There are 3 commercial whisky distilleries currently operating in Israel : M&H (Milk and honey) , Pelter and Golan heights which is the one getting the least headlines, and PR, probably since it’s a family run small distillery, and used to be a one man show, and not a subsidiary of a winery (Pelter) or a heavily funded operation (M&H), with a rich private investor. It also has to be a decision taken by David Zibell , owner and distiller. David , a Canadian Jew who made Aliyah a few years ago, and settled in the Golan Heights (In the city of Katzrin) – started distilling back in 2014, first with a very small artisan still, and today on a larger scale with family members and a couple more employees (total of 5 , to date) helping with distilling, bottling and tours in the distillery. David is distilling many kinds of spirits, form whisky, to whiskey, Absinthe, Gin etc. The distillery is filling about 100 casks /year , and is going to expand with a new still arriving in the near future , built in France (2,000 liter) which will help boost production to over 200 casks / year in the following months.
The whisky we’re about to taste was distilled in August 2014 using Concerto barley, and was put into a first fill american oak wine barrel in September 2014, sourced from Golan Heights winery. Fermentation took 60 hours, and the liquid was double distilled by direct fired alembics. The whisky is not filter, and no coloring agent is added. David has selected to bottle the whisky in the following differnt pricing tiers:
- Bottles 1-100 for premium collectors
- bottle #1 priced at 9,000 NIS
- Bottle #2 at 6,500
- Bottles 3-10 at 3,600 NIS
- bottled 11-100 for 1,800 NIS
Bottles 101-140 were bottled at Cask Strength of 61.4% priced at 460 NIS, and the rest from 141-324 at 46% and priced at 380 NIS. Quite a nice idea, giving those who wish to taste the whisky at natural cask strength the abilility to do that, and also bottling more 46% abv bottles to reach more people interested in drinking the liquid and not collecting. As for the premium priced bottles, I am not quite sure about the pricing scheme, but market forces are at play… So, let’s see.
As i mentioned before, this is the first single malt whisky aged 3 years produced by David, and having tasted some previous younger experiments , I am quite pleased to say this time’s over I am quite convinced , as opposed to older bottlings which were too young, or rough in my opinion. Let’s taste some whisky !
Nose: Quite a nose on this one, thick and rich, with heavy notes of Caramel candy, scotch Tablet, Werthers original candy, some mint and spicy ginger under the surface which balances all this sweetness. There’s quite some wine effect here, with red fruit marmalade, vanilla and citrus (ripe oranges, lemon peel). An excellent nose, with quite some wine, sweetness and spice.
Palate: The wine effect on the palate is much stronger , it’s quite vinous indeed. A lot, and i mean A lot of wine tannins, red fruit, black pepper and some chilly peppers as well. In addition , there’s also a lot of wood , and spices ; mainly clove, ginger powder and nutmeg. In addition I am getting quite some new leather. This is a viscous, concentrated and almost chewy liquid, and the addition of a few droplets of water is advised. Big wine-y stuff alright!
Finish: The vinous effect dissipates slowly, leaving you with red fruit, ripe blood oranges, pepper and spices, with a drying oaky finish.
This is much better stuff than every previous bottling I’ve sampled from GH distillery (way to go! , David) . If you’re a wine cask whisky fan, you’re going to have fun with this stuff, and if wine and whisky do not connect for you, I will advise against getting a bottle , as this is proper wine-sky on the palate (even if well made). The nose is excellent, while the palate is a tad too wine-y for me. Unlike the Pelter whisky first release, which used a wine cask for one year, and was quite gentle , this is a Hardcore wine cask, and quite a brave move on David’s side, which paid off nicely ,if I might add. The whisky benefits from the addition of some water, as it tames the wine-y beast a bit. I bet at 46% it’s not as intensive, but The cask strength bottle is a lot of fun, and lets you control the amount of dilution you want , and the wine effect you’re able to enjoy.
Next release (a different cask – not a wine cask I am told) is schedueled for jan. 2018. keep your eyes peeled, as this edition is sold out.