Israeli Whisky distillery, Milk & Honey, based in tel aviv held a press conference yesterday (I was fortunate to take part in), announcing some recent news, and their first edition of Single malt whisky aged more than 3 years. The single malt is the first in a series of ‘Experimental’ series, which were distilled by Tomer Goren, master distiller , on a small scale distilling system prior to setting up the full scale operation a few months after.
The whisky was distilled using a 250 L. copper still, using the same malted barley used today by the distillery, over a series of 10 distilling batches, after which it was put into a 250 liter new american oak cask, where it spend 2.5 years aging in interim warehouse, until it was moved to the distillery aging room and recased into an ex-bourbon cask, September 2016. On April 2nd this year, the distillery team, monitoring the cask closely, decided it was time to bottle the liquid as the first ‘single malt’ in the ‘experimental’ range that the distillery is going to be bottling in coming months. It is important to bear in mind that this whisky was not distilled at the distillery using the current large-scale distilling equipment used by the distillery, so the distillate might be a bit different from current batches of distilled spirit. There are only 391 such bottles, bottled at 46% NCF, natural color, which will retail (see more about that later on) for a RRP of 449 NIS.
Since this is a very limited edition, the distillery has decided to sell the whisky in the following ways:
first 100 bottles (numbered 1…100) will be sold online in an auction on the www.whiskyauctioneer.com site between 7-17th of July 2017. There rest of the bottles will be sold at the distillery visitor center , and the remaining bottles will be sold locally in Israel, at liquor stores. Lately M&H have signed a contract with local importer and distributor “Hakerem” who will distribute the M&H bottles locally.
This is only the first edition of experimental batches that will be released int he coming months. Next release will be the ‘Founder’s Edition’ the first single malt aged 3 yo, distilled in the M&H Tel Aviv site, and will go to those who participated in the Indigogo crowdfunding campaign , this is going to be happening during 2019. In the meantime the distillery is going to continue to release young single malt casks (under 3 yo), and more of their excellent (if i may say so) Levantine Gin.
There’s also a plan to start bottling a regular line of single malt as a core product later on, which will be bottled from current stock, in due course.
In the press conference M&H have also updated about their future plans for expanding production, and the headlines are as follows:
- The distillery has been upping their production capacity, working 5 days a week, 24 Hours a day (saturday is off since the distillery is producing Kosher whisky, and can not operate during the jewish Shabbat).
- Currently the distillery is filling 60 barrels a months, building up their stocks, and using 24 tons of malted barley / month.
- The target they set in the next coming months is to achieve a capacity of 700 casks filled yearly.
- The distillery is looking for a new maturation warehouse, big enough to support such a capacity of aging casks, and is also looking for smaller sites, to store casks in different climates / location within Israel.
- The distillery is constantly experimenting with new types of malted barley, and various cask types.
Now, to the whisky.
Nose: Quite sharp at first, a few minutes in the glass will help. Quite malty on first sniff, with a nice citrus peel (think: lemon , orange), wood spices too , some cinnamon, ginger and citrus flowers honey.
Palate: Fresh and youthful, quite light, with lemon peel, and quite some black pepper, and even chilly. there’s a good balance between sweet, and spicy / peppery, nutmeg and a nice maltiness on the 2nd wave of flavours, with a lingering chocolate and bitterness.
Finish: medium-short , dark chocolate, vanilla and marzipan.
For what it is (a young single malt), this is a very pleasant whisky. It is not over complex, but I was not expecting a lot of complexity from a 3-yo malt, even if aged in a warm climate such as Israel’s. I would say some more time in the wood would have made the whisky even better, and seeing how lovely this is at this age, makes me very confident future editions will be very very good indeed. One point to bear in mind is that we can not deduce from this whisky ‘experiment’ to current distillate by M&H since they are using very different stills , much bigger, and the location of distillation is not the same, as this was a “testing” distillation before the distillery was even set up. I am confident, however, Tomer and the team are doing a good job, and future large scale distilled whisky, will be of the same quality, or better. Only time will tell I guess.
At any rate, lot’s of good luck to the team. We’ll be on the lookout for future editions.