Yossi Schwartz is an Israeli Expat living in Cape Town , SA for many years , and has been a whisky aficionado for quite some time before he started bottling single malt whisky (acting as an Independent bottler under the label of Single & Single) some years ago (the first bottling was back in 2007). Over the years he has bottled 4 single malts, 3 of which are single casks, ranging from 8 year old Bowmore, 16 year old Glencadam, 31 year old Bunnahabhain, and the latest of which is a 21-year-old Ben Nevis first fill sherry cask.
I have come to know Yossi as he became a member of the largest whisky community on Facebook (locally in Israel), in which I am acting as Admin. Yossi is a very active member, and during a discussion about one of his new single casks (The Ben Nevis), he promised that the next time he’ll be visiting Israel, he will his whiskies over and we could host a tasting featuring his creations.
A month ago, Yossi had gotten in touch, and was happy to inform me that he’s going to be visiting Israel this month, and would appreciate if I could co-host a tasting of his whiskies locally, as promised. I was delighted to organize the event (with the help of a few good friends and admins of our FB group), as this is something we do frequently over the last few months (hosting interesting whisky tastings locally, that is). The tasting was in high demand and sold out in a matter of hours after we posted it on Facebook, and was to be held at the Milk and Honey distillery in Tel Aviv, where we host most local whisky events (the visitor center is lovely, and the location is just perfect for such events).
At any rate, the tasting took place Thursday night, with a big and diverse crowd featuring local whisky geeks/lovers, as well as personal friends of Yossi and ours. We set to discuss Independent bottling and Yossi shared some of his experience , telling the story of how and why he started bottling whisky himself … The story is quite simple: as it appears Yossi is not a big fan of wine, and since SA is home to many wineries, he wanted to do something similar with whisky, but the times were before many distilleries were opened in the new world and certainly in hot climates, so Independent Bottling was a good way of creating whisky, without the need to build a distillery…
We started by tasting the Glencadam 16, which was the first whisky he ever bottled. It’s quite weird, but Yossi chose to bottle 16!! casks for a total of 3,840 bottles on his first endeavour as IB. A very curious choice… Yossi was inexperienced and as told by him, It was not easy selling so much whisky by an unknown IB. This was quite a big mistake on his part, as he gladly admits, and future releases were limited to a few 100’s rather to thousands of bottles.
The first whisky we tasted was this Glencadam which is not a single cask, but a vatting of 16! casks of a similar profile.
Nose: A sweet and fruity entry, with orchard fruit, some citrus (ripe orange/mandarin), vanilla, and a nice white pepper / ginger powder element that balances the sweetness .
Palate: The palate is sweeter, with some butterscotch, vanilla and more of the peach / apricot fruity sweetness, with some wood spice and clove.
Finish: Medium, sweet, vanilla cream and peach cobbler.
This is a very good start, and at 46% this is a highly drinkable whisky, balanced and would be lovely for sunny autumn evenings on the porch.
The next whisky we chose to try was the Bowmore 8-year-old. Yossi had commented, that he wanted to bottle an Islay whisky, and could not get hold of a Lagavulin when visiting Islay. He could, source this one, and the profile was exactly what he was looking for, distilled in 2000, and bottled in 2008 it’s young , but not too young. 890 bottles of this were produced.
Single & Single Bowmore 8yo, 46% abv
Nose: A true Islay, it features quite some smoke and peat, with a gentle sea-sprat quality, citrus fruit (mostly lemons), and a hint of tar, and lots of creamy vanilla as well, more smoke and some ash.
Palate: This is one creamy Bowmore, and it looks like the casks were active , Not much information about the cask type, but i suppose it might be an ex-Bourbon / french Oak.. The lush vanilla mixes well with the peaty / smokey / lemony palate.
Finish: Vanilla, smoke, ash and lemon rind, pepper.
A solid young Islay indeed.
We proceeded with the ‘Heavier Guns’, starting with the Oldest cask to date By S&S, the Bunnahabhain 1976, bearing a 31 year old age statement. This one was bought by Yossi when it was 29 yo and bottled only two years after. The cask was bought on a hunch, before even Yossi tasted it (he got a phone call from a broker asking if he was interested, and had to answer immediately). He bought it, risking quite a hefty some of money, only to be surprised by how good it was. A lucky guy. Now, Old Bunna can be amazing, and this one is no exception, It’s just bloody lovely. This Bunna comes from a Re-fill sherry butt.
Single & Single Bunnahabhain 31yo, 47.1%, sold out
Nose: On first whiff you get a lovely exotic fruit salad : mango, kiwi, passion fruit, you name it. It’s lovely, there’s also a lot of old wood, old wood varnish (think old library benches), and a lovely sweet nectar mixing well with the fruit, gentle spice and sweetness (and a sour-ish note too). Complex, rich and brilliant. I am a sucker for this kind of profile. Bliss.
Palate: The exotic fruit party goes on, with the wood shining through. More spices, polished wood benches, with a nice bitterness that
Finish: bitter-sweet , wood, honeyed and hints of passion-fruit.
A stunning dram. Truly impressive stuff. Wow.
After the superb Bunnahabhain – a change of pace, with a Sherry monster Ben Nevis 21 yo. Just a quick look at the color of this monster, will tell the entire story – It’s almost black… the First-Fill Oloroso Sherry casks did a great job, and after 21 years it’s dark as the night, and sweet and rich… A true desert dram. I asked Yossi why he opted for a Ben Nevis , which is not a very sexy distillery , to say the least (not many OBs, and really not a popular brand name in the whisky world…). Yossi wanted a big sherried whisky, and it was not easy to get a big sherried cask, from other distilleries. But, he was lucky in this choice as well. At any rate this was the dram to finish the tasting with (or a desert dram, if you may)…
Single & Single Ben Nevis 21yo , 52.8%
Nose: Not surprising – but this one’s packed with dried fruit : plum, date, sultana, it has got it all. thick rich, sherry influence, with some winter spice, chocolate, and quite a lot of polished wood, which is nice.
Palate: Thick and rich, and would benefit quite nicely from a few drops of water, Xmas cake, more dried fruit, and some fresh ripe black fruit as well : berries and some Blackcurrant.
Finish: Dark chocolate, filled with sherry soaked sultanas, cinnamon , wood varnish.
The bottle comes in a leather casing which is über cool, and adds a nice twist, but the liquid is the main act here. Very good stuff, for the sherry lover and those with a sweet tooth, and an afiinity to good wood, there’s quite a lot of that here and it’s beyond dried fruit, which is always a plus. good cask selection on this one. An after meal dram , if there ever was one. Would go wonderfully well with a rich chocolate cake (if you like those), or just some dark chocolate. Very good stuff.
So, four whiskies, 40 people and lots of fun. quite different, each with its own kick. The Bunna was the winner obviously, but The others were very good indeed as well. Well done Yossi and well done S&S. A brilliant evening, with good friends, good whiskies and some special guests (former IDF General Commander, Former Generals and such..). Not bad, eh?
Many thanks to Yossi for sharing his whisky with us, and to all those who made the tasting a great success (my fellow Admins: Ran, Ofer, Niko, Rotem & friends and group members) you rock!