Milk and Honey "Young Single Malt" Cask #033

Milk and Honey Young Single Malt Cask #033



A few weeks ago I was working in Modiin until 2pm so decided that after work I’d take a trip to South Tel Aviv, Yaffo, and visit Israeli’s new “Milk and Honey” distillery.
The distillery is found in HaThiya Street 16, Tel Aviv-Yafo.

All the national media articles about this distillery claim that they are Israel’s first whisky distillery. Well, technically, the Golan Heights distillery started distilling and bottling before them but the distillery up in Katzrin is probably best described as a “Micro Distillery” whereas the Milk and Honey is a much more professional, large scale enterprise on a par with say, the Kilchoman distillery in Islay. In fact, when asked, I received the reply that the distillery is capable of around one million litres per annum. That’s far more than Kilchoman!
There is something else which the Milk and Honey distillery has in common with Kilchoman on Islay. They were both designed and built with the expert advice of Doctor Jim Swan, who unfortunately died earlier this year. In fact, Doctor Swan spent a few months in Israel overseeing the project and is responsible for designing some of the unique equipment found here including the mash tun.
I do not have any photos from my distillery tour as I wanted to concentrate 100% on the one-on-one guided tour. My guide was a very friendly girl called Gal.
We started with the Computerised Reverse Osmosis machine which turns Tel Aviv hard water, (totally unsuitable for brewing or mashing), into sweet Speyside style soft water. (See my previous blog post on water here!).
Then it was on to the old mill which grinds up the malted barley, imported from “Muntons Maltings” in Suffolk, England and malted to their exact specifications.
Next the very impressive custom made mash tun with its High tech Underback which sends the mash into the stainless steel washbacks (which they insist on calling “Fermentation tanks”), which produces the creamy wort. The wort has already reached an alcohol level of 8% ABV. Now, it’s time to see the very impressive Wash and Spirit stills with internal Shell-and-Tube condensers. Lastly a quick look at the air-conditioned cask maturation storage room. In fact, apart from the storage room, every free bit of floor space of the distillery seemed to be taken up with maturing American Oak casks and these casks were maturing in the hot humid Tel Aviv weather.
I managed to ask Tomar Goren, the Master Distiller at Milk and Honey, a few questions about the stills and condensers as well as cutting off points for the Spirit distillation process. I didn’t want to keep him too long as he seemed to be very busy but I did sneak in some questions about future plans to mature kosher sherry casks and even heavy peated whiskies. Everything it seems is in the pipeline….
I actually missed a great photo opportunity when Tomer started filling some American Ex-Bourbon casks with the new make spirit. Perhaps next time I visit, (sometime next year when they release their first 3-Year-Old whisky perhaps), I’ll take some photos for another blog post.
For now, you can see some snaps from their own web-site and this review on the WhiskyIsrael blog here.
 
Those of you who have ever been on a distillery tour in Scotland will immediately notice at the Milk and Honey, the conspicuous absence of the grand and majestic looking brass spirit safe with its swivel spirit receivers. This in Scotland is a legal requirement by Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise to record the amount of alcohol being distilled. However, no such regulations exist in Israel it seems.
The Spirit Safe at Kilchoman

The Spirit Safe is also used as the main control console of the distillation process. The swivel spirit receivers are used to make the cut between the Foreshots, Spirit Run and Feints. (They use the American Bourbon terms – Heads, Hearts and Tails). Instead, coming from the condensers are a couple of large pipes leading to taps with buckets underneath them.

Tomer Goren, the master distiller at Milk and Honey, explained to me that these very practical and unromantic looking plumbing pipes and series of taps effectively perform the same task as the swivel receivers inside Scottish Spirit Safe.  The Low-Wines, coming from the wash still via a large vertical copper condenser, are monitored from the taps and thermometer on the right.  The taps and thermometer on the left control the switching from the foreshots (or heads), the spirit run (or hearts) and the feints (or tails).
Tomer mentioned that he might at some stage, make a cosmetic upgrade to install a mock shiny brass Spirit Safe, just for show.
After the tour, Gal, my guide, took me into the visitor’s tasting room and placed three bottles in front of me. On the left was a bottle of New-Make-Spirit, in the middle was something called “Young Single Malt” from Cask #33 and on the right, an Israeli Gin made from Junipers and (which is what makes it “Israeli”), Zahta spice.
As I was driving, I was only going to make smelling notes but these proved interesting enough.
It is always suspect doing smelling and tasting sessions in a distillery or winery as the place itself has a very strong odour from the alcohol being produced as well as the maturing and empty casks lying around. Added to that is the excitement of the occasion of actually being there. (The most delicious Gvaot wine I ever tasted was in the tasting room at Gvaot. The Lagavulin 12 tasted incredible in the Lagavulin lounge on Islay and only just really delicious at home in Israel). This is why I don’t usually give tastings on-site a tremendous amount of credence.
Nevertheless, I was immensely impressed by the smell of the new-make-spirit. I have smelled and tasted quite a few new-make-spirit from various Scottish distilleries. At around 70% abv (and even when watered down) there is almost always a dominant smell of acetone and chilli peppers but if the Master Distiller has done his job properly, there are also firm notes of sweet fruity white or green fruits.
To my surprise, there was hardly any acetone smells and very little alcohol heat burn at all to the Milk and Honey New Make Spirit. It smelled almost good enough to drink, all be it, watered down to around 50%. There was a very promising sweet aroma of Gewürztraminer white wine along with other fruits like pears and apples with malted creaminess. This was unmistakably quality new-make-spirit and you could tell that these guys know what they are doing. I cannot tell you how impressed I was.
Next up, and most importantly, was the middle bottle labelled “Young Single Malt”. This stated that it came from Cask #33 and was bottled at 46% abv. Although it does not say on the label, (an oversight as it really should do), the guide assured me that the alcohol was Non-Chill-Filtered and natural colour. After smelling it at the distillery I bought a bottle to take home, along with two authentic Glencairn whisky glasses.

Young Single Malt Cask #033. 46% ABV. Price NIS 189.
Kashrut Certification by the Local Tel Aviv Rabbanut.
Packaging:
I quite like the overall appearance of the bottle and label. It has a professional look to it. I especially like the plastic seal covering the cork top, which isn't actually cork, it's plastic. I would change that for a real cork for the proper whisky editions if I were you! I'm sure it's just as good at preserving the whisky as cork. However, it simply doesn't look nice.

I don't particularly like the Distillery emblem but I'm sure it will grow on me, especially if the whisky they produce fulfils its potential. I'm also not really convinced about their Brand name of "M & H". Even on the Hebrew back label, they spell out "Milk and Honey" in Hebrew letters instead of translating back to the original - חלב ודבש - "Chalav U'Devash".
The branding is all a bit too Anglocised for my taste. With all the totally unpronounceable Gaelic named Single Malt distilleries from Scotland on the market, I cannot see why they are so afraid to use a bit of Hebrew?
Anyway, on to the review...
Colour:


Light straw mustard yellow.







On the Nose:
There is a very dominant fresh white wine Gewürztraminer fruitiness up front. Behind this is creamy banana, ripe apricots and vanilla, milky toffee popcorn with a touch of coconut essence and Rose water. There is a faint hint of sweet aniseed balls in the background with just a hint of honey.

The spirit shows similar characteristics of a high fruity ester dominant Speysider or East Highlands whisky such as a very young Glencadam, Glenrothes or Benromach.

Sniffing is a most delightful experience. This is a clean, fresh, light and simple nose but nonetheless delightful bouquet with milky fudge with pear and banana travel sweet drops.

For an unchilled filtered malt, it seemed quite low in oils, exhibiting fast alcohol legs dripping down the inside of the Glencairn glass. Again, overall impression was of an ultra-fresh and clean fruity creamy liquid with not a hint of alcohol heat. Is this really bottled at 46% abv? It behaves more like 36% abv?
I had to wait for the Friday night seuda to taste it.

At home Tasting notes.
Actually, the first few sips were very consistent with my smelling notes back at the distillery, which is a very good sign.
Light and fresh but certainly not lacking in flavour. Recognisably a young whisky but with none of the frisky immature alcohol heat punch which usually accompanies Scottish single malt under 5 years. (Take the Kilchoman 100% Islay, 4th Edition for instance, promising nose but still very chilli-pepper hot). This lack of alcohol punch at such an early age is a very clever trick indeed.

From the first sip, there is a combination of Gewürztraminer white wine and very prominent creamy banana, (my son described it as Banana Bubble-gum, and one of our guests described it as candied banana with milk chocolate) flavour.

Now white wine, pear and apples and also banana flavour notes come from various chemical components of the Esters (the organic compound of acetate+alcohol and the ethyl/ethanol+fatty acids). These esters are formed during the barley mash and yeast fermentation stage and develop during the distillation process.
One of these components, Iso-amyl Acetate is responsible for this pear and banana flavour and indicates a high quality distilled spirit run.
Two much acetone (nail polish remover) indicates the distiller has made the middle cut too early. Too much banana flavour, turning to rotten banana, also described as “vomit” smell and barnyard off notes indicates that the distiller waited too long before cutting the middle spirit run. A skilled distiller will start and end the middle cut to obtain the maximum ester fruitiness for sweetness combined with “banana” Iso-amyl Acetate for improved character and body which produces the most promising new-make-spirit for maturing in oak.

The Creamy Banana transformed into milky toffee popcorn, the beginnings of the American white oak Ex-Bourbon cask influence no doubt. A short sweet delicate milky vanilla fudge and butterscotch finish gives this almost a liquor character.

We did not drink this Milk and Honey Young Single Malt on its own but actually sat it alongside three young Scottish whiskies, namely Glenrothes Alba Reserve, Scapa Skiren and Benromach Organic, all having spent around 5 to 6 years maturing in American Ex-Bourbon casks in Scotland. The Israeli single malt had spent just over 12 months in a similar cask but in the humid heat of Tel Aviv! So, how did the Israeli young pretender compare?
I have to say that the Cask #033 exceeded my expectations by a long shot. I will further inform you that those at the table exclaimed that, out of the three Scottish whiskies and this, they actually preferred the Tel Aviv Young Single Malt finding its light creamy banana flavour most delicious.
Not having a particular sweet tooth, I preferred the Benromach Organic Charred Virgin Oak matured, finding the Milk and Honey Malt a touch too sweet for my taste. I felt that the Benromach was more balanced with a wider variety of subtle flavours coming through. Nevertheless, I recognise that many people, especially those who enjoy the more in-your-face sweet fruity Speysiders, will love this, even at 12 and a bit months old!!!!

The youngest Scottish Single Malt whisky I have sampled was the Kilchoman 100% Islay 3-Year-old. It was almost undrinkable. The Four-Year-Old was promising but the chilli pepper alcohol punch in the face, even when watered down, would not entice me to purchase it. Not until the whisky reached 5/6-Year-Old (The 5th Edition), did I feel it was ready to be bottled and enjoyed.
Quite remarkably, this one-year-old single malt, in my opinion, is very very drinkable now.
I am left with many questions. How comes this 12-month old has already lost the sharpness of a new-make-spirit and is so well behaved? If it is the rapidly accelerated maturation process brought about by the Tel-Aviv climate, then they had better take great care they don’t over-mature the whisky. If 1-Year tastes like 5 Years’ worth of maturation in Scotland, then you are talking a maximum of 5 years in the cask in Tel-Aviv for the oak influence of a 25-Year-Old in Scotland. They had better take care not to turn their precious spirit into liquid saw-dust.
I am very much looking forward to trying the Milk and Honey Single Malt when it reaches its third birthday and can be officially called whisky. They may just have a world class World-Whisky on their hands. Kol HaKavod for what they have achieved so far and BeHatzlacha for the coming 2 years. Tomar informed me that they hope to start selling regular supplies of whisky by the end of 2019.

Popular Posts