Oct 172014
 
Photo Credit:  Hebrew Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Hebrew Wikipedia

Milk and Honey (@milkhoneywhisky), 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.

Photo Credit: Shai Gilboa

Photo Credit: Shai Gilboa

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…

Attic's still Photo Credit: Shai Gilboa

Attic’s still
Photo Credit: Shai Gilboa

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

 

 

Jul 062014
 

Like many of us whisky aficionados, I’m a bit of a sucker for tradition. There’s something about floor maltings, hand written “computer” distilling logs and manual temperature controls that just sets our imaginations wild. I’ll dedicate the next week or so to a sampling of Springbank whiskys, undoubtedly the most traditional of  the Scottish distilleries. I’ve mentioned Glenfarclas as a very traditional distillery, which is true for the outlook they have and the types of product they produce, but not for the method of production. So we basically have two types of traditions: Glenfarclas using modern methods to produce a very traditional product without venturing away from the production of traditional whisky, in varying degrees of sherry matured whisky. There are no fancy finishes, no experiments or exotic wood, only traditional sherry butts and ex-bourbon casks.

Photo Credit: caskstrength.blogspot.com

Photo Credit: caskstrength.blogspot.com

On the other hand, Springbank will try pretty much anything as far as wood goes, with some results better than others. But this willingness to experiment in maturation stops at the door to the distillery itself, where tradition takes over big time… I won’t go on about the distillery itself, but if you haven’t watched Ralfy’s visit to the distillery, you might enjoy the video series (watch all seven parts here) . In this series, I’ll be exploring several of the Springbank core expressions and a few limited ones. The perfect place to start seems to be the Springbank CV, meant to be not only the NAS entry level expression, but also to serve as an introducttion to the line, a curriculim vitae of sorts, having whiskys matured in bourbon, sherry and rum casks. It’s bottled at 46%, and makes for a good drink.

Springbank CV (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Photo Credit: www.scottishwhiskystore.com

Photo Credit: www.scottishwhiskystore.com

 

Color: Gold, legs are slow and wide spread along the glass.

Nose: Sherry, some sulphur, honey, leather, a bit of peat, dried cherries, old tobacco, cinnamon and orange.

Palate: Sherry sweetness, dried fruit, pepper and chili. Mouth feel is smooth and full.

Linger: Long and peppery, with sweet notes permeating the spice.

 

This is a lovely introduction to the Springbank line, and a very drinkable dram on it’s own. The other expression, however, highlight distinct characteristics that are missing from the CV, which is to be expected 🙂