People's Istanbul : Burkay Adalig
People's Istanbul : Burkay Adalig
People’s Istanbul – Interviews DR. BURKAY ADALIÐ Pharma Company Executive / Whisky Blogger

1. Can you tell us about the first memories you have in Istanbul? Were you born in here or came after?

Starting from primary school until the end of medical school and my residency period, I lived in and adored Ankara. I still have a special bond with my hometown, however at one point I felt like I was living in a large village and I decided to live in a big cosmopolitan city like New York or London. During my childhood I travelled to Istanbul many times but it wasn’t until 2000 when I had a real chance to see around, discover and fall in love with Istanbul. At that time I was having interviews in New York hospitals but then I suddenly realized that I didn’t want to practice my profession and live in a foreign country but instead, I wanted to experience Istanbul life with a different career. So I accepted a role in an international pharma company and moved to Istanbul 13 years ago. It was one of the best decisions I made in my life.

2. Could you share your best suggestions on where to go to a dinner especially for the Turkish tastes?

I’m a “Cihangir person” for the last 5 years. It might sound a little bit odd but like all other residents of the area, I have a tendency to stay in the neighbourhood in my free time. Smyrna is like my second workplace, I mostly work there on my home office days. “Aliye” is a relatively new ‘meyhane’ owned by a close friend of mine, and I always enjoy the meze/raký there. “Savoy” is also a similar concept restaurant and you can never go wrong with whatever you order.

3. What’s your favorite way to spend a rainy day in Istanbul?

The rain in Istanbul has a different characteristics when compared to the rain in Europe or in Ankara. Here the rain comes with storms and you have mini-floods all around. So I tend to stay indoors whenever it rains. I can also consider myself a real cinephile, I watch 10-12 movies a week, watching a good movie with a dram of malt whisky in my hand may be the perfect plan to spend the day. For tourists visiting Istanbul on a rainy day, I would definitely recommend a visit to the Istanbul Modern, it’s one of the best modern art museums in the region

4. What about the day (a day?) you can’t forget in Istanbul?

I’m singing classical choral music since I was 18. When I came to Istanbul I joined Istanbul European Choir and one of my first concerts was the season opening of AKM performing Carmina Burana with a huge orchestra and choir, where I had the chance to sing the short solo part. That day was a dream came true. It’s so saddening to see the current situation of AKM now.

5. Tell us about your secret places or just one hidden gem in Istanbul?

Just by chance Kandilli was one of the first neighborhoods I visited in Istanbul to look for an apartment. I was so impressed by Kandilli’s completely isolated feel, even though it was right inside the city. All shades of green, fruit trees, the old wooden houses, cobblestone streets make Kandilli a very special place. Go there, and get lost in the narrow streets.

6. The music! What can you tell about the places you go to listen to some quality music?

I’m a man of classical music. So I enjoy listening (and singing) in music halls with good acoustic and ambiance. Aya Ýrini is a magical concert hall for chamber music. Recently Zorlu Center has opened two beautiful world class concert halls. Babylon Bomonti is a recently opened venue and I believe they’ve done a great job

7. We do know that you’re very much interested in whisky culture and a club you've found called Maltýn Günü. What’s this story about?

All my life I had a tendency to learn interesting stuff and have strange hobbies, then show off to people who didn’t know much about those topics (at least I’m honest). When everybody else had “Sex on the Beach” or “Votka Tonic” s at the school parties, I thought it would make me look cool if I had something else, like whisky. It clicked right away and I started drinking whisky, reading about it and making research on different type of whiskies when I was in my 20s. I travel a lot and I spend 1-2 months of the year abroad, so I have the chance to try several whiskies that are impossible to find here.

Last year I realized that there was almost nothing in Turkish about whisky online so I started my blog I write regularly on whisky culture, I share my tasting notes and the best part of all I meet other whisky enthusiasts to exchange experiences. Currently its the largest whisky culture platform in Turkish language, which makes me real proud. If I’m not mistaken I’m the only guy regularly blogging in Turkish on whisky culture.

At the end of 2014 I founded Maltýn Günü which is a closed whisky tasting club with 11 members. It’s by far the most active whisky club in Istanbul, we organized the first World Whisky Day event in Turkey and the first Ardbeg day. We also organize regular tasting nights. We cannot add more people in the group, so we have a Facebook group – Viski Tutkunlarý - where 1200 “maltýn günü friends” now exchange information on whisky culture.

8. Could you recommend some whisky spots with some tips for the people who visit to Istanbul?

Unfortunately we don’t have “whisky bar”s in Istanbul. However some bars have a relatively large selection of malts. Due to the high tax rates in Turkey, bottle prices are much higher than Europe & US. When you add the high profit margins of the bars, it gets really expensive to drink out . I tend to drink at home the malt whiskies that I cannot find in bars.

But if you want to have some whisky in a cosy environment with relatively good prices I can recommend 21 in Cihangir. I recently started the hashtag #viskimenüleri on Twitter. Me and some other whisky enthusiasts share photos of the whisky menus of all the bars/restaurants we go. I’m not a cocktail person and whisky is not a cocktail drink, however Alex’s no name bar (it really has no name) in Gönül sokak (next to the legendary Narpera) is a spot that shouldn’t be missed. Alex is a very successful mixologist with very interesting whisky cocktails. Geyik in Cihangir has also great whisky cocktails

9. How would you spend an ideal Sunday in Istanbul? Just to stay at home or you like to step outside?

I love going out on Saturday nights, a dinner with friends followed by couple of drinks in Asmalýmescit or Cihangir. So I go to bed late and Sunday is a day of sleeping & relaxation for me. I also have the chance to maintain my website, gather my notes, read and write blog posts. I also like taking photographs and writing travel articles for Hurriyet Gezi and Dipnot Tablet. My latest articles were on London, Edinburgh, Speyside and Kaþ, my favorite holiday spots.

10. What’s the most funniest experience you had in public?

I’m a control freak guy who would never let himself to be in any embarassing situation in public. On the exact opposite when I’m with close friends I have so many funny experiences that I lost count.

11. Is there any chance to avoid the noise of this city without going out of it? Any silence places to hide?

As I said Kandilli is a real great place to escape the noise of city. In fact when I was living there, at night sometimes I wondered if I suddenly became deaf, it can be so silent at times… If you’re willing to travel more, the Prince Islands, Rumeli Kavaðý and Polonezköy are also great escapes.

12. After all, what can you tell about this city to a complete stranger?

One of the first things that shocked me when I arrived in Istanbul was seeing thousands of people walking on Istiklal Street at 4:00 in the morning; there was a traffic jam and the city continued to live. Ankara was like mid European cities, it was hard to see people on the streets after 22:00.

Istanbul is exactly like the lyrics of the beautiful song New York, New York: “I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps!”
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