The Golan Heights Single Malt, Single Cask No.8



This is going to be a very different blog post to my usual Ex-Bourbon single malt reviews. Yes, it’s still a whisky review but it’s also about a really enjoyable whisky evening and presentation I gave back in February of 2019 and the conclusions we reached. It is also the first time ever that I have reviewed a Port Cask matured Single Malt on this site. Yep, you read that right! A PORT style fortified wine matured single malt!




Before you jump to the wrong conclusions, the reason why it is my pleasure to be reviewing this incredibly unique, exceptionally delicious and outstanding whisky is that the wine cask comes from a kosher winery and the whisky was made by Orthodox, Shomrei Shabbos Jews at a kosher whisky Distillery. So all you Malty Menschen who read my blog on a regular basis, can breathe a sigh of relief, sit back and enjoy the ride as I discover this ruby gem-stone of a whisky.

The whisky tasting evening consisted of a small group of Malty meschen whisky enthusiasts from Yerushalayim and Ma'ale Adumim. The first part of the whisky evening consisted of comparing the Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon with the Deanston 18 First Fill Ex-Bourbon Finish in order to show how those unique bourbon flavours are transferred to the single malt whisky.

The second part of the evening featured the Kosher Ramat HaGolan Yarden T2 Port Style fortified wine, Vintage 2011, the Golan Heights Distillery Kosher Single Cask No.8 Single Malt Whisky, matured in the very same Fresh Ramat HaGolan Yarden T2 Port Style fortified wine, Vintage 2011.

Introduction

As some of you frum wine experts might already have found out, because of kosher restrictions it is almost impossible to get hold of kosher versions of genuine Spanish sherries or Portuguese Ports, and when you can, so I have been told by professional sherry connoisseur, they are from the cheaper ranges and certainly not by a long way, the best examples of what the bodegas in Spain and Portugal have to offer.

However, recently, the rapidly expanding and extraordinary successful wine industry here in Israel has began to branch out and is now starting to produce some prize winning fortified wines in sherry and port styles. Because these are Israeli boutique style wineries they often give their customers loads of information on the label such as oak type, grape type, maturation type and years of maturation. This is fantastic stuff as we now have all this information to determine the provenance of any whisky matured in these casks.


(See my blog post on Israeli Port Style wines here).

Up until now, Kosher Sherry cask matured single malt whisky was a rarity. There was a kosher sherry cask whisky by Tomintoul a few years ago but it was very expensive and has long gone from the shelves. There was also, once upon a time, a Bruichladdich matured in a Carmel red Wine cask, also long gone. I’m sure that some of you have heard rumours over the years, (mainly in Kiddush clubs), of Tomintoul or Glenmorangie importing kosher casks from Israel or the United States, and making small batches of sherry matured single malts; but they have all remained in the realm of fantasy and wishful thinking.

Now, there are no less than three working distilleries here in Israel, and Be’ezrat Hashem, more on the way. As well as importing Ex-Bourbon barrels from the United States, they are also taking advantage of the hugely popular kosher Israeli wine industry. This whisky is the first of what, G-d willing, will be a whole new range of kosher wine matured cask single malts from Israel. If this bottle is any indication, we are in for a wonderfully blessed future of wines and whiskies from Eretz Yisrael to enjoy for generations to come.

Indeed, in this week’s parsha, “Bechukotai”, (we in Israel are one parsha reading ahead of the rest of you in Chutz La’Aretz), we learn the following pasuk:

ה וְהִשִּׂ֨יג לָכֶ֥ם דַּ֨יִשׁ֙ אֶת־בָּצִ֔יר וּבָצִ֖יר יַשִּׂ֣יג אֶת־זָ֑רַע וַֽאֲכַלְתֶּ֤ם לַחְמְכֶם֙ לָשׂ֔בַע וִֽישַׁבְתֶּ֥ם לָבֶ֖טַח בְּאַרְצְכֶֽם:

5. Your threshing [of the grain] will last until (or overlap) the wine vintage season, and the wine vintage season will last until (or overlap) the sowing [of the grain]; you will eat your food to satiation, and you will live securely in your land.


י וַֽאֲכַלְתֶּ֥ם יָשָׁ֖ן נוֹשָׁ֑ן וְיָשָׁ֕ן מִפְּנֵ֥י חָדָ֖שׁ תּוֹצִֽיאוּ:

10. You will eat very old [produce], and you will clear out the old from before the new.



What a shame that most of us look towards the parsha with dread, contemplating all the terrible curses described within the “tochacha”, (all of them, to our sorry and tears, have already occurred), and do not examine fully the promised brachos which, even though they proceed the “tochacha” in the text, actually come after all these terrible things in the long journey of the Jewish people.

Anyone who has witnessed with their own eyes the miraculous rejuvenation of our wine industry over the last 40 years, and the resent creation of our whisky industry here in Eretz Yisrael, could not fail to recognise “the first buds” of the fulfilment of these wonderful blessings which HaKodesh Baruch Hu has promised the Jewish people.

"You will eat very old produce...."

Or even drink very old produce! May we all have the "skus"  to be able to sample the first 20 Year Old, then 30 Year Old and even 50 Year Old,  Single Malt Whisky from the Land of Israel! (Amen)

Introducing: The Golan Heights Single Malt Whisky Single Cask No.8





I have already reviewed two Golan Heights Single Malts. The Cask 10 and Cask 16. Both were really tasty and showed much promise. I did not review the Cask 13 as I was less than impressed. However, this Cask No. 8 and the one that was released after that, the Cask No.36, are simply exceptional. (Bli Neder, I shall review the Cask No.36 “Chardonnay Brandy” Cask soon).

0n November 2018, The Golan Heights distillery bottled a single malt whisky matured in a single French 225 Litre Oak cask for four years which they labelled "Cask No.8". The cask came from the Ramat HaGolan winery (just up the road from the distillery), which had previously been used to mature their Yarden “T2” Port style wine, Vintage 2011. The Port wine was made from Tourigo Nacional and Tinto Cao grapes, (grown here in Israel) and the wine matured for 29 months. The cask was then emptied of its contents and sent directly to the Golan Heights distillery which then filled it with their new make malted barley distilled spirit.

So, I decided not just to review this whisky but to purchase two bottles of the Yarden “T2” Port style wine from the very same 2011 Vintage as the cask No.8. (I had already purchased two bottles of Golan Heights distillery Cask No.8 directly from the distillery manager, David Zibell). Now, I would have the unique possibility to compare and contrast the two spirits and examine the flavour influence from the previous contents of the cask, upon the whisky.

The whisky is Non-Chill-Filtered and more importantly for the comparison, natural colour. This would enable us to directly compare the colours. That evening, a group of us spent a most enjoyable tasting session directly comparing the Yarden “T2” wine with the Golan Heights Single Malt Whisky Cask No.8.



We started the session by comparing the colour of the whisky which had a substantial dark ruby red tinge to it, to the T2. No doubt whatsoever where that colour came from.

We firstly smelled and sampled the Yarden T2 and noted down its varied flavours.

Next, after initial smelling and sipping of the whisky, (as the whisky was 46% abv), we added a few drops of water which really opened it up so that we could smell and taste all those wonderful flavours and be able to perfectly compare its flavour profile with the “T2” Wine.



Yarden T2 Port Style Fortified wine. 18.5% Abv. Price (when you could find it) 120 Shekels.

Colour and Texture

A dark Black Cherry red colour. Swirling the wine in the glass shows its rich syrupy viscosity.

Aroma

Black dark red fruits. Partially black cherries. Loads of dried fruit. Definitely rich gooey sweet dates, plump ripe figs, some “Sabra” Orange and chocolate liquor. Loads of sweet “dry” spices, the “Mixed Spices” you put in cakes. Vanilla pods, prune juice and pomegranate wine.

Tasting

The “T2” tasted exactly as its aroma. Loads of black cherries, prunes, dates, figs, fig seeds, pomegranate juice, up front sweet “bitter” chocolate, vanilla ice cream, glazed oranges, sugared orange rind, black treacle molasses and raisins.

The finish coats your tongue with a concoction of dried fruit compote, dark intensely sweet cooked fruits preserve in syrup.


The Golan Heights Single Malt Whisky Cask No.8. 46% abv, About Price 350 Shekels

I sat down over coffee with David Zibell and received some details about this Cask No.8.

The T2 Wine was matured for 29 months (2 years and 5 months) in a French Oak cask.

The cask arrived fresh from the winery, without having been rinsed out in any way. About 10 Litres of wine remained at the bottom of cask as well as saturating the walls.

Note:

Having interviewed quite a few Scottish Distillery and Warehouse managers whilst visiting Scotland over the years, I can assure you that this is more or less the same conditions under which their Spanish butts and Portugese port pipes arrive at the distillery. In other words, the flavour profile and influence from the previous contents of the casks in Scotland will be very similar to Scotch Single Malt First Fill Matured "Sherry Monsters" from the likes of Dalmore, Glengoyne, Glemorangie, Macallan, Glendronach, BenRiach, Aberlour etc.

Over coffee, David informed me that he managed to get 353 bottles from this cask:

313 were bottled at 46% abv with a further 40 bottles at Cask Strength 61% abv.

190 46% bottles and 10 61% Cask Strength bottles went straight to an establishment called “GlenBar”. (I believe this is bar in Tel Aviv?)

Only 123 46% bottles and 30 61% bottles were sold privately.

I own, given as presents or have already drunk about eight of them! (BIG GRIN ON FACE!)

Colour

Dark rusty brown maraschino cherries.
Just look at that beautiful colour!

On the Nose

Rich Dundee dried fruit cake in syrup. Dark Cherry jam. Pomegranate wine. There is a very interesting and unusual sweet Menthol freshness and hops beer aroma. Sweet chocolate custard vanilla sponge cake. Black Liquorice Allsorts and toffee fudge ice cream. Dry wood spices.

In the Mouth

Wow! What a mouth fill experience. It coats the tongue and sticks to the insides of your mouth with a tsunami seismic tidal wave of dark fruity syrupy flavours.

Ripe Figs and crushed fig seeds. “Majoul” fat Dates. Glazed Oranges. Ripe Black Cherries. Dark bitter Chocolate. Black Cherry jam. Moist Fruit Cake, Plum Brandy pudding.  Vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. You can taste that slight menthol, eucalyptus fresh sweetness. Creamy porridge with a dollop of black treacle molasses, honey and plump raisin jam. The black Liquorice Allsorts comes through on the palette.

The Finish

A grand finale of all of the above which remains in the mouth as long as a heavily peated Islay, except, instead of peat, it’s ripe rich dark fruits and old red wine.

Conclusions made from the comparison:

There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that there was a direct, wholly identifiable, clear, unambiguous and very dominant flavour character of the Yarden “T2” in the Golan Heights Cask No. 8 Single Malt whisky.

I am convinced that a similar conclusion would be reached by anyone enjoying a Scotch Single Malt Sherry or Port “bomb” alongside a sample of the previous contents of that cask.

Bottom Line

If you are fortunate enough to live in Israel and find one of the last remaining bottles of this wonderful stuff still sitting on the shelf of your wine store, then grab it immediately. Walk straight to the counter and hand the money over forthwith. I promise you, you won’t regret it.

Comments

Popular Posts

Contact Reb Mordechai

Name

Email *

Message *