By Rolene Marks
Israel is the “land of Milk and Honey” – and I am not speaking about biblical references! It is all about the single malt whisky. Known as “the water of life”, Israel is about to join a small, elite group of countries that is licensed to distill whisky. Not bad for a desert dwelling country!
Buying the cow?
Distilling whisky is quite a unique and specialised skill, and there are four main producing centres in the world. Scotland, Ireland, Japan and the USA have traditionally been responsible for sharing some of the finest scotches, whiskies and bourbons (yes, there major differences) but a tiny, powerhouse may be ready to challenge them.
Enter the Milk & Honey Distillery. Neatly nestled amongst the warehouses and buildings of Tel Aviv, this veritably hidden gem was borne out of the dream of six hi-tech entrepreneurs whose passion for whisky spurred them on to open their own distillery.
Speaking in an interview with a leading hi-tech publication, CEO Eitan Attir quipped “Founding the distillery was like buying a cow when you want milk.” The next logical step was to set up a company which they established in 2012. Construction of the distillery began in 2014 and the actual distillation started in 2015.
In order to comply with strict Scottish standards, the Milk & Honey Distillery must ensure that they are involved in the distilling process from start to finish and that their single malt spirit matures for a period of three years.
The Milk & Honey team spent two years studying the intricacies of producing top-notch whisky. Master Distiller, Dr. James Swan, who is also an expert on producing whisky in warm climates recognized the exciting possibilities that Israel has to offer and helped the team come up with a truly winning formula.
While in colder climates in can be claimed that a wee dram can warm the cockles of your heart in icy weather, Israel’s summer climate (and hair curling humidity!) presented a whole new challenge.
This dedicated distillery did the research and discovered that maturation happened much faster that their colder climate dwelling counterparts.
Israel also offers five geothermic regions, allowing for the opportunity to experiment with maturation in other areas, such as the mountains, the desert, and of course – The Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth.
Couple this with opening a distillery in Tel Aviv – the city that never sleeps and is a vibrant hub of good food and booze appreciation – and the result is a winning formula.
While Milk & Honey may offer other products, it is the whisky that occupies a point of pride and in May 2017, they launched Israel’s first single-malt.
This marked quite a historical moment not just for Israel but for appreciators of fine single malts around the world.
Sadly, no whisky was imbibed while writing this article.
Off to pour a wee dram now.