Normally we tend to focus on countries less well known for their whisky, but we all knew that eventually at some point in time I had to be late to the party and join the band wagon. Rest assured I’m only doing this as I could not source a bottle until now (due to simply where I live) and for no other reason, but this World Whisky Wednesday we look an Israeli Whisky, Milk and Honey.
Now while we tend to look at countries that have a alcoholic history more in line with whisky, in terms of either a distilled aged spirit or a strong history in beer (see Belgium, Germany or France), Israel falls more in line with Lebanon as far as we are concerned there. Countries that while yes have a strong wine history, they never strayed far from that field, and kept within what they did best.
Israel’s Milk and Honey (the name there referring to term for the land of Israel and also known simply as M&H) did not spring up overnight however, as either a gimmick or marketing idea. Israel’s thirst for genuine whisky build up over the years, imports from all over the world coming into the country and into Tel Aviv through their collectors and bars. M&H grew as an extension of that thirst.
Conceived as an idea by Founder Gal Kalkshtein and founded in 2012 the distillery was constructed after to begin distilling and filling in 2015. Over that period a variety of talent had been attracted to the distillery, far from the least being the late Dr Jim Swan who also assisted Kavalan and Cotswolds. Drawing on the experience he had gained over the years, he helped with everything from building the distillery to choosing the specific yeast casks. The first bottles hit the market in 2016, and the distillery continues to release new bottlings.
The letters T.I.D have all failed to print. Surely this is a clue to something…
Now you may have noticed there something; first cask filled in 2015, released in 2016. You may have also noted that I did not state a whisky release, simply a bottling release. That all comes down to the climate, humidity and temperature of Tel Aviv, along with Israel’s, ahem, ‘interesting’ whisky laws (they have none). The humidity and temperature of the distillery however are significantly higher than the average for whisky distilleries, both quite high. These two factors enable a quicker extraction of flavour and a quicker maturation rate (it gets science-y, suffice to say that a 3 year old whisky from Israel would taste more ‘developed’ than a whisky of the same age from Scotland or Ireland), thus resulting in M&H able to release this product in the early years.
It’s Kosher too!
The other standing factor, Israel’s lack of whisky laws, means that they technically could call the M&H a whisky before 3 years are reached, but they instead have labelled it ‘Young Single Malt’ and neglect to mention whisky anywhere on the label. Instead, the distillery opts to adhere to the SWA regulations regarding age and will not class this as a whisky until it has been aged in oak for the minimum of 3 years. Very classily done guys. As I previously mentioned they have the ‘Young Single Malt’, and today we’re looking at The Last One. Assumedly, the last young single malt the distillery will release.
The Last Drop.
So, what goes into the The Last Young Single Malt? This drop has been aged in twin casks; ex-red wine that has been shaved, toasted and recharred (STR) and ex-bourbon barrels, only one year old but with a character that other whiskies sometimes fail to match. This is down to their unique climate, but also shows the strength of their cask selection. Bottled on the 10/11/2018, this is 1 of 4000 bottles and drops into the glass at 46%.
Opens strong with plenty of vanilla and caramel, moves to the start of red wine casks, red apples, stewed fruits, cinnamon spice with pears and dark chocolate. Cocoa powder as well, but then a bit of celery pops its head out of nowhere for a surprise visit. Undaunted, we continue to nose through plums, fruits candy chews, and bits of pieces of melted sugar, its not a perfect balance on the sweetness tipping slightly in the favour of processed fruits and sugars.
The palate is a lively one, you can see more of the distillery character and new make feel than in the nose resulting in pineapple and liquorice, then moving into a peppermint sprig, with apricots, honey, a touch of the old fig and then plum flesh and juice, that plum juice brings along a thicker body than would be expected.
It’s at the final hurdle of the finish that it starts to crack for me; however, sparse, with a bit of pepper and cinnamon, somewhat citric on the mouthfeel but very quick.
Is it a good drop? Yes, most definitely, and shows just how much flavour they can get from a young malt when utilising those strong casks. The finish was a disappointment but hardly indicative of the overall of the whisky; it is something new and different from a distillery that is both new and different. While M&H seem to be the flavour of the month for some people, I can only see them going up, and look forward to trying their whiskies as they do.
This review is not sponsored or endorsed by any whisky or distillery, Milk and Honey or otherwise, and is entirely the though and opinions of the author Somewhiskybloke.