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Tasting the IWS Israeli matured Arran whisky (AR.JR)

28 June 2010 2,306 views Written by: Gal Granov

Recap (for those who don’t read the blog regularly) :

We’re talking about Scotch made whisky, which has been shipped to Israel for maturation. To make a long story short, The Israeli Whisky Society (IWS) acquired a few casks from the Arran distillery in Scotland in an attempt to create a unique whisky, matured in Israel’s climate and then to be bottled in single casks bottling at Cask strength, No filtering, No color added just natural plain old whisky.

Last week i had the pleasure if meeting Mr J.Ishai who is the chairman of the IWS, and the ‘mind’ behind the entire ‘Israeli matured whisky’ idea. I was lucky enough to get more information about this whisky, and the story behind it, and here it is.

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Wine cellar in the American Colony Hotel , Jerusalem where the barrel was aged for 2 years.

The idea of bringing a whisky barrel and aging it in Israel is part of a master plan to really build an Israeli distillery which will produce whisky here, and age it until maturation. (Actually, in the 1960′s there was one distillery in Israel making a rather cheap whisky, but it was closed because it advertised its whisky as ‘scotch whisky’  which was not true, and legal measures were employed by Scotland to stop the production) The IWS thought that as a first step in that direction (come on, we’re waiting!) it’s crucial to see how and if conditions for aging a whisky exist here, and to taste and see what effect did the Israeli climate/air and other factors have on a barrel. J.I, in an article published by him at a local paper calls all this “magic”, and says each country has it’s own ‘magic’ which produces different whisky.This magic can not be completely explained, but it consists of many factors. During the aging, air enters and leaves the barrel and when entering it brings with it the ‘magic’ of that country. A lovely description if i might add. I asked JI about his choice of an Arran barrel and the explanation is rather simple:

  • There is no regular import of Arran whisky to Israel, so it was easier to import it here without upsetting the legitimate importer.
  • Arran is a rather new distillery which is gaining popularity and is doing well worldwide.
  • Arran is a small an intimate distillery which makes it easier to communicate and negotiate, he also mentioned that the Arran people were very happy about the cooperation.
  • JI is a fan of the Arran, and there’s a warm place in his heart for it, from the times he lived in Scotland.

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Cask 06/800019 resting in the wine Cellar. (closeup)

After a few months of waiting, Finally I’ve collected my bottle. Number 83 out of 214 this week. Due to a cold, i was unable to taste it until now, but at last! Here are my impressions of this interesting and unique Endeavour. I’ve also learned that the whisky was aged in Israel only for two years (after 2 years aging in Scotland), and that the barrel is an Ex-Bourbon first fill…

IWS AR.JR  63.5% ABV , Cask # 06/800019,  Bottle No. 83/214 (Distilled at Arran 14/4/06, Arrived in Israel : 10/5/08, Bottled 23/3/2010)

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nose: At first whiff kind of woody, which is very surprising for such a young malt (aged 4) . after letting it rest in the glass, the oaky notes do get much lighter. I’ve added water since this is a beast in terms of ABV. After watering it down and letting it settle for a bit we get sweet oak notes, some vanilla, spices and some candy notes (marshmallow,candy sticks). In the Background i am getting also some faint hints of pears (Speyside kind of).

Palate: quite powerful stingy alcohol coming at you! malt, sugar and vanilla with some wood spice at the end.  Malty character is also evident. not very complex, but more enjoyable than last year’s bottling which jumped at you.

Finish: Oak and oak spices, bitter fruity notes. a little bit like chewing on a pencil ending…

Summing it all up:

It’s a nice malt , a bit young and rough if i might add. I think it would benefit greatly from an additional 1/2 years of aging. Though Israel has a hot climate, only 2 years of maturation on top of 2 years on the Isle of Arran (where it’s not really hot), did only some ‘taming’ and left me waiting to see how it will behave when older.

On the positive side, i do think there is a real future to whiskies being distilled and then matured exclusively in the holy land. Jerusalem for once has a very special climate (hot at daytime, and cold at night-time, and winters are pretty chilly). I also think it will be interesting to put a barrel in other places near the sea (after all we have a very long coastline). Hopefully Angel’s share will not be so high as to leave us some of the nectar to drink…

Many thanks to J.I and the IWS for this great endeavour and malt. A first step in the right direction. May we have many more, and may we see a working Israeli based distillery in the near future. It’s a dream that can come true, and I am sure it will.

L’Chaim / Slainte!

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