Apr 022020

Golani 5 year old!

Wow, this is another milestone for Israeli whisky. Indeed, the first Israeli five year old whisky was bottled by David Zibell’s Golani Distillery. This is the second cask filled by the distillery, cask number 2, that was distilled in September 2014.

I’ve said previously that David is extremely innovative, and it’s nice to hark back to those very early days of experiments. It’s also the time, I think, that I met with David for the first time, and had a chance to taste the new make and we discussed some of my thoughts on it.

I’ve been lucky in being given the opportunity to taste quite a few of the distillery’s casks, as well as almost all the whisky bottlings, many of which were reviewed on my blog (you’ll find them all here). I’ve visited the distillery as recently as early March, and have two more expressions for review in the next few days.

These are exciting times!

And now, it’s on to tasting this beauty:

Golani Black Single Grain Whisky, 5 Year Old, Cask #2, Distiller September 2014, 32% Angel’s Share  (60.4% ABV, Unfiltered, NC)

Appearance: Bronze, very slow evenly separated legs leaving a lot of residue on the glass.

Nose: Opens with the telltale Golani caramel and mint, with some white raisins, red and golden delicious apples and a small touch of charing on the nose. Clove and nutmeg chime in, as well as a tiny herbal note of thyme. At 60.4%, this needs water, which I’ll do after tasting it first neat.
With water: Warm wood spices and a softer caramel, with a bit more sweetness on the nose.

Palate: Apples and cinnamon, though more sour than sweet, with pepper and clove. There’s also a bitter citrus peel on the Palate. The water makes the spice more pronounced

Linger: Spice and caramel linger on the tongue, with cinnamon and oak on the insides of the cheeks. There’s a touch of residual sweetness coming through, with a dryness. The caramel becomes almost like the caramel coating on an apple you’d get at the fair.
With water, the linger gets a tinge of a fruity sourness to it.


The first Israeli five year old expression is a real belter. It’s complex, powerful and interesting. If you can still get your hands on a bottle, you really want to do that.

Jan 312019

When I visited the Golani distillery last year, David said that “the casks work in the summer, that’s when the magic happens”. He has now taken that another step forward, and is now offering a selection of select casks that have matured in the top rack of the warehouse, where it’s hottest. David named those casks ‘Angel’s Choice’, as Exceptional Casks, and this first example is very much in line with that moniker.

Photo Credit: @spalonaspirit on Instagram

This is a single Golani two grain (barley and wheat) wine cask, that gave up a third of its content to the angels (32% evaporated in 42 months, if we want to get technical, which translates to 0.76% per month!!).


Photo Credit: @spalonaspirit on Instagram

Golani Distillery 2015 Cask 59 – Angel’s Choice – ‘Exceptional’ Golani Vino Top Rack Cask, Distilled July 2015, Bottled January 2019 (60.7%)

Appearance: Mahogany, thin and slow legs with a very sturdy necklace.

Nose: Dark red fruit coulis, fruit compote, toffee, cinnamon and clove. The signature Golani mint is on the nose with vanilla and spice. Salty caramel appears after some time with a hint of thyme.  Time in the glass brings us back to the signature Golani spirit, with a new depth.

Palate: Thick and syrupy, with an almost sherry like quality. There’s the mint with oak and wood spices, and a medley of berries, with blueberries, cranberries and blackberries, followed by some baked apples and pears. After being left to rest in the glass, you can tell this is a Golani cask, but with a boldness to it.

Linger: Dry, with wood, sweetness and spice working together. There seems to be a sweet and thick remnant like Pedro Ximénez sherry, and a sweetish cinnamon and cooked clove. This has a big finish, with sweetness and dryness remaining for quite a while on in the mouth.


This is the Golani wine casks on steroids. I think that this is a beautiful example of what a good cask and the harsh Israeli summers can do for whisky. I definitely look forward to the next ‘Angel’s Choice’ cask.

Jan 152019

Once again David Zibell is venturing into uncharted territory, this time with peated malt and a double, yet very unconventional, maturation. This time we’re being treated to a maturation in a first filled Golan Heights Winery Chardonnay cask, that was received by Golani Distillery fresh and was not even washed out before being filled with the Golani single malt.

Photo Credit: Sheshet

Following 29 months in this fresh, and rather funky, Chardonnay cask, David moved the peated single malt into a cask my readers have already met before. This is the very same 50 litre ex brandy cask that held the 70th anniversary edition Golani released for Israel’s last independence day (and reviewed here). This is the result of the white wine and brandy wood maturation.

There have been five single malt cask releases so far: Cask 1 in Cabernet, Cask 10 in ex Golani Black, Cask 13 in ex Golani Black, Cask 16 in Cabernet and Cask 8 in the Port style T2. This expression brings several firsts, as this is the first peated single malt in the series of releases, as well as the first white wine cask and the first finish in the series. Three firsts in one bottle. Well done, David!

Unlike most casks, where the whisky is available both at cask strength and at 46%, this “baby cask”, as David calls it, is available only at 46%.

This is an older picture of a previous cask. This bottle looks the same, but obviously not cask 10.            Photo Credit: Arkadi Raskin

Golani Distillery 2015 Single Cask 36, Matured in First Fill Chardonnay Cask for 29 Months and Finished for 8 Months in a Second Fill Brandy Cask. Distilled November 2015, Bottled January 2019 (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Dark gold, pretty quick legs with quite a bit of residue left on the glass.

Nose: Boy, the nose on this one is elusive. It’s a bit farmy, with some very green notes, and a distant fire with coal dust. There’s some white grape juice (known in Israel as Tirosh), and a hint of apple peels.

Palate: Red apple and green grapes with a mild spiciness turn more and more spicy as you let it stay in the mouth. The peat comes through with a nice note of melon sorbet and some white and black pepper, and a touch of cardamom. The distillery mint is there, but I’m not sure at all that I would recognize it in a blind tasting.

Linger: Peat mingles with a very fresh fruitiness, and some spice lingering on the tongue. The gullet has a fizzy type of spice. The dryness holds the inside of the cheeks


The palate and finish are lovely. The nose is very guarded. This is definitely a very different animal than the four single casks we’ve seen so far. In a blind tasting, I’d probably put this one down as a Campbeltown whisky.