Interview with Pepi Mongiardino, Moon Import In Conversation With: Pepi Mongiardino, Moon Import

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In our April sale, Whisky Auctioneer presents a fantastic collection of whiskies bottled by Italian independent bottlers, Moon Import. Founded in 1980, Moon Import was originally established by Giuseppe 'Pepi' Mongiardino as an import company, however, later went on to bottle some outstanding whiskies that are now incredibly revered and sought-after by collectors and connoisseurs alike. 

We had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Mongiardino about the origins of Moon Import and some of his favourite bottlings (Italian answers have also been included) - we hope you enjoy! You can also learn more about Moon Import and some of their iconic collections here.


Mr. Mongiardino, after selecting and bottling hundreds of whiskies over 35 years at Moon Import, does it still excite you to see your bottles and labels on a shelf?

Absolutely. It is an amazing feeling to see how many people appreciate the commitment of decades of work, that has always been accompanied by what is my biggest passion.


[IT] Certamente sì. Direi una stupenda sensazione, vedere quante persone apprezzano il lavoro e l'impegno di decenni sempre accompagnato da quella che è la mia più grande passione.


What it was like when you held your first Moon Import bottle?

It was emotional and exhilarating at the same time, because it represented the beginning of a long adventure that is still open to new experiences and discoveries.


[IT] È stato emozionante ed esaltante insieme, perché ha rappresentato la partenza di una lunga avventura ancora aperta a sempre nuove esperienze e scoperte.


You started Moon Import in 1980. Can you tell us about when you first got interested in single malt Scotch, and how that interest has lasted so long?

The interest and the approach to Scotch whisky started back when I first collaborated with Pernod-Ricard, a time during which economic independence opened doors for me that until then had been unknown but very exciting.


Over the years I have had the opportunity to undertake a number of diversified learning paths and these multiple opportunities gave me the enthusiasm to pursue this interest. How would it ever be possible to drift away from a world that is so varied, complex and fascinating once you have had a taste of it? It would be impossible for me.


[IT] L'interesse e l'avvicinamento al mondo dell'whisky scozzese è iniziato ai tempi della mia collaborazione con Pernod-Richard, periodo in cui l'indipendenza economica mi ha aperto orizzonti fino ad allora sconosciuti e molto appassionanti.


Negli anni ho avuto la possibilitá di intraprendere percorsi di conoscenza sempre diversi e queste molteplici opportunitá mi hanno dato l'entusiasmo per procedere. Come riuscire ad allontanarsi da un mondo cosi variegato, complesso, affascinante, una volta sperimentato? Per me sarebbe impossibile.


I have heard that the origins of Moon Import stemmed from a chance meeting with Silvano Samaroli, is this correct? Can you tell us more about this.

The origins of Moon Import begins with my other passion, Champagne. It is true though that the encounter with Silvano Samaroli in 1981 (who had been introduced to me by Mr Peppino, owner of Ristorante Cantarelli in San Boseto, back then a two-Michelin star restaurant), opened a new opportunity for me as an independent bottler. His friendship has been beyond helpful and has lasted over the years and has always been mutual.


[IT] L'origine di Moon Import nasce dall'altra mia grande passione, lo Champagne. È vero però che l'incontro con Silvano Samaroli nel 1981, (presentatomi dal Signor Peppino titolare del Ristorante Cantarelli a San Boseto, allora 2 stelle Michelin), mi ha aperto una nuova possibilità come imbottigliatore privato. La sua amicizia nei miei confronti è stata di grande aiuto e si è protratta nel tempo sempre ricambiata.

A standalone Moon Import release of Bruichladdich, known as 'Penny Black', produced to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Scotch malt whisky in 1989.


In 1980, you were the first to import Bruichladdich to Italy. Can you tell us about how that relationship blossomed, and what was the Italian market’s reaction at first to Bruichladdich’s single malt?

In a small book dedicated to whisky, I read about the name of a Scottish distillery that was unknown to me and had never been imported to Italy: Bruichladdich. Contacting their headquarters in Scotland, I got to know Mr Stuart Gunn who was the Commercial Director of the brand at the time. An unparalleled person who I immediately clicked with, to the point that I was on a flight to Glasgow the day after to taste the whisky and close the deal.


The relationship with this distillery developed straight away based on the mutual esteem and respect, and subsequently on mutual affection. The same goes to the Italian reaction to it. The product was immediately appreciated by a large group of whisky lovers, experts and journalists that gave great feedback and reviews on the newspapers.


[IT] In un piccolo volume dedicato ai Whisky, ho letto il nome di un'azienda scozzese sconosciuta e non importata in Italia, Bruichladdich. Mettendomi in contatto con la sede in Scozia, ho conosciuto il Signor Stuart Gunn a quel tempo direttore commerciale di questo marchio. Persona ineguagliabile con cui sono entrato immediatamente in sintonia, a tal punto che il giorno seguente ero su un aereo diretto a Glasgow per degustare e concludere l'affare.


II rapporto con questa azienda si è sviluppato fin da subito sulla base di stima e rispetto ed in seguito di affetto reciproco. Lo stesso è valso per l'accoglienza italiana. II prodotto è stato immediatamente apprezzato da un folto gruppo di appassionati, di esperti e di giornalisti che hanno formulato ottimi giudizi sulla carta stampata.


What led you to making the move from importing whisky, to selecting and independently bottling your own spirits?

As I mentioned, the encounter with Silvano Samaroli played a big part, together with my innate passion for the research and discovery of the “exceptional cask”. This has been pivotal.


[IT] Come ho detto Silvano Samaroli in questa decisione ha fatto la sua parte, unita alla mia innata passione per la ricerca e scoperta del "barile eccezionale". Questo è stato determinante.


How did you know when tasting a whisky that it was the right one for Moon Import? What characteristics did you look for? 

The fundamental criteria in every product selected by me has always been “my taste”, meaning that I have to “like them a lot”. Additionally, to be part of the Moon Import collection, the other “conditio sine qua non” (latin for the essential condition) is the excellence. (E.g. long maturation time, high quality casks).


[IT] II criterio fondamentale in tutti i prodotti da me selezionati e sempre stato "il mio gusto" cioé devono "piacermi molto". lnoltre per rientrare nella gamma Moon, l'altra "conditio sine qua non" è l'eccellenza ( v. lungo invecchiamento in loco, in barili di grande qualità).


Was it ever daunting to start a new collection, or was it always good fun?

Starting a new collection every time I found the right cask has always been a thrilling time, and also a gratification due to the positive results that the collections have always achieved.


[IT] lniziare una nuova collezione, ogni volta che sono riuscito a trovare il barile giusto, è sempre stato un momento entusiasmante, e una gratificazione anche dovuta ai positivi riscontri sempre ottenuti.


You have travelled to Scotland many times to find excellent casks to bottle for Moon Import. Which are your favourite memories from those travels?

The people that I met!


[IT] Le persone che ho incontrato!


Every single collection of Moon Import features beautiful and unique labels. Was this an important feature of the overall product for you? Did you provide inspiration for the designs?

The labels are a nice gown but what matters is always what’s inside the bottles. Behind the design inspiration there is, again, my constant commitment to study and research.


[IT] Le etichette sono un bell'abito ma quello che conta è sempre il contenuto. Comunque dietro l'ispirazione dei disegni c'è anche in questa fase il mio costante impegno di studio e ricerca.

The Dreams series was a 1999 collaborative effort between longtime friends, Mongiardino and Samaroli. 


Can you select a few personal favourites from the Moon Import portfolio over the years?

I’m unable to give an answer on what is my absolute favourite. I can only suggest an idea of what in my opinion makes a whisky great: maturation in the right cask and an adequate microclimate.


Elements that can often create a perfect balance between aroma and taste are essential factors that I consider in every decision I make. If I may say instead which collections I’m more attached for different reasons, here’s the three names: The Birds, The Costumes, Dreams.


[IT] Non riuscirei a dare una risposta netta sulla preferenza assoluta. Posso solo suggerire un'idea di ciò che per me può rendere grande un whisky: invecchiamento nel giusto barile e microclima adeguato.


Elementi che sovente riescono a produrre un perfetto equilibrio di aromi e gusto, fattori imprescindibili in ogni mia decisione. Se invece posso dire a quali collezioni sono piu affettivamente legato per motivi diversi, ecco i tre nomi: The Birds, The Costumes, Dreams.


And lastly, who are some of the people or distilleries that you are impressed by right now in the whisky industry?

Unfortunately due to the painful passing of some of my fondest collaborators and competitor friends, I don’t see many emerging figures in the current industry that are able to impress me in some way, with the exception of Mr Nadi Fiori, who has all of my esteem. Hopefully with the future generations we will see some new Samarolis growing!


[IT] Purtroppo a seguito della dolorosa dipartita di alcuni miei affezionati collaboratori ed amici­ concorrenti, non vedo nel panorama attuale molte figure emergenti capaci in qualche modo di colpirmi, fatta eccezione per Mr. Nadi Fiori a cui va tutta la mia stima. Speriamo che con le prossime generazioni possano crescere dei nuovi Samaroli!