Water of Life - Milk & Honey Distillery
One of my whisk(e)y related endeavours is to try emissions from regions that are commonly not really associated with spirits. Needless to say, when I heard of a distillery that is based in Israel, it instantaneously ranked high on my to-try list.
The trailblazing Milk & Honey Distillery started its operations in Tel Aviv six years ago and was the first of its kind in the country, which has since inspired quite a few others to follow in its wake.
In the context of distilling, Israel – not unlike places like India and Australia – is interesting in terms of climate, which has a major influence on cask maturation and the interplay between the spirit and the elements: From the get go it was apparent that Israel’s idiosyncratic terroir and hot climate would make Milk & Honey’s whiskeys distinct as it considerably speeds up the maturation process.
For their core expression, i.e. their Classic Single Malt, both American bourbon as well as newly charred virgin, as well as shaved, toasted and re-charred wine casks are used, the latter of which combine characteristics of virgin and traditional wine casks. Having only matured for around five years, Milk & Honey’s core expression tickles the nostrils with honeyed, grainy, yeasty, burnt sugar and fruity aromas which transition on the top of the mouth to a sweet, citrussy maltiness that is accentuated by spicy, nutmeggy highlights. While it is not overly complex, I quite like that the ethanol component is despite the young age quite subdued.
Let’s take things up a notch with the Elements Sherry Cask expression, which is an interesting one as Milk & Honey Distillery had their oloroso and sherry casks designed specifically designed for them to ensure that they are kosher.
Clocking in at 46% ABV, this one does not hit you on the nose with the sherry notes as much as other expressions do and is on the more subtle end of the spectrum, with cask related notes shimmering through banana, syrup and nuts driven nuances rather than dominating the aromas. On the palate, the nutty notes rest on a foundation of fruity and spicy notes, rounded out by a nice finish which is enhanced by toasty cinnamon highlights.
My favourite of the Milk & Honey portfolio is their Elements Peated expression, which should not be a surprise given my preferences: Casks from Islay were used for the final stretch of maturation to imbue this expression with delicious medicinal, maritime and peated malt flavours.
I welcome the light smokiness on the nose, which seamlessly transitions into a toasty, honeyed maltiness with peated nuances shining through. This one is of course not intended to be compared to any Islay whiskies but more of an example par excellence of what can be created if the old world of whisky making meets the new.
Milk & Honey Elements’ Red Wine Cask is essentially an homage to Israel’s wine industry. I like this one a lot better than the sherry cask expression as the vinous character is more present, lends depth and thereby enhances the malt heavy, citrussy and nutty flavours, which results in a complex melange aroma-wise.
As far as flavours are concerned, what the nose promised finds its equivalent on the palate with dark, chocolate, stone fruity and honey flavours, which culminates in an elongated finish with a chocolatey and berry heavy climax.
A promising line-up from a fairly young distillery that makes one look forward to future expressions, especially ones that will have enjoyed longer maturation periods and even more assertive flavour profiles.