This is a very exciting time for whisky lovers here in Israel. A few local distilleries have opened up and over the course of a few months their single malt spirits have finally matured for a full 3 years. While there is no law in Israel regarding the minimum age for a single malt, the distillers have all agreed among themselves to stick to the Scottish minimum.
I received the bottle pictured a few weeks ago, hand delivered by David, the founder and distiller of the Golan Heights distillery. This was really exciting as the bottle was a reward for contributing to David’s crowdfunding campaign to found the distillery back in 2014. Moving here from Canada he gave up a career in real estate to found the distillery in Israel’s picturesque North.
It really has been an amazing and inspiring journey to observe and I’m really excited to have a product of that journey in my whisky cabinet. The first cask was released in two versions, either a cask strength version at a powerful 61.4% ABV or a 46% ABV version. What was not used as a reward for the crowdfunding backers sold off pretty fast, the initial release was quite pricey at retail but expected considering that it is the first cask from the distillery. Apparently they have a few casks of different types lined up to be released every few months from here on out.
The label really gives an astounding amount of information about what’s inside, most interestingly an angel’s share of 21%, due to the warm climate, and that it was matured for its full term in a first fill cabernet wine cask. A wine cask is an interesting choice for a first release as it can be kind of finicky and doesn’t always respond well to every spirit.
I’ve taken a bit of time to write this as I’ve been trying it over a few sessions to really get to know the malt. Let’s dive in.
Aged 3 years. 61.4% ABV. Matured in a first fill american oak cabernet cask. No colourant added, non-chill filtered and bottled at cask strength from cask #1.
Nose: Very jammy. Some young malty notes. Slight herbal tone I found in their young whiskies, but toned down. Maltesers. Cherry cordial. Wood and red wine spices. Copper. Currants. Blackjack (bidens) seeds. Water brings out some fresh almonds, toasted wood and wood oils.
Palate: Very jammy. Wood polish. Loads of spice and some green herbs. Anise. Herbal honey. Malt notes take up the tail. With water the jammy notes subside in favour of spice and herbal honey.
Finish: Long. Very full and a little hot. Green herbs. Licorice. Fennel. Malt. Strawberry jam. Capsicum. Wine spices. Cinnamon. Cherry cordial. Less hotness with water, more herbal.
Would I buy this: Yes
Would I order this in a bar: Yes
Would I drink this if someone gave me a glass: Yes
This one is still quite young and lively, and I think a good amount of glass time and some cold water will really help it out.
A very interesting whisky. First off the wine cask worked really well here which is a huge relief, it really adds well to the whisky’s character. There will still some strong herbal notes present which I’ve mentioned before when reviewing the 1 year old young whiskies I’ve tried from here, but they have been toned down by the aging. The character of the spirit itself is quite rich and very pleasing.
For now they really have something to be proud of and I really look forward to seeing more of these on our shelves.