Golan Heights 100% Malted Barley New Spirit

I was in my favourite Machane Yehuda Jerusalem market wine store, “HaMesameach” when I came across a few bottles of Golan Heights 100% Malted Barley New Spirit on the shelf. Picking the bottle up I noticed that around its neck were two tiny cubes of charred wood. Reading the very brief instructions, it seems that one is supposed to open the bottle and pop these cubes into it. Then to open the bottle every now and again to allow air in which, after some period of time is supposed to produce your very own whiskey! Wow! I couldn’t resist and decided to try it out…

I found this video about the Golan Heights Distillery and its founder and Master Distiller, David Zibell:

If you want to know a little bit more about the distillery then please go here:

The site also gives you the opportunity to invest in his project.

This was taken from the introduction.

My name is David Zibell, and I was born in France, raised in Canada, Israel and the US. I recently dropped my real estate career in Canada to follow my dream of distilling a new style of whisky in a place I truly can call home, the Golan Heights of Israel. After coming on a visit to the Golan last July and seeing the quantity and quality of the water, I realized that this was the place I would realize a dream to create a Whisky but I can’t do it alone, starting a Whisky distillery takes a great investment of time and money as the Whisky needs to age for at least three years, we have decided to give you the opportunity to be part of this great project by selling and pre selling some of our product to raise some of the money we need to pioneer Whisky in the Golan Heights of Israel, check out our rewards and be a part of Israeli Whisky history!”

The Beginning

I brought the bottle back to my office.  I wanted to begin the maturation process as soon as possible so, for the first and probably the last time, I opened a bottle of whisky (or at least new spirit) at work!

Following the instructions, I popped the cubes into the bottle and put it away in my bag.

After a few emails backwards and forwards, I eventually phoned David Zibell who clarified some ambiguities in the instructions. David explained that for maximum rapid maturation I should place the bottle in the warmest room in the home and open the bottle up every 2 to 3 months to allow fresh air into the bottle which he explained was an essential part of the maturation process.

A few hours later when I got home I could see that there had been already a slight change in the colour. I poured out a small amount of this pale slightly yellowy liquid. It swirled around the glass slowly showing a lot of viscosity, not unlike glycerine syrup. At 63% alc/vol, straight out of the stills, it was pretty heady stuff so I added a few drops of water to open the alcohol up and allow the flavours of the fermentation and distillation stage to come through.

What's it taste like?
Initial smelling of this 100% malted barley new spirit brought aromas of wet dough, dry liquorice, cough syrup and nail polish remover. (There was no smoke whatsoever so one must assume the malted barley was 0 PPM phenols). Tasting was a slightly better experience showing slightly sweet aniseed balls, doughy biscuits made from caraway flour and creamy English silver polish.

Now, I have tasted new spirit straight from the stills at a few Scottish distilleries, the last time was at Kilchoman distillery in Islay and what this new spirit from the Golan Heights seemed to be missing was any of that fruity component which for me is an essential part of all single malt whisky.

There is a very good article on the Whisky Science blog site

...which explains the whole fermentation process when the yeast starts to break down all the sugars in the wort, producing loads of carbon dioxide as well as what we actually want, i.e., alcohol. These oily fusel alcohols combined with organic acids in the malted barley wort, together form what are known as esters.

Megillas Ester

Now I don’t want to write a whole Megillas Ester here but these esters are one of the most important flavour compounds in whisky, second only to the flavour from the wood maturation. It is the esters that give the spirit and thereafter the whisky its base personality. The wood then “matures” that character so to speak. In other words, if the oak is the King of flavours then the queen is Esters. (Sorry, couldn't resist that one).

The esters are responsible for producing those fruity and flowery notes along with the alcohol, cereal and vegetable notes.

The article lists different odours coming from the esters one is likely to find from the fermentation stage. To get technical for a second, from looking at the table printed in the article and based on my initial smelling and tasting notes of the Golan Heights Spirit, there does seem to be a predominance of Ethyl acetate and Bornyl acetate in this spirit and a certain lacking of the types of esters which give those wonderful fruity flavour compounds in whisky such as Ethyl nonanoate,Ethyl pentanoate, Isoamyl, acetate and Propyl acetate . (See table for more details). The article goes on to explain that fruity esters are determined by the type of yeast used and the length of fermentation.

(I want to state at this point that I’m only going according to this one article and although I have visited many Scottish distilleries I have had no actual practical experience in spirit distillation and could actually be talking a load of narishkite here, so apologies to David if I am talking complete cods wallop!).

Anyway, it’s now three days since I began the maturation process and the spirit is turning a slight reddy colour. Hmmmm. What was in those casks previously from which the cubes came from?

I hope, Be’ezrat Hashem, to give you an update on the project in a couple of months.


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