Milk and Honey (@), the only distillery to make it into the Malt Whisky Yearbook before it even had a building, will be Israel’s real start up distillery, with two full size stills (9,000 and 3,500 liters) and some very serious people behind it. Incidentally, it’s located about two miles from my home, in Tel Aviv. I know most of the people involved in the distillery, and have no doubt that Milk and Honey will be churning out top notch whiskies, and getting product out relatively quickly because of Israel’s very hot weather. Right now, there are a few more building stages before the stills are installed (the stills are already in Israel, awaiting installation). The next step in getting the distillery up and running is installing the steam boiler and the condenser cooling system together with raising some internal partitions in the space, after which the stills will be installed.
Milk and Honey are aiming to be the Middle East’s Kavalan, and I have no doubt that they will succeed.
But they won’t be the first to distill a single malt in Israel, and I’m not talking about Escot Whisky. Now in the early 1960s, a company called National Distillers LTD formed in Israel, and opened a distillery in the northern city of Karmiel (about 25 km east of Acre). I’m not really sure what exactly they distilled (grain, malt, both or neither), but it was labeled as “Fine Scotch Whisky”. Two of those adjectives were clearly false, and the noun is questionable, at the very least….
After 12 years of operations Johnny Walker and Sons, Dewar’s and Thompson Hill backed by the SWA sued National Distillers LTD for Passing Off and calling their product “Scotch Whisky”. The District Court in Haifa found for the plaintiffs, and by the time the dust settled, National Distillers were out of business. Considering all that I know of Israel in the 1960s, I have a feeling there was no great loss there…
Despite trying, I could find none of this “fine” spirit to taste, but the anecdote is amusing.
But the past and future of commercial whisky distilling in Israel is just part of the story.
Nimrod Rosenblatt is one of the most passionate people I know. A computer geek interaction designer by day (it’s amazing how many of my whisky friends are computer geeks), Nimrod is a passionate spirits man after work. He and his brother, Yotam, have a small pot still, and incredibly inquisitive minds. Nimrod also has a lot of talent and knowledge. His craft distillery is called “The Attic” where he distills fruit brandy, grappa, rum, brandy, bitters and even distilled beer and in 2011 he distilled a real traditional single malt and aged it for three years in a mix of American and French Oak casks and then was finished in a cask that held their own rum.
Nimrod’s operation is by no means commercial, although if you ask to get a bottle early enough after distillation, you might still have a chance of actually getting one.
The single malt distillation has become a regular event, with several more batches, including a peated batch using peat from a local peatbog, slumbering in barrels. Judging by the first one, reviewed here, the malts coming out of the Attic are definitely interesting and well worth looking forward to…
The Attic – Craft Single Malt Whisky, Rum Finish, Distilled March 2011, Bottled July 2014 (50% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Bronze with thick and slow legs.
Nose: Slightly overripe bananas dominate this nose with notes of cereal, demerara sugar, carnations, light ground cinnamon, faint prefume and a very light note of faint acetone.
Palate: Only 50% ABV, but this whisky is in your face!! Not docile, it takes over you palate and makes sure you know it’s there. It has a real kick to it, with notes of citrus, rum and something metallic.
Linger: Long and warming with notes of banana, spice and metallic residue.
This is no gentle lowlander, but it doesn’t have bourbon’s slap either. This is a single malt with a lot of presence and character. Not everybody will like it, but you’ll remember how it tasted and smelled.
The bananas are a central part of the nose and linger, but there’s quite a bit going on behind it. The rum’s sweetness interacts with the cereal notes, and creates a whisky to remember.
I eagerly look forward to the next installment of this single malt adventure.