Golan Heights Single (Golani Black) Cask Malt Whisky Cask #10

Golan Heights Single (Golani Black) Cask Malt Whisky Cask #10, Vintage 2015 (3 Years), 46% abv

 
The Golan Heights Distillery (address “18” Street),  is situated in the Industrial zone of Katzrin in the Golan Heights, just up the road to the Golan Heights Winery, which is just off of the main 9088 road.
 
 
 

After tasting this whisky, I contacted the distillery manager, David Zibell and he very kindly sent me some photos of his distillery:


 
 

Stills are from Portugal
 
Golan Heights Single (Golani Black) Cask Malt Whisky Cask #10, Vintage 2015 (3 Years), 46% abv

Price 380 Shekels, HaMesameiach, Machene Yehuda, Yerushalayim.

The bottle has a Teudat Hechshir (Kashrut Certification) from the local Golan Heights Rabbanut and labelled Kasher LeMahedrin. (Extra High level).

Just look at all the information contained on the label.

The Golan Heights Distillery - Israeli Single Malt Whisky

Cask # 10
Distilled 01/2015
Bottled 01/2018
Angel’s Share (over 3 years) 19%
Bottle 182 / 335
Malted Concerti Barley
Water source: Golan Heights (Salukia Spring – “Maayin HaSalukia”)
60-hour Fermentation process
Double Distilled in copper Pot Stills and Worm Tub Condensers.
Cask Maturation from 225 L “Golani Black” cask.
First Fill, American White Oak.
46% ABV, 700 ml
Distilled, matured and bottled in the Golan Heights, Israel.
Non Chill Filtered, Natural Colour from Oak alone.

I ask you, have you ever seen so much technical information on a whisky label before?

If one was being pedantic then one could ask why they did not inform us as to where they sourced the original cask from, what type of yeast they used and what type of maturation warehouse they used.

Anyway, let’s concentrate on the information we do know:

Barley Type

It states that the malted barley is of the Concerto variety. (When asked, I was informed that the malted barley was purchased from Muntons Maltings Plc in England. (The same company that supplies barley for the Milk and Honey distillery). http://www.muntons.com/about/locations/

There is a very nice video produced by Muntons on the whole malting process. (Worth watching). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHBCVhuCP_g

There is another excellent video entitled “The Story of Malt” which is one of those speeded up white board marker drawing videos illustrating the discovery and history of malted barley. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLCT-KMEaKQ

Concerto Barley

First industrially grown around 2009, the Concerto Spring variety is still the most popular barley grown by British barley farmers due to its relatively high yield, good resistance to disease and multiple uses which gives the farmer the most flexibility when it comes to finding purchasers. From the brewers and distillers point of view, it makes for an excellent malting barley offering a high grain to alcohol ratio. Apparently, as well as being widely used in the whisky industry, they use Concerto barley exclusively to manufacture Carling lager. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fyv2jliUqiE).

Cask Maturation (Ishun).


 
 

In a WhatsApp chat, David Zibell, the distillery manager informed me that he purchased the 225 Litre casks from the Golan Heights Winery. The casks previously contained some kind of red wine. He then shaved the wine layer out and applied a very heavy charring until black. A mixture of malted and un-malted barley mash spirit was then poured into the cask and matured for 12 months, at which point the spirit had turned a dark black/brown. This was sold under the name “Golani Black” for obvious reasons. The Golani Black cask was then reused to mature 100% Malted barley New make spirit which is what we have before us now.

 
 


In one of Ralfy.com recent YouTube vlogs, he mentions that the secret to a great whisky is constant temperature throughout the maturation process. David explained to me that this single malt has gone through three years of extreme changes. David explained that the cask has been expanding and contracting with the extremes of the seasons found up in Golan Heights, breathing in and out throughout the maturation process.

The Melachim of the Golan Heights

I have never ever seen stated on a bottle of single malt the actual total "Angel's Share" of the cask before. This is stated as 19% which means an average of 6.3% / year. This is a massive amount compared to the average rate in Scotland, being around 2% Angel’s share. The Melachim up in Ramat Golan must certainly like their whisky!

Water Source:

Salukia Spring – Maayin HaSalukia. ממעיין הסלוקיה


This turns out to be the same source as the famous MeEden Mineral water which surprise surprise, is just down the road from the distillery.



Water source Chemical analysis





Katzrin (Golan Heights)

Latitude

33.00N

Longitude

35.43E




Na

32.2

mg/l

Cl

24.4

mg/l

K

4.5

mg/l

HCO3

198.98

mg/l

Ca

26.6

mg/l

NO3

15.5

mg/l

Mg

18.8

mg/l

SO4

6

mg/l

Fe


mg/l

F


mg/l

 



pH

8.8

Package Design

I am deeply impressed by the package, bottle and label design. It is clear that a lot of thought has gone into this and it has really paid off. I feel that the design pretty much near perfectly reflects the uniqueness of the this product and its terroir.









It is quite clear to me where David has got his inspiration from. For those who are less sure, here is a clue:
 

 


The design has similarities with the Berry Brothers Glen Rothes package design:

 

There are two important differences though. The first is that The Glen Rothes carton has a plastic base which clips into the dimple at the bottom of the bottle. This holds the bottle in place and prevents it rattling around in the “open on both sides” carton box. The Golan Heights bottle also has a similar dimple at the base but this is unfortunately not utilised. Instead we have rather tacky piece of folded card which fits on the top of the bottle to hold it in place. The second criticism is that the card used is too thin and tears far too easily.

 


I just adore the bottle design. The look, shape and feel of the bottle has the sleek sophistication of a bottle of 35-Year-Old Single cask Limited Edition from the Speyside region costing thousands of Pounds Sterling.

 
Just look at that gorgeous, stunningly beautiful solid glass base.
 
 
The Gold Israeli Flag style strip seal that goes over the stopper says it all! This is a "Made in Israel" Premium product and I am sure reflects the distillery manager's gushing pride in this product and all that it stands for. Some may no doubt think it's a bit over the top. I am the first to criticise Israeli "Trying too hard to impress" designs like our Postage stamps and garish Israeli furniture. However, in this case, I think it just works.
 
Unlike the Milk and Honey distillery’s plastic stoppers, The Golan Heights distillery uses real cork stoppers. Unfortunately, mine was slightly split.

 
 


Now to the Tasting...
Introduction
 


I approached this whisky with some trepidation. My initial experience with the Golan Heights new make spirit back in 2016, was not a positive one. I kept my public tasting notes on my blog polite. However, here is what I wrote down in my personal reference notes: Hot Aniseed balls, harsh nail polish remover, mild, slightly sweet vomit, apricot smelling chemical toilet cleaner, Surgery alcohol wipes and new rubber gloves. It tasted as if someone had made this in their bathtub which in all likely hood, would turn you blind after a couple of glasses.

Now with a couple of more years distilling experience under his belt, David laid down these casks for 3 years. So, what has maturation in a heavily charred small cask which had been seasoned with barley mash spirit for a year, had on the influence of this 100% malted barely spirit?

Important Note: I would like to point out an interesting fact that my smelling and tasting notes were written before I was informed that the casks had actually come from the Golan Heights winery and had previously contained some kind of red wine. I am quite impressed with myself [Editor’s note: “He said modestly…”], that I seemed to have recognised a heavy dry red wine influence even though I had no idea where that came from.

Smelling Notes:

 
 

Thursday evening, I opened the bottle, breaking the gold coloured “Israeli flag” seal and took my first sniff. Wow, I was expecting something harsh with loads of alcohol burn. Instead what I smelled was an intense chocolate brandy sweetness.

I just had to pour myself a glass in a Glencairn to get a more intimate smell.

This Golan Heights Single Cask #10 has the most delightfully exquisite nose. It is incredibly refined and remarkably complex. It all makes for one of the most richly rewarding aromatic experiences which you could ever likely to come across in a single malt whisky. Oh, and let me remind you that we are talking about a three-year-old whisky!

The first aromas that greet your olfactory sensory neurons which, with great excitement and enthusiasm, rush the good news up to your brain’s limbic section as fast as their metaphoric little legs can carry them, are:

 

Malty Milk Chocolate Balls (Maltesers). Premium Brandy Liquor filled chocolates. Sweet Black Liquorice, Liquorice Allsorts. Forrest Fruit gateau. Red Fruits and raisins Pastries. XO Cognac Brandy. Dark Forrest fruits, Black cherries matured in heavily Tannin Red wine
 


 
Burnt caramelised apples. That burnt smell is almost sulphury like spent matches. Pickling spices, burnt vanilla. Brewed English Tea. Sweet Liquorice Fisherman’s Friends. It is like walking into an Oldy-Worldy Victorian style, English sweet shop.



What was most remarkable is that, even with no water added, there was not a hint of alcohol burn! It simply defies belief. My daughter however added a healthy amount of water saying that without it, the whisky was actually too intense and sweet drank straight. I added less water than her. Those who are regular readers of my blog know that I do not in general enjoy sweet whiskies. I did however enjoy this as the sweetness is not a sugary one but is coming from chocolate, toffee and dark fruit sweetness.

Colour:

 
 

The label states that this whisky is natural colour. I must say, almost all other whiskies of similar a dark brown/black colour have had considerable E150a caramel colouring added to them. The Golan Heights dark tint is due solely to the heavily charred cask and its previous content. I’d describe the colour as a burnt toffee, matured Shmoltz Herring blacky-brown.  Swirling the liquid around in the glass, it shows a thick syrupy consistency.

Tasting Notes:

Friday night I poured a dram for our guests, my family and myself. I was hoping that the wonderful aromas would translate into an equally delicious taste. I need not have worried.


The first thing you taste is a syrupy orangy chocolate thickness in the mouth. I had poured myself a Glencadam 15 for comparison. The Glencadam 15 was far less syrupy. I would say that the Glencadam 15 was a medium body whisky but compared to this Golan Heights, it is positively light. The toffee thickness in the middle of the tongue reminds me of Argentine Dulce DeLeche (Ribat Chalav) spread. In some ways it reminds me of the Balvenie 14-Year-Old Caribbean Cask but this Golan Heights Cask #10 has a more substantial body to it.

The thick sweetness continues with Malty Chocolate Cake. Malty Maltesers Cake. (I Google Imaged it. It is actually a thing!)


In the background, there is a definite flavour of sweet black liquorice chews or English Cough medicine, with substantial wood tannins like red wine “Cabernet Sauvignon” style. Big brewed English tea notes with Mixed spices. Caramelized sugar. Apple and dark red forest fruits crumble.


The finish is big with burnt caramel, brandy chocolates and polished wood spice notes

Conclusion:



The perfectly balanced interaction and influence of spirit and cask maturation and robustness of body of this whisky is, from my experience, similar to an 18 Year-Old Single Malt. In conventional (by that I mean up in Scotland) terms, the spirit remains dominant, the whisky is (as they say), "spirit driven" until the cask starts to impact on the flavour. If the cask is of poor quality then this may never happen. If the distillery waits too long to bottle a whisky then the wood can dominate the spirit and turn the whisky into liquid sawdust! It takes great skill to know the right time to bottle the whisky for that perfect balance.

I have already reviewed the heavily charred cask matured Tomatin legacy and Deanston Virgin Oak and although they have the heavy wood cask influence due to rapid maturation from ultra-active casks, they are still very recognisable as young spirit driven whiskies.

 
The synthesis of spirit and cask simply takes time even with the best of spirit and cask combination. Many years in fact. It would seem however, that the unique climate up in the Golan Heights has managed to accomplish this synthesis, this perfect marriage of wood and spirit whereby neither the Tomatin or Deanston come anywhere near the elegance and complexity of this Three-Year-Old Israeli single malt. It really is that good. The conventional wisdom would tell you that that this synthesis not only takes time but must take place in an environment where temperatures are kep more or less constant. Rapid changes in temperature and climate pressure are not considered a good thing. This Golan Heights distillery Cask #10 seems to break all the rules yet comes out "smelling of roses", or should I say, red wine, toffee and chocolates.

According to David, there will be a Port Matured Cask coming out later this year. Stay tuned.
 

 

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