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Only Those Who Dream… Fly

The next step on our journey takes us to the land of Milk and Honey; Israel, and the vibrant city of Tel Aviv where a group of friends were told they were trying to achieve the impossible by setting up a whisky distillery. But the challenge and adventure was all driven by a dream and facilitated by the inclusion of the best people and the extreme geography found in this Middle Eastern city. This is M&H…

The Story

This story starts like so many we have heard before within the new world of whisky; a group of friends with a shared passion for whisky, came together with a dream. However, the initial plan back in 2012 was to set up a whisky bar in Tel Aviv, but this soon evolved in to a much larger project to set up the very first whisky distillery in Israel. Driven on to defy those who said it was impossible, the team brought in the expertise of Dr. Jim Swan to help develop the distillery in 2014 and finally in 2020 the first whiskies were released. Launching the brand during a pandemic was not ideal, but they have gone from strength to strength since then, continually pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with imagination and creativity to produce some truly wonderful whiskies.

Dr. Jim Swan

A name we have heard many times before within the new world of whisky, Dr. Jim Swan is regarded as the “Einstein of Whisky,” with his research in to the distillation process, as well as whisky production in hotter climates that has pioneered new methods. He is associated with so many of the new world whisky distilleries we have already discovered, consulting for many of them during the start-up phase and influencing their distillery set-up and maturation techniques, including the wonderful STR finish we have previously explored. He was recruited for this project to once again offer a wealth of knowledge, helping them build a state of the art distillery and laying the foundations that the distillery team continues to build on today.

The Place

Israel is only 430km long from top to bottom, spanning around 22,000sq/km, but there are 5 distinct climate regions that range in height from the lowest place on earth; the dead sea at -423m, to the top of Hermon Mountains at over 2,800m. Temperatures range from the mid-teens to 50 degrees during the summer and the humidity is between 50-90% all year round. The distillery itself is located in Jaffa, an ancient port city that is now part of Tel Aviv, which is the cultural capital of Israel offering a vibrant mix of old and new, seen in the cities emerging art, technology and culinary scenes that make this a number one tourist destination. Tel Aviv is the perfect place for a new world distillery that respects tradition, but pushes the boundaries on what is possible by using the extreme local geography.

The Process

All the whiskies they produce are single malts, mainly using high-quality un-peated barley from the UK, however they do a peated barley session for 2-weeks, every 6-months. One ton of malted barley is added to 6,000 litres of water during mashing, with the resulting wort spending 60-72 hours fermenting in one of their six Washbacks. The original copper stills were actually purchased second-hand from Romania (not your average eBay purchase), with double-distillation being used and a lyne Arm that is angled downwards at around 45 degrees, which increases the oils and reduces the amount of reflux. Also, because of the short maturation, they try to avoid the faints and therefore a very short heart is taken (from 80% down to 70%), which all helps to create a sweet, grassy, medium bodied new make that is at around 75% ABV. This is then watered down to 63%ABV before it goes in to the cask. Their annual new make capacity is 230,000 litres! In regards to maturation, they like to respect tradition, so always age their whiskies for a minimum of 3-years, filling around 1,100 new casks each year. However, the extreme temperatures mean they have an average yearly Angel’s Share of around 11-12%, so they don’t need to or want to be leaving the whisky for too long.

Elemental Maturation

We have seen other distilleries on our journey so far where location has a massive impact on how quickly their whiskies mature, and for M&H the story is even more extreme. They don’t use any climate control in their cask storage facility, allowing for the local climate to have maximum impact on the maturation process. One of their locations is in the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, where there is more than a 30 degree variation in temperature during the summer. They store casks on the roof of a local hotel and leave them fully exposed to the elements. This has contributed to some amazing whiskies that can be found in their Apex Series, but at a cost to the Angles of an unbelievable 25-40%!

The Spirits

Head Distiller Tomer Goren and the team at M&H are in such a great position, as they have an experimental mindset and are continually looking at ways to do things a different way; through innovation and creativity.

The Classic - The core whisky that captures the very essence of the distillery; light vanilla notes with a hint of wood and spice. A perfect ‘table’ whisky that is easily sipped neat and perfect for sharing with anyone at any stage of their whisky journey.

The Elements Series - Takes the Classic new make and enhances it through the use of their selection of speciality casks, offering a Sherry, Red wine and Peated cask option.

Apex Series - This is their playground, with limited editions that are the culmination of years of work and research, exemplifying their spirit of innovation and creativity resulting in bottles that are an exploration of places and matters, including Pomegranate Wine cask and their Dead Sea Whisky.

Art & Craft Series - Unique, exceptional quality casks are hand-picked by the Head Distiller and then bottled as highly limited editions, each with a specially designed label that captures the essence of the art scene in Israel.

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