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The tough life of an Israeli Whiskey lover

19 December 2009 5,984 views Written by: Gal Granov

It has been a long time since my last post. I know. I have been sick, and my nosing abilities were off, for quite a long time. But today, i would like to share my difficulties of being an Israeli whisky lover, in a country that discourages the consumption of the nectar.

A few weeks ago, i got an email from Laphraoig distillery manager (which you have probably received too, if you are a FOL) , in which we were all told about some 700 bottles of the Triple Wood, which was formerly only available on duty-free shops. Of course i was thrilled, and as a Peat Head and Islay lover, i knew i had to get this expression.

Israel has a very bizarre taxing regime when it comes to alcohol. it taxes spirits according to their ABV. High Alcohol volume spirits such as whisky suffer heavy taxation. You ask how heavy? well get this : we’re talking 200% tax. yes, your eyesight is good : 200 Freaking percent !!!

this draconian taxation explains why over 95% of all whisky sales are done at the Israeli duty-free shops.

for example: a Yamazki 12 single malt, which costs 40$ in the US stores, costs 900 NIS (250$) in a local Israeli liquor shop. you got this right : SIX times as much as in the USA.

now back to our Triple Wood saga : i ordered the bottle straight from the distillery at 65 GBP including postage. when it got to Israel, our very efficient customs officers held it up until i paid my customs , that amounted to 1200 NIS (300$ tax!!).  this is plain crazy.

Of course, i had no options as to not accept the package and send it back to Islay where it came to. i do think that paying around 400$ for a Triple Wood, is a bit expensive… don’t you?

The israeli law is supposed to be reformed in 2010 or sometime in the future, where Spirits taxation should be calculated according to a more sensible rate, which will make them cheaper in local shops.

Until then, it’s going to remain very hard for all of us Israeli whisky lovers, looking for a wee dram at a reasonable price, without having to sell a kidney.

one has only to hope…

Slainte!

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  • http://twitter.com/IslayTwhisky IslayTwhisky

    Wow, that must be hard times. How do they treat samples and miniatures at the border?

  • http://twitter.com/IslayTwhisky IslayTwhisky

    Wow, that must be hard times. How do they treat samples and miniatures at the border?

    • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

      As long as u send the by regular air mail all is ok

  • WHISKYhost

    Good to hear from the Whisky Israel blog again. Shame it's such a sad story. My heart goes out to you.

    You finally received an un-smashed bottle of Triple Wood?

    Slainte,
    Jason @ WHISKYhost

  • whiskyisrael

    I did but can't pick it up since it's way too pricy as I wrote in the
    post…

  • whiskyisrael

    As long as u send the by regular air mail all is ok

  • Anonymous

    Good to hear from the Whisky Israel blog again. Shame it’s such a sad story. My heart goes out to you.

    You finally received an un-smashed bottle of Triple Wood?

    Slainte,
    Jason @ WHISKYhost

    • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

      I did but can’t pick it up since it’s way too pricy as I wrote in the
      post…

      • Anonymous

        Ah! I wrongly assumed that you’d paid the duty knowing that it was coming. The equivalent of $300 tax is insane.

        In other sad whisky stories, my mum sent me two miniatures of Kilchoman inaugural release and two miniatures of Laphroaig cask strength (that I purchased at each distillery in September) wrapped inside two other Xmas presents. All four miniatures were removed by customs before they allowed the presents to continue on to us.

        I was so pissed!

        • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

          that indeed is very rude of them.
          did she indicate that there are alcohol beverages inside?

  • WHISKYhost

    Ah! I wrongly assumed that you'd paid the duty knowing that it was coming. The equivalent of $300 tax is insane.

    In other sad whisky stories, my mum sent me two miniatures of Kilchoman inaugural release and two miniatures of Laphroaig cask strength (that I purchased at each distillery in September) wrapped inside two other Xmas presents. All four miniatures were removed by customs before they allowed the presents to continue on to us.

    I was so pissed!

  • whiskyisrael

    that indeed is very rude of them.
    did she indicate that there are alcohol beverages inside?

  • http://twitter.com/ScotchHobbyist Scotch Hobbyist

    Wow, that's a bummer on the tax rate. At least you have a workaround if it gets shipped a certain way!

    Good luck with the reforms. Hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later. However, I know it's difficult to get policies like this modified. We still have a bunch of ridiculous regulations in the U.S. that are left over from Prohibition in the 1930s!

    Jeff

  • http://twitter.com/ScotchHobbyist Scotch Hobbyist

    Wow, that’s a bummer on the tax rate. At least you have a workaround if it gets shipped a certain way!

    Good luck with the reforms. Hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later. However, I know it’s difficult to get policies like this modified. We still have a bunch of ridiculous regulations in the U.S. that are left over from Prohibition in the 1930s!

    Jeff

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  • James MacAllen

    Yeah its ridiculous! These were my thoughts exactly.

    But vodkas and other spirits have the same abv as whisky! yet they cost anywhere from 30 – 100-something NIS. (e.g. Stoli for 56 NIS, Smirnoff, Absolut and Finlandia go for ~45 NIS).

    Why aren't vodkas priced like whisky according to that logic… I'd say its because of strong Russian lobby which keeps the vodka dirt cheap. Now we sure could use a whisky lobby! But as you said “one can only hope”.

    Sláinte / לחיים

  • James MacAllen

    Yeah its ridiculous! These were my thoughts exactly.

    But vodkas and other spirits have the same abv as whisky! yet they cost anywhere from 30 – 100-something NIS. (e.g. Stoli for 56 NIS, Smirnoff, Absolut and Finlandia go for ~45 NIS).

    Why aren’t vodkas priced like whisky according to that logic… I’d say its because of strong Russian lobby which keeps the vodka dirt cheap. Now we sure could use a whisky lobby! But as you said “one can only hope”.

    Sláinte / לחיים

  • whiskyisrael

    yes, the vodka issue is very weird.
    fingers crossed. it's a tough country as it is, so let us have a few drams to feel better :)

  • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

    yes, the vodka issue is very weird.
    fingers crossed. it’s a tough country as it is, so let us have a few drams to feel better :)

  • Joel D Parker

    Sir,

    I'm glad that you posted about this nonsense. I too, live in Israel, and I simply have not bought a bottle of whiskey since my first year here, when I was too naive to do some price checking.

    The same goes for Cognac, which is pretty pricey even abroad, unless you have the good fortune to travel to the specific region of France and purchase there. (In which case you will probably get sucked into the cognac cult and spend a good fortune.)

    Champagne is also prohibitively expensive. But that cannot be explained by the alcohol volume alone. I don't get it really. Daniel Rogov wrote a review of Krug Champagnes a few weeks ago in Ha'aretz and the prices in Israel were absurd to the point of being funny.

    I'm a student and a new father, and I would love to have nice bottle of whiskey for those long nights in, but I simply cannot justify spending the big bucks to my wife, while I cannot justify buying cheap whiskey or cognac to myself, after having lived in both France and Scotland.

    Why the cheap vodka? Good question. Alas, I may have to acquire a taste for Stolys. Caviar and vodka, anyone?

  • whiskyisrael

    Joel

    thanks for the kind words.
    it's indeed a bad situation. even the new “reform” does not offer any condolence until 2014 when prices should fall, but i am sure with our greedy merchants, that if priced will go down 40% we will see only 10% reduction, and they will attempt to make more profit…

    send me a message via the “contact” us and i will explain some more …

  • Joel D Parker

    Sir,

    I’m glad that you posted about this nonsense. I too, live in Israel, and I simply have not bought a bottle of whiskey since my first year here, when I was too naive to do some price checking.

    The same goes for Cognac, which is pretty pricey even abroad, unless you have the good fortune to travel to the specific region of France and purchase there. (In which case you will probably get sucked into the cognac cult and spend a good fortune.)

    Champagne is also prohibitively expensive. But that cannot be explained by the alcohol volume alone. I don’t get it really. Daniel Rogov wrote a review of Krug Champagnes a few weeks ago in Ha’aretz and the prices in Israel were absurd to the point of being funny.

    I’m a student and a new father, and I would love to have nice bottle of whiskey for those long nights in, but I simply cannot justify spending the big bucks to my wife, while I cannot justify buying cheap whiskey or cognac to myself, after having lived in both France and Scotland.

    Why the cheap vodka? Good question. Alas, I may have to acquire a taste for Stolys. Caviar and vodka, anyone?

  • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

    Joel

    thanks for the kind words.
    it’s indeed a bad situation. even the new “reform” does not offer any condolence until 2014 when prices should fall, but i am sure with our greedy merchants, that if priced will go down 40% we will see only 10% reduction, and they will attempt to make more profit…

    send me a message via the “contact” us and i will explain some more …

  • Joel D Parker

    Sir,

    I'm glad that you posted about this nonsense. I too, live in Israel, and I simply have not bought a bottle of whiskey since my first year here, when I was too naive to do some price checking.

    The same goes for Cognac, which is pretty pricey even abroad, unless you have the good fortune to travel to the specific region of France and purchase there. (In which case you will probably get sucked into the cognac cult and spend a good fortune.)

    Champagne is also prohibitively expensive. But that cannot be explained by the alcohol volume alone. I don't get it really. Daniel Rogov wrote a review of Krug Champagnes a few weeks ago in Ha'aretz and the prices in Israel were absurd to the point of being funny.

    I'm a student and a new father, and I would love to have nice bottle of whiskey for those long nights in, but I simply cannot justify spending the big bucks to my wife, while I cannot justify buying cheap whiskey or cognac to myself, after having lived in both France and Scotland.

    Why the cheap vodka? Good question. Alas, I may have to acquire a taste for Stolys. Caviar and vodka, anyone?

  • whiskyisrael

    Joel

    thanks for the kind words.
    it's indeed a bad situation. even the new “reform” does not offer any condolence until 2014 when prices should fall, but i am sure with our greedy merchants, that if priced will go down 40% we will see only 10% reduction, and they will attempt to make more profit…

    send me a message via the “contact” us and i will explain some more …

  • http://twitter.com/webprom Design, Host

    thanks, I was going to order some lagavulin, but will wait for duty free :)

  • thoughtful gf

    hi, I found your post while researching how to send my bf who lives in Tel Aviv, a nice bottle of whiskey for his birthday- I know this board is a bit dated, but have you found a more economical way? 

    • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

      Well, no. prices have really gone up since then.
      if you visit, you can bring something with you…