I’ve been talking about the M&H distillery for quite some time now, but I waited for it to be quite ready before I visited. A few weeks ago, the M&H officially opened its visitor center (Which looks fab!). They have been distilling whisky (and Gin) for quite a few months now, but until now they were not ready to welcome visitors, but now it’s all changed.
The M&H distillery was founded in Tel Aviv 3 years ago, but it took some time for the founders to find a location, and get all the whisky making equipment made (both locally and overseas as we’re about to see shortly), so basically the first drop of liquid came out of the stills in early 2015 (so we can expect a 3-year-old single malt by 2018 or so). The founders sought the advice and expertise of Dr. Jim Swan, who’s one of the best Master distillers and whisky experts specializing in whisky distillation and maturation in warm climate countries (Kavalan, for example is one of his best known whisky projects). Israel’s climate is quite versatile for such a small country and there are both humid, and very dry climates, which allows whisky to mature faster and develop unique aromas and flavors (to quote Jim).
The head distiller for the M&H is Tomer Goren, well-known and highly regarded in the Israeli whisky scene (both an Importer of whisky, and the man behind Whisky Live , Tel Aviv), trained in Scotland , and also has been distilling whisky for a few years on a small-scale, before accepting the role as distiller for M&H.
The distillery has been built according to Dr. Swan’s design, and specifications, from the water treatment lab (Israeli water contains a lot of calcium and other minerals that have filtered out), the climate controlled cask warehouse, and purchasing of ex-bourbon casks for maturation in addition to Israeli ex-wine casks that are sourced locally (kosher casks). the distillation process is all on site using a 7,000 liter Mash Tun, and a 10,500 liter fermentation tank (both made locally). The distillery features two pot stills – the Primary and smaller one a 3,500 liter which was built for the distillery in Germany according to J.Swan’s specifications, and a bigger 9,000 liter still, made in Europe (exact location unknown) – made in the 80’s and used for distillation at an unknown location.
The distillery is about to start mashing its own, as they have been getting pre-made mash from an undisclosed local brewery in Israel.
The liquid is indeed very young, and can not be legally called single malt whisky for a few years(although, Israel has no regulation about what can be called whisky and what can not) , but the distillery is aging a special Indiegogo edition (money for which was crowd sourced), which will be released in 2018 as a 3-year-old whisky. There are a few young spirits currently on sale at the distillery, but more about that later.
The decision to build the distillery and visitor center in Tel Aviv, was taken to allow the local Whisky lovers (and tourists as well) an opportunity to visit, learn and watch the whisky making process, and taste the liquid in a central location. Tel Aviv was the natural choice, as it is the culinary and touristic center of Israel, and the heart of the local drinks scene. The visitor center will of course, offer whisky and other spirits distilled , as well as other M&H merchandise and special limited releases when they become available.
Currently the distillery is offering the following products (sold exclusively on location at the visitor center):
Single malt New make, 50 % ABV , 50cl , 150 NIS
Nose: yeasty and sweet , with red apple, and sweet candy, and leather. quite sharp
Palate: More yeast, fresh-cut grass, and a bitter note.
Finish: Bitter sweet, malty. hints of cocoa..
A rather nice new make, if you’re into that. It’s not really for drinking neat, i guess most will use it for cocktails, but it’s nice to see how it all started.
Leventine Gin , 46% , 50 cl, 179 ILS
The Gin is made from 100% malted barley, which is double distilled, with added botanicals which are hand-picked locally by Tomer the head distiller, from local markets located near the distillery. the Botanical include : Oregano,hyssop ,chamomile, and lemon.
Nose: Lovely notes of juniper,lime and Oregano, quite herbal, and fresh.
Palate: citrusy, with a nice balance of the botanicals.
Finish: lime, lemon and herbs.
It’s actually a very good Gin. I really was impressed with it, and it’s also distilled on location , rather than just being infused with the botanicals, which is a big plus. way to go!
Young single malt (Cask 004) , 53.2% , 50cl, 190 ILS
a limited edition of 502 bottles, aged for 8 months in ex-wine casks (which held kosher red wine).
Nose: sweet red fruit, and quite tame with the wine cask being active apparently, citrus,acetone, and a nice sweetness.
Palate: malt, coconut, more of the red fruit, hints of vanilla and milk chocolate.
Finish: Dark chocolate, red fruit, and spice.
Young single malt (cask 010) , 51.5% , 50cl ,210 ILS
limited edition of only 155 bottles, aged in 70l new American oak cask for 6 months.
Nose: Wow. this is a lovely nose : Acetone,very bourbony, with vanilla, barley sugars, apple and hints of mango.
Palate: Quite sharp undiluted, zingy and fruity, dried coconut, and some salty notes as well, some clove. Big wood. indeed.
Finish: Clove, bitter wood sweet and nutty.
The tour and tasting left me quite impressed. The Gin was excellent, and the young liquid shows great promise, I was especially fond of the new American wood cask, and if the trend continues, we’re in for quite a treat in a few years time. Keep an eye on this distillery. I think it’s going places. Kudus also goes to those who designed the visitor center, which looks really good, inviting and fresh.
*** It is important to indicate that all the liquid tasted at my visit, was distilled from the mash made outside the distillery, before the mash tun was ready for production. It remains to be seen how the liquid distilled from the in-house made mash, will differ from the one used until now.
If you fancy visiting the distillery, email : [email protected] for more details and schedule.
I would like to thank the M&H team for the tour, tasting and enjoyable evening with the local team and Dr. James Swan.