Sunday, May 31 2020
All Cities
Choose Your City
'Novosibirsk has one of the most beautiful cinema halls I’ve ever seen'
French actress Carole Bouquet, 2014

Scottish pubs provide cheer in Urals and Siberia despite economic gloom

By Olga Gertcyk and Vera Salnitskaya
30 March 2016

Whisky proves popular in the land of vodka.

Despite all the odds, our guests come to spend time at our pub. Picture: Blackwood

One hostelry is even called the Doctor Scotch Pub, in the city centre of Yekaterinburg, and it provides a welcome remedy to not only the harsh cold of winter but also a fun place to meet. 

Another - Gordon's Bar - is named after a Scot, Patrick Leopold Gordon of Auchleuchries, who holds a unique place in Russian military history, a soldier of fortune promoted to General by Peter the Great after saving his throne.

In the Siberian city of Omsk, Olga Chikhun, 24 year old host of Blackwood Pub where the barmen wear traditional kilts, says her aim is a 'Scottish-style pub in Omsk where you can meet up with old friends or make new ones, set the right mood for dances, or simply hide from the weather or the worries of the city'.

In Irkutsk, some 3,250 miles east of Moscow where winter temperatures of minus 30C are considered mild, the Aberdour pub is a firm fixture on the scene, including at New Year when it hosts a Scottish-style 'Hogmanay' party. 

Scottish pubs in Siberia


Scottish pubs in Siberia

'Traditionally, Russia did not have close relations with Ireland, but the historical roots of contacts between Russia and Scotland are quite deep.' Pictures: Blackwood, MacLeod

Ruvim Gutkin, 63, co-owner of Gordon's and Doctor Scotch, said his original aim was to provide an alternative to the themed Irish pubs that sprang up in Russia after the end of the Cold War. His pubs remain popular despite the current economic woes linked to  low oil prices and Western sanctions. 

'Traditionally, Russia did not have close relations with Ireland, but the historical roots of contacts between Russia and Scotland are quite deep, since the times of Ivan the Terrible,' he said. 

'Scots are warriors, they fought for those who paid them. They invented whisky and taught the world to drink. It's a northern country, very similar to our's. People are also quite similar - hard-faced at first sight, and the Scots drink just as much as the Russians. But once you get to chat with them, they open up. They are spirited people.

'To me, Scotland is kilts, whisky, ales, bagpipes - and a freedom-loving people. It's the only state which became a member of the United Kingdom voluntarily so they have the moral right to leave it if they want to.' Haggis, he says, is 'mince in a sheep's stomach which is actually a very common meal across Asia'.

Scottish pubs in Siberia


Scottish pubs in Siberia

'Scots are warriors, they fought for those who paid them. They invented whisky and taught the world to drink. It's a northern country, very similar to our's.' Pictures: Gordon's

Gordon's Bar - and also Scottish Pub Gordon's in a nearby city  - are named after his hero. 'Patrick Gordon was military tutor to Peter the Great,' he said. 'He lived in Russia for over 30 years, settled down, and had a son who also served Russia with honour. Peter was at his death bed and went to his funeral and it's believed that he said: 'I gave you a handful of dirt, and you gave me Russia'. 

'Gordon played a huge role in Russia's Azov campaign in 1695-1696 against the Ottoman Empire, the first major achievement of the young ruler, and had a great impact on Peter as a military strategist. We have even set up a monument to Patrick Gordon in front of the entrance.' 

He admitted: 'Obviously, we adapt Scottish traditions. Gordon's is a music pub which is not quite typical for Scotland. 

'That's because the owners and management have been into music since university years. We're bigger than typical Scottish pubs and do all sorts of meals which is also very unlikely for Scottish, English and Irish pubs where, especially in the evenings, you can't find much more than fish and chips.

Scottish pubs in Siberia


Scottish pubs in Siberia

'We only feel support from our guests not the authorities. Despite all the odds, our guests come to spend time at our pub.' Pictures: Gordon's, Geometria

'Before opening the pub, we went to Edinburgh where we only visited pubs. We got inspired and tried to reconstruct the interior of a Scottish pub at the edge of 18th and 19th centuries.'

He said: 'We use Scottish patterns and bagpipe, which is actually a military musical instrument, in decoration of the pubs.' Economic problems are having a direct impact on clients' spending power, while also raising the cost of imported spirits and ales. 

'The crisis has already had an enormous impact on business,' said Mr Gutkin. 'We can see huge losses in terms of the number of guests and profit. Although people are earning pretty much the same, the prices went up considerably. 

'That means that purchasing power of the public dropped dramatically. People are cutting down their expenses and obviously this starts with leisure and entertainment, bars, pubs and restaurants in first place.

'Besides, we're in the middle-price segment and in times of a crisis this segment is affected the most since the low-cost end remains the same and the high-end doesn't need to worry. Over the past year and a half prices on alcohol including whiskies have doubled, tripled, some have even grown in price by six times. The change is titanic and there is no end to it.'

Scottish pubs in Siberia


Scottish pubs in Siberia

'Over the past year and a half prices on alcohol including whiskies have doubled, tripled, some have even grown in price by six times. The change is titanic and there is no end to it.' Pictures: Gordon's, Blackwood

Locals in the land of vodka have taken to whisky, he said. 'Vodka and whisky are totally different drinks. Whisky is a drink of a mood, you can select a whisky according to your mood - cheerful, heavy. There are smokey whiskies, and you can't have a lot of it. 

'The quality of vodka depends on the snacks you have with it, and the people you're drinking with. Another difference is the scent, you don't get a headache after having some whisky. Whisky is a very interesting drink.'

'Scotland is kilts, whisky, ales, bagpipe and freedom-loving people. It's the only state which became a member of the United Kingdom voluntarily so they have the moral right to leave it if they want to.' 

'Scotland is a northern country, it's cuisine is not very rich and was influenced a lot by French and Scandinavian cuisine. Let's take Haggis, a traditional dish. What is it? It's minced sheep's stomach which is actually a very common meal across Asia.'

Scottish pubs in Siberia


Scottish pubs in Siberia

'Vodka and whisky are totally different drinks. Whisky is a drink of a mood, you can select a whisky according to your mood - cheerful, heavy.' Pictures: MacLeod, Geometria

Olga Chikhun added: 'Obviously, crisis has affected us. All our beer is imported, and prices go up while wages don't. There are new official regulations and it all requires extra expenses to implement them. 

'We only feel support from our guests not the authorities. Despite all the odds, our guests come to spend time at our pub. We have never had Scottish guests. They would be welcome. From Scotland so far, we only have whisky.'

Alisa Khabibulina, 29, is manager of MacLeod Scottish Music Pub, at Berezniki in Perm region, an area better known for gulags in Stalin times. 'Real Scots have been here, too, and posted messages expressing surprise there is a remote pub like this in Perm region,' she said.

Scottish pubs in Siberia

'To me, Scotland is kilts, whisky, ales, bagpipes - and a freedom-loving people.' Picture: MacLeod

'They were pleasantly surprised with the food, drinks, music and gigs at MacLeod. On Fridays and Saturdays we have live music, sometimes we host gigs and have Scottish dance performances, for example.

'Whisky is a lot more pleasant to drink than vodka. You can savour the taste and it can be very different,' she said. 'Vodka is pretty much the same everywhere and there is nothing exciting about it. You just drink it and have a snack with it. 

'Perhaps, whisky is partly popular because it's fashionable, it's quite new for Russia but the world has been drinking it for centuries. It's a sort of standard for a real man, whether you are a highlander or a businessman.'

Comments (10)

Hi Simon, we are well, thanks so much for asking and I hope the same for you and yours certainly....:-). The good news is that Russia does grow barley. I really like your idea of a "gift" exchange and would be very happy to contribute in exchange for a small piece of that very beautiful piece of meteorite the very nice couple has been using as an aquarium decoration. I am continuing to think about the micro-distillery concept.......:-)
Pamela Tetarenko, League City, USA
21/04/2016 20:13
0
0
Hi Pamela, trust this finds you & yours well ? They'll need quite a lot more than a few aged Oak barrels. Barley for one, does that grow in Siberia ? Then there's the Water, this needs to be slightly acidic, percolated through Igneous rocks could do the trick. This is in addition to Copper Stills and Malting sheds, quite an investment all in all. Would probably be less expensive to try and travel to Europe and buy it from a Duty Free shop and then smuggle it back. Or, acquire Scottish pen-friends or Facebook friends and trade for Siberian goods. I'd be happy to swap one of those hand-made hunting knives, that were recently featured in an ST article for a bottle of Single Malt. Kind regards Si
Simon Robinson, Blackburn, England
17/04/2016 14:53
0
0
Hi Simon, thanks so much for your comments and I love your perseverance on timeline...:-). So, in thinking about how to do this on a micro-scale, we will need a few authentic barrels for each pub. We will honour your timeline with one called "Simon Says" (because "Simon Says do not open for 12 years"....:-) ). We could have one that we put Vodka in and call it "Vodsky" and sample that one anytime as a point of reference for how the characteristics are developing. We will need the entire pub to participate as "testers"...:-). The others, we could let the innovative, freedom-loving, kilt-wearing Siberians decide on...:-). I agree we do need a strategy for this whole tax situation.......because history does tend to repeat itself.......
Pamela Tetarenko, League City, USA
09/04/2016 21:27
1
0
Hello again Pamela. If you mean Micro-distilleries like Micro Breweries, that is a good idea, and it would work. However, they would still need to wait for at least 12 years before they could start recouping any investment. After all, the beginnings of Whisky production started like this, with small communities having their own means of production in the form of "Stills" This changed in the 18th Century, when a licensing system and Tax was imposed, known as Excise Duty. The Excise men were hated as they searched for unlawful Stills and when they found them, they smashed them beyond repair.
Simon Robinson, Blackburn, England
09/04/2016 15:19
1
0
Thanks Simon, I agree that the "purists" will be the last (if ever) to come aboard this train (of thought...:-) ) but I am going to press on...:-). I understand the authentic oak barrels are very special. I also understand that they some are used once and then can be purchased? Whisky could be perhaps made as a "micro-malt" and each pub could have the fun of being part of the "ageing" process and try different things with the "raw" liquor in their own authentic barrels. I am hoping this could qualify under the Russian Import Substitution Initiative (realizing that the oak casks/barrels need to be imported).
Pamela Tetarenko, League City, USA
06/04/2016 21:08
1
0
Hi Pamela: When the Whisky is first distilled, it is a clear liquid. Colour and flavour comes from being in Oak barrels for years. Important character is also imparted by the barrel's previous usage, for example maturing Sherry. No doubt, chemically it could be done, to make something that looks and tastes a bit like Whisky. However, I have my doubts; a) that it would acceptable to purists and b) whether it would be any good.
Simon Robinson, Blackburn, England
06/04/2016 04:43
0
0
Thanks Simon, I appreciate your comment and also agree that the ageing step poses a wee challenge. From a purely "technical" perspective (so as to not get myself tossed out of the Clan...:-) ), are there ways to accelerate the "ageing" to achieve a "younger" yet also robust malt?
Pamela Tetarenko, League City, USA
03/04/2016 07:16
4
0
In reply to Pamela Tetarenko: No doubt the Russians could make very good Whisky, as do the Japanese. A Japanese product has recently been voted the best in the World. The problem is with the lag time. The minimum ageing, usually in Oak casks, for a single Malt is 8 years, most are aged for 12 years. 18 year old Single Malts are available but tend to be more expensive. I have seen a bottle of 45 year old Malt for sale in Thurso. The asking price was £2450.00. I guess that's about US$4000.
Simon Robinson, Blackburn, England
02/04/2016 20:44
5
0
Great info, thanks. Visiting Siberia has been on my list for a very long time, and love to read about everything at is going on there, really appreciate the diverse reporting you provide, whether on bears or Scottish pubs. You're one of my favorite online newspapers!
Tina, Bern/Switzerland
02/04/2016 13:27
8
0
Wonderful gathering places these pubs sound to be. This is just a suggestion but I have no doubt that Russians could learn to make excellent Whiskey and create a new, domestic product for your pubs. My grandfather was Russian and my grandmother Scottish so I get the connection between the two countries...:-). All the best to all of you and I love your "freedom-loving" entrepreneurial spirits!....:-).
Pamela Tetarenko, League City, USA
31/03/2016 05:57
9
0
1

Add your comment

We welcome a healthy debate, but do not accept offensive or abusive comments. Please also read 'Siberian Times' Privacy Policy

Name

Town/Country

Add your comments

The views expressed in the comments above are those of our readers. 'Siberian Times' reserves the right to pre-moderate some comments.

Control code*

Type the code

* obligatory


Features

Business

The Bank of Russia official exchange rates of foreign currencies
EUR78.55USD70.75GBP87.06Other...