The Golan Heights Malt Whisky Single Cask #16 (Cabernet Sauvignon)

The Golan Heights Malt Whisky Single Cask #16 (Cabernet Sauvignon)
This is the latest Golan Heights Single Malt Whisky to hit the market: The Single Cask#16. (I do have an advance bottling of Cask #13 but I’ll reserve comment on that at least for another few weeks).
Unfortunately, even if you are reading this in Israel, at the time of writing (July 2018), there are only a few bottles still left in the shops. I suggest you run out and buy a bottle quick and then come back and read this review. You won’t regret it. The good news is that even though you missed this cask, there will Be’ezrat Hashem, always be another different but no less interesting cask bottling out in a few months’ time. I am particularly excited about a Golan Heights Port Style T2 cask matured single malt which we should be seeing in bottles by the end of the year.
The Golan Heights Cask #16 was matured in a Golan Heights Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Red Vintage 2009 225 Litre French Oak Cask. Bottled at 46% ABV, Non-Chilled-Filtered, Natural Colour. 70cl bottle.
(Please note that there is, as far as I know, no financial or ownership connection between the Golan Heights winery and Golan Heights Distillery).

My bottle is No. 89 / 190 bottles
Distilled: 29/03/2015.    Bottled: 11/04/2018
(Interestingly, my bottle states Distilled 29/11/2018 but I was assured by David Zibell, the distillery manager, that there were about 10 bottles out of the 190 which were mistakenly mislabeled as 29/11/2018 and I just happened to have opened one of them).
Selling Price ranges from 370 to 380 Shekels.

Kosher Certification: Teudat Hechshir from the local Golan Heights Rabbanut and labelled Kasher LeMahedrin. (Extra High level).
I have already given my opinion of the Golan Heights Distillery packaging in my review of the Cask #10. My opinion of the design is generally very favourable.
Places for improvement: I would however suggest that there are two design changes that I would make. Firstly, I dislike that piece of cardboard which has to be placed on top of the bottle kneck inside the box. Glenrothes packaging design solved this by a double fold which clamps the bottle kneck inside the box. Secondly, you cannot see which cask No. your bottle is without turning the box upside down and peering through the window. There ought to be a window exposing the Cask No. as well or the cask No. should be stated on the front label.
Golan Heights Cask #16 Review
First, let’s talk about the previous contents of the cask and how this has influenced the flavour of the whisky.
This whisky was matured in a single 1st Fill French Oak 225L cask from the Golan Heights Winery just up the road from the distillery. The cask contained Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage 2009 which was maturing in the French Oak for 18 months before bottling.

Tasting notes for the Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon wine: (Taken from the Winery website)
“Presents ripe blackberry and cherry fruit notes, complemented by characters of pipe tobacco, black tea and a hint of fresh herb. Rich and complex, this classic Cabernet displays full body and a lingering finish.”
How the Cask was prepared before filling.
In conversation with David Zibell, owner of the Golan Heights winery, he informed me that the winery emptied the French oak cask of its wine and sprayed the inside with water to avoid any off sulphur-ry sour “spent match” smells. They then replaced the bung and refrigerated the cask for a few weeks until it was sold to the Golan Heights distillery.
Can we taste the influence of the Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon?
Well, in order to test this, I went to my favourite Jerusalem Wine store in Machane Yehuda and bought a Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 vintage. Actually, the store I went to had a 2009 vintage on the shelf but it was about NIS 300, almost the cost of the whisky I was comparing it to. They also had the 2011 vintage at NIS 195 but I went for the 2014 (Pre-Shmitta vintage) at NIS 95.
Whilst purchasing Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 vintage, I realised that I actually hadn’t bought a Golan Heights Yarden for a very long time. The reason for this is that the Golan Heights winery was the very first in Israel to produce quality dry wines here back in the mid-1980s.  Up until then, all Israeli wines were sweet Kiddush style syrupy stuff. It’s true that Carmel winery produced some dry reds but most of it tasted like paint stripper. The Golan Heights winery was a revelation. A revolution which sparked off one of Israel’s many great economic success stories.

Today, (and a lot of the credit must go to Golan Heights winery), there are over a hundred Kosher boutique wineries all over Israel (and more popping up every year), producing some of the best wines in the world. That’s not just my biased opinion. Just look at all the medals Israeli wineries are winning in the International competitions. For me, Golan Heights winery has become the Glenlivet/Glenfiddich of Israeli wineries. Sure, they continue to produce some quality stuff but I’d rather spend my money on something less ubiquitous. With so many wineries from all over the country to choose from, I’m afraid that we have become quite spoilt for choice here. You can literary walk into a wine store and buy a wine to say Kiddush over, from a different winery every week of the year.

Kiddush over Golan Heights Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 vintage was an apparition.
Bold and silky wood spice tannins from the French Oak, heavy red full on red fruity flavours in the mouth. Delicious full bodied wine which could be appreciated even on an empty stomach but was absolutely superb with the chopped liver. It made me feel a bit guilty that I have been neglecting the Golan Heights winery as I had forgotten just how good their Yarden series is.
Then we went onto the Cask #16 whisky. Yes, the tannins were there in abundance as well as dominant flavours of the dark fruits like blackcurrants, red berries and strawberries.
The whisky has a different type of tannin wood flavour and a denser fruity flavour though. In all honesty, we could not draw many flavour connections beyond the fact that cask #16 does have distinctive dry tannin and dark red fruity style red wine maturation flavour profile, I would not have been able to tell that it was this specific Yarden or even that it was a Cabernet Sauvignon.
[Editor’s Note: I would just like to point out that no inference should be made to Ex-Sherry/Port/Madera matured whisky as being fortified wine, produced at a much higher alcohol rates and far denser than regular wine, experts tell me that they can indeed identify specific flavour profiles of specific sherries and ports, within the whisky].
Colour and Texture:
A dark browny red, no doubt influences by the colour of the inside of the wine cask. Texture is quite thick and syrupy rather than oily. This is very consistent with Non-Chill filtered high alcohol abv whiskies.

Wait a week after opening
Upon First opening both the Cask #16 back in May (and now the Cask #13 which I sampled for the first time last week) the whisky has an overpowering and intense aniseed/ Liquorice smell and flavour to it and in my opinion, needs a good few days to oxidise and calm down after the bottle has been cracked open. Please don’t judge these whiskies on first impressions. That would be a terrible mistake. By the way, it isn’t just this whisky. I have found this phenomenon with Scotch Whisky such as certain Kilkerrans, Bruichladdichs and Glencadams, to name but a few.
On the Nose:
Without water, this Cask #16 seems very spirit heat driven. Liquorice flavoured minty Fisherman's Friends, heavy wood tannins and dry spices. There are some dark fruits at the back but they are very undefined.
With a few drops of water though we see a dramatic transformation. That spirit heat and chilli has gone and instead, you now have a rich brandy liquorice flavour notes appear. Sweet Brandy snaps. Heavy sweet oak spices. Floral notes like walking through a flower garden. Candy rock sticks. Wine gums. Red liquorice and sweet perfume like a lady’s body spray.


Delicious Apricot jam, red wine, loads of red and black fruits, raisins and sugary tea leaves. Ginger biscuits. Raisin and apple strudel pastries. A touch of Bees wax polish and waxy honey. Sitting in the mouth, you get fried toast with jam and cinnamon mouth feel.
On the finish: Apricot jam, raisins, cinnamon toast with butter.
Adding a few more drops of water brings out even more sweetness and red fruits.
This is very complex and unusual whisky but most rewarding if you give it some patience and time.

I thoroughly enjoyed the unique experience of all those different flavours. I managed to get a second bottle before they disappear in the shops forever.
Roy from Aqvavitae YouTube channel
I mentioned on one of Roy's amazing Thursday night Live YouTube streams that I was drinking the Golan Heights Single Cask #16 and I had a lot of questions from the live comments forum, particularly about Angels' share and maturation rates here in Israel. Roy saw the conversation and commented that he'd love to get hold of sample to taste it live in a future vlog. As it happened I had given my father a bottle for a birthday present while my parents were visiting us in Israel and they plus the bottle were now back in Essex, England. The next day I called my father and asked him if he could send Roy a sample through the post. Sure enough within a few days a package arrived in at Roy's door in Glasgow. (Thanks Dad, you are amazing!). Roy sent me an email informing me that he had received it and that he was planning to review it next Thursday night. I have nothing to do with the distillery but felt so nervous with butterflies in my stomach, feeling as if this whisky sample was representing the pride of Israel. I was so frightened he would take a sip and pass it over without a comment, or even worse, belittle it.
Well, I was simply delighted when he raved over it that night and even sent me an email saying how much he enjoyed it. Israeli Whisky is now on the map!


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