May 112018
 

I’ve been following Milk and Honey’s Cask 003 (yes, the third cask ever distilled in Tel Aviv) since it was a 3 month old infant. I first tasted it when it was three months old, in my first report on the distillery. I then revisited at 8 months and thought it was moving along its maturation very well. This cask is now officially whisky, having completed three years in wood (it was distilled 4 May 2015, and I tasted a sample drawn on 6 May 2018).  I’m not sure what the distillery plans for it are, as nothing distilled in the permanent Tel Aviv distillery will get bottled before the inaugural expression offered to the Indiegogo campaign backers is delivered.

Speaking of the Tel Aviv location there’s some big news, as the distillery has doubled its size to include on site warehousing for 1600 casks (later to be expanded to 2400 casks) in natural climate settings (there are openings in the walls to freely allow in the outside air), a cask filling station, a malt storage area and a bottling line.

I visited the distillery to have a look.

This is a view from the distillery as the opening to the warehouse is being created through the wall.

The “windows” and some casks already in the warehouse, to the left is the opening seen in the picture above.

Casks will be stored four high. I’m curious about temperature differences between the levels, and promise to update at a later date.

Filling station will be located here, with two new make tanks to be installed against these pillars.

This will be the malt storage area, with tri-weekly shipments coming in on a regular basis.

And the room filled with the boxes will house the filling line.

 

Milk and Honey Distillery, Red Wine Cask 003/2015, Distilled 4.5.2015, Sampled 6.5.2018 (64.5% ABC, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Amber with a bit of a reddish hue, very sturdy necklace, releasing droplets very slowly.

Nose: Starts warm with red fruit – raspberry and blackcurrant –  and wood spices, with cinnamon and nutmeg. When left to sit in the glass for a few minutes, a hint of spearmint and some balsamic vinegar. Warm danish, milk chocolate and distant freshly ground coffee come through too.

Palate: Through the high ABV the signature spearmint, as well as pepper. Water brings out some citrus and a milder pepper, with a lovely dry bitterness and some oak.

Linger: Sweet and dry, with a very gentle influence of the wood spices. The medium length linger is sweet and pleasant.  Water makes the linger hot and peppery and makes it last far longer.

Conclusion

I’m not sure what plans are for this cask, but I’ll definitely have to snag myself a bottle of it!

 

 

Mar 102016
 

With the recent installation of the mash tun, the Milk and Honey Distillery is set to begin full production. Accordingly, the visitor center was completed and a two very promising “work in progress” casks were bottled. Happily, the cask chosen by Tomer Goren for bottling was cask 004, so I can keep following the development of my beloved cask 003 (reviewed here and here). Last night, some ‘friends of the distillery’ – whisky aficionados and bloggers – were invited to an evening at the distillery to inauaguate the newly completed visitor center and have an official tour and tasting, together with Master Distiller Tomer Goren and Dr. Jim Swan, the scientific adviser to the distillery. Dr. Swan came to Israel for the first runs of the full process of mashing and distillation.

The tour begins and ends in the beautiful visitor center:

© Malt and Oak Blog

© Malt and Oak Blog

View into the Distillery from the visitor center. © Malt and Oak

View into the Distillery from the visitor center.
© Malt and Oak

Once in the distillery, the tour – which was led by distillery CEO Nir Gilat – starts at the water system. As you can imagine, Tel Aviv is quite different than what you would expect from a Scottish glen, and we don’t have springs, lochs and burns of sweet mountain water flowing near the distillery. What Milk and Honey does have is a water laboratory with a filtering system with reverse osmosis, that can basically create any composition of water you specify.

Milk and Honey Water Laboratory © Malt and Oak

Milk and Honey Water Laboratory
© Malt and Oak

The highlight of the tour for me was the new mash tun. It was designed specifically by Dr. Jim Swan, Tomer Goren and the MGT corporation. Dr. Swan mentioned in his remarks that in general, mash tuns are not made specifically for whisky, and are more suitable for brewing beer. But since this mash tun was designed from the ground up, it has everything he wants in a whisky specific mash tun.

Milk and Honey mash tun © Malt and Oak

Milk and Honey mash tun
© Malt and Oak

The mash tun has some special features, the main one is that the grist and the water are piped in simultaneously, and mix in the air, before splashing down together into the mash tun.

Inside the mashtun © Malt and Oak

Inside the mashtun
© Malt and Oak

Additionally, to protect the fine stainless steel 7 mm filter on the bottom of the mash tun, all wort is goes through an underback (seen right off to the right of the tun). From the underback, the wash runs through a cooling system to the 10,5oo liter stainless steel fermentation tank (Israeli health regulations preclude use of wood), where the wash will ferment for an average of 72 hours.

From the washback, the wash runs, at 8% ABV, into the stills. The wash still – not yet in use – is a 9000 liter still, built around 1983, probably as an experimental design for a whisky still.

Wash still on right, spirit still on left.... © Malt and Oak

Wash still on right, spirit still on left….
© Malt and Oak

At the moment, both distillations are done in the 3500 liter Carl spirit still, built to the specifications made by Swan and Goren. The first distillation creates low wines at 25% and the spirit still produces new make at an average of 73%.

The still has a optional 8 plate column, that can be activated by bypassing the condenser. It can be used to make bourbon style whisky, gin or vodka. For white spirits, the full 8 plates are engaged, and a purity of 97% has been achieved in distillation. I tasted both the Levantine Gin and the Vodka produced by this still.

Condenser on the left and the column still on the right. © Malt and Oak

Condenser on the left and the column still on the right.
© Malt and Oak

After filling the new make into barrels (at distillation strength), they’re rolled to the barrel foom, which is fully climate and humidity controlled. the room can hold 170 barrels racked two deep and four high. If a fifth level can fit, it might hold up to 220 barrels. Plans are to distill and fill these 170 casks within a year.

Barrels.... © Malt and Oak

Barrels….
© Malt and Oak

The vast majority of the barrels are standard American oak barrels, that previously held MGP bourbon, with some locally sourced red wine casks from Israeli wineries. This is also the place to note that all whisky produced at Milk and Honey is certified kosher and is under the supervision of the municipal kosher supervision of Tel Aviv. Practically, this means that you shouldn’t expect to see any sherry, port or other fortified wine maturation or finishes. Kosher wine casks are and will be used.

After the tour, we returned to the visitor center, for a tasting and a chat with Jim Swan and Tomer Goren.

Discussion panel.... © Malt and Oak

Discussion panel….
© Malt and Oak

We tasted the new make and the first two bottlings of experimental casks. I have already told you that the spirit shows a lot of promise, but Dr. Swan confirmed that the profile is just what they were aiming for, with a lot of fruitiness apparent in the new make, and well accentuated in the spirit matured in oak, even though this is only 6-8 months into the maturation process.

The Tasting... © Malt and Oak

The Tasting…
© Malt and Oak

Milk and Honey, Cask 010, Aged 6 Months in a Virgin Oak 70 Liter Quarter Cask (51.5% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, droplets remain and cling to the glass.

Nose: Floral with notes of roses, fruity, star anise, menthol and a hint of vanilla.

Palate: Still harsh on the palate, some piney cereal and wood with bits of cayenne pepper and bitter.

Linger: Bitter, peppery and somewhat drying.

Milk and Honey, Cask 004, Aged 8 Months in a Cabernet Red Wine Cask (53.2% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Light copper, nice necklace and some residual droplets.

Nose: Mellower than cask 10, floral (conjures up a bouquet of red flowers),hints of tropical fruit, cereal underlying, the wine works here, a dry sweetness on the nose – like a rose wine. Mint comes through after some time in the glass. A lot of water brings out candy and a lot of licorice.

Palate: Peppery, somewhat herbal, with the mint very prominent on the palate.

Linger: Very spicy with a lot of pepper, drying and with a long hint of the wine.

Conclusion

There will be some great stuff coming out of Milk and Honey. I’ll continue to follow up on cask 003 as it progresses. These two casks, as well as a gin (made with a very local composition of herbs) and the new make, are available for purchase at the distillery. If you do come to Tel Aviv, drop me a line, and I’d love to meet you for a dram at the visitor center.

Jan 162016
 

Milk and Honey is rapidly moving toward the beginning of commercial production, with the last piece of the puzzle, the mash tun, set to be installed at the distillery by the end of this month, right as the new visitor center should be opening under the management of Keren Mosessco Kariel.

At that point, the real distillation is set to begin. Some 50 beautifully charred ex bourbon casks have already made their way to Tel Aviv, after traveling all the way from the US, each with some barrel strength bourbon sloshing inside it to prevent it from drying out on the way (yes, I did taste it…). You can see the lovely video the distillery made of the barrels on their Facebook account here.

Photo Credit: Tomer Goren on Instagram (to14go)

Photo Credit: Tomer Goren on Instagram (@to14go)

You’ll surely recall my previous distillery visit and progress report on this cask, if not, you can read it here before you move on to my notes on cask 003.

(c) Malt and Oak

(c) Malt and Oak

Milk and Honey, Cask 003, 8 Months Old, Distilled 4 May 2015, Sampled 6 January 2016 (ABV Unknown)

Appearance: Coppery gold, complete with the red hue. Necklace releasing a beautiful set of thin droplets.

Nose: Malt with a deep milk chocolate and stewed peaches. It’s young age is still very much on the nose, but warm wood spices are beginning to develop with cinnamon and clove.
Directly drawn from the cask, this dram needs water, which brings out a winey quality over creamy malt.

Palate: Viscous and a tad winey, with more of the new make coming through with a bit of water added. Malt, white and black pepper and a certain tart note are very distinct with water. There’s also a hint of sweetness there, just beyond actually featuring on the palate.

Linger: Wine tartness and peppery spice remain in the mouth, with sweetish spice notes down the gullet. That elusive sweet note from the palate shows up on the tongue with water, and a creamy milk chocolate remains.

Conclusion

At eight months, this work in progress is coming along nicely. This was distilled from a different mash than the actual commercial whisky will come from and fermented off site, so I assume that the actual Milk and Honey product will be different, but as a proof of concept, this is coming along quite nicely.

If you do make it to Tel Aviv, be sure to visit the distillery and let me know, maybe I can join you there for a dram or two…

Jun 202015
 

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 😉

Photo Credit: fishman1.co.il

Photo Credit: fishman1.co.il

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.

Tomer working his magic on a full still, running a wash distillation

And the condenser and column:

Condenser and optional column. The washback will go where the ladder is, and the mash tun’s location is obscured from view by the condenser.

The still has an agitator working off an auxiliary motor which can be seen from the other side:

20150618_120645

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.

The fascinating cask 3

The fascinating cask 3

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.

The still at work!

The still at work!

 

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