The Israeli single malt scene is growing and now boasting 3 operating single malt distilleries (M&H, Golan Heights, and now Pelter). Pelter distillery is the latest to release a first single malt whisky aged over 3 years old. If you’re familiar with the Israeli wine scene, the name Pelter might ring a bell, as this is a small but very good winery, operating from the Golan Heights (actually they have two wineries, one is a Kosher one and one without Kosher certificate). The Pelter family has a distilling history originating from the 1920’s in the USA. Two of the older Pelter Bros. went on a journey from Detroit to L.A in a ford T model car (which they named Old Lizzy, or so the story goes…) , they carried a small still, and were distilling and selling Alcohol during the prohibition period in the USA. The very same Model T Car is used as the distillery logo…
At any rate, four years ago, they set up their distillery located at the winery, as they purchased an Alembic previously used in France to distill eau de vie, and brought it over to Israel , with the intention of distilling not only whisky, but gin,eau de vie etc. Currently the distillery is producing Date Brandy , Apple Brandy, eau de vie, and gin made from pink lady apples, as well as Arak (anise drink). They have been selling those distillate for a couple of years now. The distillery has a capacity of 20,000 Liters / year, but one thing to bear in mind is that that capacity small as it is, is shared among a few products (Gin, Arak, Brandy) so, actual whisky production is quite minimal.
Since they have no mashing equipment, they have been using the wash from boutique israeli brewery ‘Alexander’, for distilling their single malt, which has only now turned 3. Most of the whisky (they really made a few barrels) has been pre-sold as part of a crowdfunding project, and last week the distillery launched the first ever single malt, at an event where those who pre-ordered the whisky 3 years ago, got their numbered bottle, and a wee taste of the whisky, I was fortunate enough to have been invited to the Press event.
The whisky we’re about to taste was aged in two kinds of barrels : Ex-Bourbon, and ex-Wine casks from the kosher “Matar” winery owned by Pelter (the wine cask used to mature their blend called ‘CB’ which is a vatting of 44% C.sauvignon , 40% Shiraz , 8% Petit Verdot and 8% Cabarnet Franc). After two years in the cask, the whisky was married for one extra year in ex-bourbon casks, to balance the strong wine influence on the young distillate. The casks were aged in a Bunker that was built in the 50’s at an altitude of 1000 M, within the winery limits. Most of the whisky was pre-sold, and only about 80 bottles will be sold at the distillery up north for 780 ILS (188 EUR), quite steep, but I guess very collectible…
Let’s try some of the new stuff…
Nose: Sweet and perfumed, the wine casks did add a nice touch of fruitiness (mostly red fruit), some strawberries, icing sugar and sweet candy floss, alongside old dunnage warehouses and wood.
Palate: Quite sharp at first, a bit vinous with vanilla, dark chocolate, and ripe cherries. There are some yeasty notes as well, and a nice sweetness. very drinkable.
Finish : Quite short, some fruit and hints of wood.
I was pleasantly surprised by how drinkable and lovely the whisky is. I usually am quite sceptic when it comes to young 3 year old whiskies, as you never know what you’re going to get, and often the liquid is still young and quite rough – clearly not the case here. The wine has really tamed the liquid nicely, and i guess stopping the wine maturation after two years, was a good call, since the outcome is fruity, yet not too vinous, and the liquid does shine through without being dominated by the wine.
I am quite optimistic as for the future. Clearly the distillate is very good (sadly, i have not tasted the new make yet, but hopefully will sample some soon), hopefully more and more will get bottled as time goes by, with more cask profiles and further experimentation. At this stage there’s no plan for enlarging the operation, or increasing the output , so we can expect small releases in the future, but hopefully more liquid will be distilled in the form of whisky. Good times ahead!