A few years ago The israeli Whisky Soc. (which has nothing to do with the Whisky Israel community and is not affiliated with me in any way) imported a few whisky casks distilled in the Arran distillery, to be aged in several location locally. This can be thought about as a very interesting experiment in whisky maturation, as Israel does have quite a few climate regions which differ greatly (from the hot and humid shore, to the scorching hot desert, which is quite cool at night, to mountains and plains). I’ve written about the 2nd experiment some time ago (here). previous 3 editions were aged in the following locations :
- First edition : Tiberias (near the sea of Galilee) – in the Scottish hotel cellars
- Second edition : In Jerusalem (American Colony hotel cellars)
- Third edition : Barkan winery in the Judea area
The latest and 4th edition which I am about to review today was matured on Mount Carmel, in a cave belonging to a boutique winery. The cave has a constant temperature of 18C (which is quite cool in Israeli standards), and 80% humidity. The whisky was aged for about 6 years (distilled april 2008 , arrived in Israel Jan. 2010, and bottled April 2014), only 4 of which were actually at the cave.. Although the whisky was bottled in 2014, it’s only being sold now (out this week) for the first time having ‘aged’ for about 2 years in the bottles (don’t ask me why, but it was not intentional) .
Previous editions were quite disappointing , mostly due to the short maturation periods of 4/ 5 years, even though the israeli climate is hotter than Scotland, it was not enough time for the whisky to develop (also note that the maturation environments chosen for batches 1-3 were in cool cellars mostly hosting wines, and hot under the scorching summer sun of the desert, or even the sea-shore. In my experience the arran distillate benefits greatly from longer maturation periods (some whiskies shine after a shorter maturation period) – if you consider the Arran over the years – after 12 years it was a good whiske (I am talking OBs) , the 14 and 16 were lovely and the 18 year old was superb. This time around the whisky is a bit older having been distilled in 2008 and bottled 2014, so hopefully it shall be ‘ready’ so to speak, although i am keeping my hopes low. This time the whisky is bottled in smaller 0,5L bottles which make it cheaper and increase the number of bottles available for sale, which is a plus, as more people can purchase it and take part in the ‘Experiment’ so to speak.
The Israeli Whisky Society Cask # 196/0008 4th Edition, 50% abv , 0.5L , 290 NIS / €68 (Online at the Paneco Shop)
Nose: Rich and sweet initially, with vanilla ice-cream and stewed fruit (apricot , plum) , quite sweet, with hints of cinnamon. I don’t normally add much water to whisky, but this one calls for quite a bit of water to open it up, and tame the liquid. with quite a few drops of water, it develops a perfumed quality, and we discover hints of white pepper, toasted wood and icing sugar. It’s maybe not the most complex nose I’ve sniffed, but it’s very enjoyable.
Palate: More vanilla and icing sugar, there’s quite an alcohol bite even with the water, it’s quite peppery, with cinnamon and clove, and after some time it develops into overripe melon.
Finish : Sweet wood, vanilla and a touch of Mocha.
It’s certainly a nice sipping whisky, with a lovely nose, and palate that do require a lot of water to subdue, but then when you’ve reached that mellower state – it’s highly enhoyable. If I compare it to previous editions, this is BY FAR – the best of the bunch. The arran liquid has a lot of potential, and I would love to see the cask age for a few more years locally – it would be superb.
At any rate, when you buy this expression you do not just buy a 6 year old whisky, you buy the ‘dream’ , and the option to taste a whisky dsitilled in scotland, and partially aged in Israel. You got to admit, there’s a certain appeal to it. Slainte!