Back in 2009 (yea, 2009, the blog has been online for almost 8 years now, believe it?) I wrote a blog that went by the headline of “The tough life of an Israeli Whiskey lover, in which I was complaining about how whisky is so expensive in Israel (it was very expensive back then) due to customs. I am not sure how this old post came into mind, Maybe it was after going over blog stats, and seeing which posts were popular. Anyways, I felt that I need to write an updated post about the state of whisky in Israel, so here goes.
June 2013 saw a change in the taxation of alcoholic beverages, whisky included, so the import tax on whisky is now determined by the volume of alcohol with a pre-defined tax on each liter of pure alcohol, and not on the base price of the bottle. Pre 2013 if a whisky would cost 100 EUR or 300 EUR, the tax would change dramatically, making the expensive bottles much more expensive and the cheap ones also ridiculously expensive. Under the new Taxation laws, whisky has become much more affordable, and prices have been cut by half , and some even more. Basic malts are now available from 30 EUR and up, and you can get some lovely deals on really superb malts for 50 Eur or so.
With prices on the decline, and more people able to afford whiskies ,Liquor shops are stocking up on more brands, and you can walk into one of the big wine shops locally and enjoy quite a nice array of malts (mainly single malt and American whiskey, but some Irish and Japanese’s too). If 5 years ago there were maybe 10 distilleries selling single malts locally, now if I think of it, most scotch distilleries are imported (although all expressions are to be more precise). Of course some importers are doing better than others, and some do offer the entire core lineup, but usually no special releases. So, from a whisky lover’s perspective things are really looking much better, and we’re thankful for that.
Ordering online is also a more viable option now, although shipping prices are quite steep, customs and VAT taxes that apply, are not that high, so it does make sense ordering really special stuff you can not find locally, and incur the extra import and local taxes.
Speaking of whisky, there’s also a new commercial distillery making ISRAELI whisky right now, called the Milk and Honey distillery, based in tel aviv, they will open a visitor centre soon (So I am told) letting more and more people see how whisky is made, and selling local whisky at good prices (so I hope), another sign whisky is doing well locally.
There’s always room for improvement, and I’d love to see some more changes and developments in the market that will makes us even happier:
1.Expand the core range and import also some more interesting limited editions (from the whisky lover’s /geeks perspective) , and maybe older / cask strength editions that go beyond the basics.
2.More Independent Bottlers : There is only one or two IB labels being imported currently (Wemyss –to some extent, but not widely available ) and only one line of D.Laing (used to be imported but I think it has ceased as the importer has gone bankrupt). We’d love to see G&M, Laing, H.Laing, Signatory and many more.
3.More whisky shows – currently there is an annual WhiskyLive event in Tel Aviv which is fun, but we obviously could do with more such events, more tastings, and more festivals. I know some plans are in the making (so I will keep quiet for now), let’s hope the momentum continues.
that pretty much sums it all. We’re doing good, we could be better, but again it’s far better than any expectation I had back then when I wrote the original post.
I am confident that with those prices intact, and more people getting into the whisky world as prices allow them to, we’ll be seeing more interesting stuff happening locally.
I’ll raise a dram to that!