Today’s post will be somewhat different than our regular posts, as it will contain no tasting notes. I’ll use today’s post to update you on the goings on in Israel’s first large scale commercial operation here. I say first, because others are in various stages of starting up, and I think Israel could be moving up into the ranks of some serious “new world” whiskies within the next decade.
Now when you think of a distillery, you think of a rolling glen surrounded with lush green hills….Well, wake up and smell the Hummus, as this Jaffa’s industrial zone, right near Tel-Aviv’s soccer stadium….Glen Jaffa perhaps 😉
From the outside, you’d have no idea that there’s a whisky distillery inside, with two beautiful copper stills and what will be a serious tourist attraction with a visitor center and tours. This will also become our Malt Mongers Israel whisky club’s meeting place, once the whisky bar is completed on the premises.
Last year, I wrote an update on the status of the preparations for the distillery, and here we are three months into preliminary operations. There are two more components that have yet to be installed: the mash tun and the washback, and commercial distillation won’t begin until Tomer Goren, the distiller, is satisfied with the consistency of the wash, something which at the moment is being prepared at an outside brewery. The mash tun and washback should be installed shortly.
There are two stills installed, one is a brand new dual use still. It has a traditional pot still, with an external steam jacket, which runs the vapors into a condenser, but has an option to run the distillate through an adjacent column still for gin or grain whisky distillation.
And the condenser and column:
The still has an agitator working off an auxiliary motor which can be seen from the other side:
The distillation is sampled every 30 minutes, and samples are kept at the QA station:
After seeing the operation, we were led by Tomer to the cask room, which is temperature controlled. Nevertheless, maturation is expected to be rather fast compared to Scotland, and drinking quality will be achieved within a couple of years. Just to get an idea of wood influence on color, Tomer used different wood chips in miniature bottles:
In the cask room, we got to taste from three experimental casks (as everyting is basically experimental until mashing and fermentation begins to be internal), numbers 001-003, cask 001 is a small cask, with wood influence already felt on the spirit, and number 002 is even smaller, just to see the wood and spirit interaction. I wouldn’t be telling you about these experimental casks, were it not for cask 003/2015, where things get really interesting.
Milk and Honey has a relationship with Recanati Winery, one of Israel’s foremost, and cask 003 is a red wine (Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon) cask from the winery.
Despite being in cask for only 3 months, the spirit has distinctly taken on aromas and flavors from the wine cask, and shows great promise for a spirit so young.
I’m excited for what’s coming, and expect great things from at least three commercial whisky distillation operations coming out of Israel as we speak. I’ll keep you updated on Milk and Honey’s progress, as well as other developments in the local whisky scene.