Moon Import was established by Pepi Mongiardino in the town of Genoa in 1980. His introduction to whisky came in the 1970s while working for Spirit, at the time the Italian distributor for Hiram Walker brands such as Ardbeg, Ballantine’s and Miltonduff. When the time came for him to strike out on his own, he was fortunate in his friendly relationship with several notable contemporaries.
The first of these was Silvano Samaroli, who advised him to be remain free of the shackles of the catalogues of big companies like Gordon & MacPhail, and to seek out the whisky that he himself wanted to bottle. This lead Mongiardino to call Invergordon Distillers and enquire about the license to distribute Bruichladdich, which they gladly offered him. The second was Edoardo Giaccone, who was the first person he went to see when his first bottlings of Bruichladdich were on their way. Having spent all his money on advertising time on TV Canal 5, Mongiardino was kindly assisted by Giaccone who offered to take to those airwaves for free to promote the now revered Islay distillery. Moon Import represented Bruichladdich in Italy for five years before accepting the offer from Invergordon to sell the newly-shined brand to Fratelli Rinaldi and attempt to repeat the trick with Tamnavulin and Tullibardine instead.
Emboldened by his early success, Mongiardino was quick to follow in his friend Samaroli’s footsteps, joining him and fellow contemporary, Nadi Fiori, in a new school of Italian independent bottlers in 1982. All three understood the value of collectability, and were very particular about the aesthetic of their bottles. Perhaps none more so than Mongiardino, who followed the initiative of early Samaroli releases, marketing all of his whiskies as components of distinct thematic series in order to encourage buyers to seek out as many as possible.
Mongiardino designed the labels for these himself, beginning with what is known as the “Half-Moon” series in 1982, and introducing the practice of using found imagery, for which he became famous, for his second collection in 1985. The most notable of these series are The Animals, The Sea, The Costumes and The Birds, all bottled between 1987 and 1990. For each, Mongiardino decorated them with artwork he discovered in the 18th century German encyclopaedia, Brockhaus Enzyklopädie. First published in 1796 as Brockhaus' Konversations-Lexikon, the book is regarded as one of the most influential reference works in history, with the 11th edition of Encylopaedia Brittanica declaring, "no work of reference has been more useful and successful, or more frequently copied, imitated and translated, than that known as the Conversations-Lexikon of Brockhaus." As much can be said of the labels of those early Moon Import bottlings, the influences of which can be seen on the labels from the Thompson Brothers in Scotland to Sansibar and The Whisky Agency in Germany, and as far afield as the Spirit Shop’ Selection in Taiwan.
Moon Import celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2015, and its legacy is evident far beyond its own output.