We may as well escort the elephant in the room to the exit: this is an Israeli whisky made in a region that, I think it’s fair to say, has had one or two claims made over it in the past. I realise a good number of you may switch off there, and that’s fine. In many ways, this is a bit of a reality check: the most politically volatile thing to happen in Dufftown, for example, is when the chip shop closes early. And the closest it comes to all-out war is when bottle flippers line up outside of Glenfarclas during the Spirit of Speyside Festival and a fight breaks out in the queue.
In fact, Israeli single malt whisky was not something I ever expected to type, but that just goes to show the development of world whisky. In my very vocal opinion, the most interesting whisky these days is being actually produced outside of Scotland. From Chichibu to Box to Waterford, the rest of the world has caught up and, for the most part at certain age brackets, is exceeding Scotch whisky in terms of quality spirit. The world is an exciting place.
Jason covered more about Golan Heights distillery in this previous post, so have a read if you’d like to know more about the operation. The distillery was started by a French-Canadian real estate man, who – of all places – decided to set up camp in Israel. The whisky from them I have today is an interesting, youthful single malt – a three year old that has been matured in a Cabernet wine cask.
But it’s the bottle label I wanted to draw your attention to – just look at the detail on that. We know it’s Concerto barley (what used to be the dominant variety in Scotland many moons ago) and the fermentation is a very decent 60 hours. We even know that the distillery uses worm tub condensers – and, indeed, that the Cabernet wine cask was first-fill. Imagine knowing that much about production and being able to share it with drinkers.
Golan Heights Single Cask Edition – Review
Colour: auburn. That’s an active cask at 3 years!
On the nose: huge fruits here: massive amounts of fresh strawberries, blackcurrants, even blueberries. An interesting oiliness just beyond that. Cranberries, then a lightly toasted note. It needs a good while in the glass to mellow, and when it does there’s a wonderful pure syrup note, with buttermilk, then it’s remarkably perfumed. So interesting for a young whisky.
In the mouth: ridiculous flavour and viscosity. Really thick and oily. It repeats the nose perfectly: big fruits, blackcurrants, blackberries, a sort of port-like note in among it all. The toasted bread note is more apparent here, and then there’s just a little yeasty, buttery funkiness underneath it all. A very warming, ginger and clove finish.
It is young, it is pugnacious, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun. I can’t quite remember how much it cost, but a healthy sample (paid for) came to me via a long and complex route that I can’t fully recall… So that’s not very helpful. Oh well.
The spirit at the heart of this whisky is really very good indeed: oily, complex and carrying so much flavour. In fact, it’s delicious – seriously. For something so young, and in a lively cask, I find the flavours amazing and balanced.
With time, this distillery’s whiskies are going to be very interesting indeed.