A growing demand for whisky in a land that imports all of its high strength liquor, got founder Gal Kalkshtein and a few technology centric folks thinking on how best to exploit such an opportunity while also building on a dream. It took around two years of research and heaps of patience to understand the art of making whisky and the industry itself. Come 2012, and the Milk & Honey Distillery was born, Israel’s first whisky distillery with an outlook to set foot internationally.
Knowing that Israel had no whisky footprint and hence no experience, Gal and his team reached out to Late Master Distiller Dr. Jim Swan to bring shape to their dream. Jim Swan was not only a consultant at the distillery but also their first master distiller, distilling their first batch in the month of March, 2015. Much of the building blocks laid out were a result of this pact and Jim’s knowledge on whisky, wood and temperature have led the distillery to leverage different cask types while also taking advantage of Israel’s five climatic zones. As a result, M&H have warehouses built around the Dead Sea – the lowest point on earth, the Sea of Galilee, the Coast of Tel Aviv, the mountains of Jerusalem, with also experiments being done in the Deserts of Israel.
The distillery gets all of its barley from the UK and mixes it with locally sourced treated water to produce the mash. This mash is then filtered using a false bottom giving the wort a clear appearance, which is then fermented for a maximum of 3 days or until the strength hits 7-8% alc by volume. This wash is then double distilled, first in a 9k litre wash still and then a second, custom made 3.5k litre pot still before being nestled in wood.
In the case of the Elements range, the Peated expression is made from whiskies aged for a minimum of three years in a combination of casks, majorly ex-Islay and ex-Bourbon with some of the contents making its way from Virgin and STR Casks (barrels that are Shaved, Toasted and Re-charred, another one of Jim’s tried and tested experimental casks). The Peated DOES NOT really use peated barley, but gets its influence from its time in wood that previously harbored Islay whiskies.
ABV : 46%
Eye : Amber | Natural Colouring, Non Chill Filtered
Nose: Initially malty with slices of cantaloupe tossed with cream and a drizzle of honey. You begin to sense the smoke and char with fruity aromatics – cherries, red wine and floral notes followed by some wood and brine.
Taste: Caramel syrup and cream with a sprinkle of kosher salt. You can feel the seaweed on the palates infused with the sweetness of grapes, plums and Red apples. Toasted oak soon follow leading to a trail of black pepper.
Finish : Vanilla beans and apples with a mild spice.
The Peated expression from M&H’s Elements range is a rather sweet whisky with the exception of the peat being mute. However what was prominent though, was the salty, briny punch that you so associate with the Islay’s. There is surely breadth to the whisky and it provides a lovely play of fruity aromatics on the senses, but lacks a bit of complexity. For a relatively young whisky, it is smooth, rounded and displays good maturity and there’s no mystery behind the science owing to the temperate climates in Israel.
Long story short, this is a good whisky with the minor exception of peat on the palate. For AUD $125, it is steep but it is also unique. I find this a lovely introduction to the distillery and possibly the start to many more things to come from Tel Aviv.