’s a fortified wine, beer or other spirits, it’s always good to explore your palate further. Future plans include workshops on tequila, rum and aquavit.

        There are currently two main events in Zagreb dedicated to whisky; those are Whisky Fair and WhiskyLeaks. It’s interesting to note that Dario Grabarić and Jure Andrijašević are both regular lecturers at these events (other lecturers include Tomislav Ruszkowski, Hrvoje Šerkinić and more recently Damir Krizmanić for the WF). I was curious about the interest in workshops following bigger events, but as Tomislav said to me, “Every such event brings some new members; most of them, until then, had no opportunity to hear that such a club exists at all. But these are usually individual cases. Still, any new whisky fan who joins us is a confirmation that we’re on the right track.“

        Miva whisky club also looks out for their members. 2 years ago, a member was seriously injured in a car accident and on two occasions, namely the workshops held in December during the Advent, which is considered a time of giving, they had a charity fundraising for him. It was a genuine gesture and as Jure said best, “The joy he experienced was nothing compared to ours and the chance that we got to help him at least a little. I am grateful to all the club members who made it possible with their arrival and participation. Besides we had fun and talked a lot.“

Behind the scenes with Zvjezdan Levinger, a bagpipe player

Favourite moments

        Looking back at all these years of standing in front of people and educating them, I had to ask them what their favourite workshop or moment in general was, since Jure and Dario both come up with their own concepts and workshops, so it is interesting to hear their stories:

Each one is dear to me in its own way because I design the workshop concept and topic. I also choose whiskies myself and my goal is to always give my best. If I were to pick out some of the workshops, that would be based on my preference for some whiskies, for example, Supermalts because I love Springbank.“ – Jure

My favourite workshops are the ones in December, there is a special atmosphere during the holidays, but also because we celebrate the Club’s birthday. If I would have to pick out one topic of the workshop; I’m still more in the wine world than in the whiskey world, so the fondest in my memory are the workshops where we tasted wines and whiskies that aged in sherry and port barrels.“ – Tomislav

It’s hard to single out a favourite workshop. Every new workshop I create is a new challenge and I try to make it even better than the last. I love the ones that require the most work, research, graphic preparation, and those for which I can arrange the line-up I wanted. Because the goal is not to make a selection of the “best” bottles, but rather to come up with a great theme, elaborate it thoroughly and competently, and combine a line-up that best follows both the theme and the elaboration.“ – Dario

        I asked them about the other side of the story, about their least favourite workshops, or perhaps the ones that didn’t really go as planned?

There were no such workshops, but in the very beginnings of the club after the initial interest there was a short period where we had a hard time filling the workshops, which I would explain as a difference in understanding between the workshop concept and people’s expectations.“ – Jure

Well, no.“ – Tomislav

Not really. We had mistakenly replaced the order of two bottles in one workshop, but it matched up so well that it opened up a whole new (unplanned) topic. Surprisingly, it came as a bonus, not a mistake!“ – Dario

        As my last question, I asked them what their favourite whisky was that month and if there had been a whisky they had been disappointed or unimpressed with.

I would point out these whiskies as my favourites this month: Springbank 1997 vintage, some Amrut’s and one particular Laphroaig. On a recent occasion, I had the opportunity to taste two whiskies from Bruichladdich, one was bland and boring and the other one was surprisingly good.“ – Jure

I love Glenmorangie whiskies, especially 18YO and Signet. Another one that I remember is Balvenie 14YO. I can’t say I’m a fan of high alcohol percentage in a whisky or peated whiskies in general, so I would single out Big Peat Christmas Edition 2016 as the one that didn’t impress me.“  – Tomislav

The biggest surprise to me was not a whisky, but something that had not yet become whisky. This is a one-year-old single malt spirit, an Israeli Milk & Honey Distillery in Tel Aviv. An unexpectedly brilliant distillate, superbly integrated into the wood. I’m not a fan of whiskies in which the influence of the barrel or the length of ageing dominates so much that the whisky is unrecognizable.“ – Dario

Our main goal was and still is to promote the culture of responsible whisky drinking. Quality, not quantity.“

Members' feedback

As I said at the very beginning of this article, throughout recent workshops I had asked anonymous members to share their stories about their favourite workshop, whisky, whether they had any complaints or constructive criticism or absolutely anything else they wished to say for this article. Some of them told me that everything was perfect but I wanted to hear more details, so these are the opinions from the people that were kind enough to answer my questions:

John Doe #1

“I especially love Christmas workshops because of the humanitarian nature. If I could single out my favourite workshops, they would be Glenfarclas and Two Little Giants the Limited Edition. I have only praise for Jure & Dario. My favourite whiskies I’ve tasted are Springbank 15 Rum Cask Finish and Ardbeg Kelpie.

As a way of improving the quality of the workshops, I would suggest tasting only five whiskies because anything more would be too much for me to handle. I also loved the food, but sometimes the sausages would overtake my palate – but at least I wasn’t hungry.“

Jane Doe #2

„I think the best workshop whisky-wise was Supermalts. I would also have to single out the Game of Thrones workshop because it’s been the most unusual and the most interesting one. I like that the Club decided to have higher pricing because we tried most of the entry-level core range whiskies through the years. The audience has evolved and I think it’s necessary to look for more unusual or complex bottles.

My personal favourite was Springbank 10YO Local Barley and the most unusual, or interesting would be Talisker GoT (I thought that was Lagavulin GoT). I would suggest the topic Auctions or Whisky from auctions or something like that. And I know this isn’t related to the club, but a chair with a backrest. I’m not that young anymore.“

John Doe #3

“Dario & Jure are great lecturers and people because we can learn a lot of useful information about whisky. It’s important to back up that knowledge with the right line-up and they manage to do it. I personally like the comparison between Croatia’s climate and distillates and the rest of the world. I like to see how we can all learn from different distilleries. That’s why I like Dario’s workshop about Armagnac or Jure’s workshop about Glenfarclas.“

Jane Doe #4

“I’m interested in workshops dealing with the production or ageing technology and workshops about “exotic” whiskies. I fancied the one about Amrut, though the whiskies themselves were, well, not really crazy. Sometimes you should make a workshop with old (more expensive) whiskies, even if it is a higher price or/and fewer bottles to try. You should also do some bourbon and rye workshops. I know they’ve been done already, but it was a long time ago and I could use a repeat. In terms of space, it is good. If the crowds get too big, maybe think of two terms a month (two groups).“

Bistro Jadrank - Miva

Jane Doe #5

“I’ve been a member of the Miva whiskey club since the beginning. And ever since then, the club has been performing better and better.

Our presenters, Jure and Dario, are excellent experts and they both conduct their monthly gatherings in their own specific way.From my perspective, my favourites are the workshops that reveal something completely new to me. Sometimes it’s a whisky, sometimes a whole distillery, sometimes it’s the details of the production process.

It is invaluable when you have the opportunity to sample and compare the five different Glenfarclas ages in one place. Or when there are five peated whiskies from different distilleries in the line-up. Or when comparing “classic” bourbon with rye whiskey. I would say that just that “comparison” is the key to my notion of tasting. Comparing whisky characters, sniff, taste, ponder…

I support the Club’s philosophy that the whiskies at workshops are almost always readily available whiskies. That means a lot to me – being able to get a bottle of some exceptional newly discovered whisky is very important to me. Yes, it’s nice to taste rarities or vintage ages on occasion – but my hedonistic thirst is looking for more than a sample.

And another very important thing – whisky is more interesting when you drink it in a group, and especially in a group that shares the same passion for it. So when someone says “this whisky smells like a blown-out mixer,” we all understand it and we’re pleased by it.“

John Doe #6

“When I enrolled in the first Croatian whisky club a couple of years ago, I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m extremely happy with the Club’s work and development, and I consider it to be the best club of its kind in Croatia, and perhaps a little further.

One of the things I like is that the workshops are designed to offer a broader picture of whiskies (or other beverages) being talked about, for example, the background, history, geography, characteristics of the place and time where and when something was produced. The workshops are tailored to a wide range of people, both beginners and those who already know something, and there is enough material for advanced people that no whisky nerd could complain about it. And best of all, everything is left at an affordable level, without creating any unnecessary (and often false) elitism. The club is constantly growing, which is good, but only to some extent, since it creates practical problems such as a lack of space, which should be addressed in the future.

It’s hard to say which workshop was my favourite, but I could single out the one where we were learning to make whisky cocktails. It was very helpful, as we went through the most famous whisky cocktails and got the chance to do the same ourselves, with the instructions and under the watchful eye of the lecturer.

The workshops are excellent, they are distinguished by their accessibility and excellent knowledge, and it is a pleasure to participate in the workshops, all the more so because everything takes place in a relaxed and friendly environment. Furthermore, I like that we sometimes make a ‘trip’ to other relevant drinks, so there is a lot to be learned. I hope that this way of work will continue.“

John Doe #7

„I’ve been a member since 2016 and I rarely miss a workshop, you could say I’m a regular attendee. The best workshop for me was the sherry workshop, we tasted sherries and those whiskies finished in the same barrels. It was a great learning experience about the influence of the sherry. Workshops with new distilleries or experimental whiskies are also worth mentioning. I almost forgot about that time we had a Johnnie Walker Red Label from the 1960s, I appreciated that. My favourites would be Kilkerran, Old Pulteney and Hazelburn. I enjoy those oily and “dirty” whiskies.

As for the Club’s direction, I have to say it’s great for me. I love Jure and Dario as a dynamic duo. Jure approaches everything from a sociological point of view, while Dario has endless technical and insider information about the whisky industry.

Recently, the price increased for the workshops and I’m glad that now we can have a higher budget for different themes and that means our whiskies will get even better. If I could suggest some topics it would probably be a rum workshop or even a sherry workshop but in a new way, new whisky, new wine, etc.“

Jane Doe #8

„I would single out my first workshop in April 2017, called Art of Blending. Besides the wonderfully blended whiskies, I also tasted a great 1960s Johnnie Walker Red Label. The bottle was well preserved and the whisky was something completely different from anything I had tasted before. At this workshop, I got hooked on the Miva Whisky Club.

My favourite bottles would be Highland Park Dark Origins, Glenmorangie Signet and Springbank 17YO Sherry Wood.

I am very pleased that the Club has moved a step further and that some bottles are not accessible to the average consumer. I am also glad that it’s not simply expensive and highly praised bottles, but that Jure & Dario are trying to choose interesting bottles and editions that always justify the higher price for money.

In the future, I would like to see more independent editions, and maybe even workshops dedicated to a single independent bottler, because I think that I could then try out really interesting bottles. Some of the examples are Hunter Laing, Wemyss Malts, The Ultimate, etc.

Sometime I would also like to see historical workshops dedicated to whisky from old times and taste more „historical“ bottles.“

If this interview peaked your interest and you would like to learn more about whiskies and attend their workshops, you can freely contact them.




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