Still snuggling under the Covid-19 lockdown blanket, we held our fifth virtual tasting courtesy of Zoom on Friday 25th September

We had originally considered having a 'Baltic' theme to our whiskies - e.g. perhaps from Finland, Germany and another Baltic region.  After some research by Catters however, it was evident that whiskies from that region were A) bottled in smaller 50cl bottles rather than the usual 70cl, B) considering the quantity, they weren't the best value for money and C) their ratings were not great..

SO.. plan B swung into action and the following whiskies were researched and selected from two 'WACWAC virgin' countries and the third from a 'WACWAC virgin' Region within a well-visited Country:

The three whiskies imbibed were:

  1. Milk & Honey Classic Single Malt (Israel) - Distillery and tasting notes
  2. Seven Seals Port Wood Finish (Switzerland) - Distillery and tasting notes
  3. Glen Scotia 18yo (Campbelltown, Scotland) -   Distillery and tasting notes

Israeli Whisky

The whisky market in Israel is in consistent growth, especially the single malt section, with more and more brands being imported,’ says Tomer Goren - head distiller at Milk & Honey, which is located in the beautiful coastal city of Tel Aviv.

One reason - why there was no whisky distillery in Israel - because nobody wanted to invest in a business with ROI of 15 years.

Planning for the M&H distillery began in earnest in 2012, with distillation beginning at the current site in 2015.

There also aren’t yet legal definitions in Israel for what a whisky can or cannot be, so distilleries thus far generally lean into Scotch standards for their protocol.

Like India - Ageing whisky in Israel is faster than in Scotland – it’s very hot and very humid.’

At Edre’i distillery, founder Yechiel Luterman is striving to make something that’s a true testament to the land and the country.

For a tiny country, Israel offers extreme climate variance, so while Tel Aviv’s seaside climate is humid, Edre’i finds itself in the extreme dryness of the Golan Heights.

‘Milk & Honey’ currently have a few barrels near the Dead Sea - where the elevation is the lowest on the planet, at approximately -400 metres, creating a who-knows-what kind of impact on maturing whisky in terms of air pressure, temperature, the utter dryness of the surrounding desert, the salinity in the air and so forth.

Israel’s 300 sunny days in an average year and the Mediterranean climate are our greatest advantage. Hot climate maturation means that our whisky ages rapidly, yet significantly gracefully.

Swiss Whisky

When you think about Switzerland, you probably think about chocolate, watches and multi-tool army knives.

You certainly wouldn’t think about whisky..

At present, there are 59 brands of whisky in Switzerland from some 20 or so distillers, producing about 55'000 litres a year. (This is not very much considering that there are over 100 distillers in Scotland alone.)

Whisky production has only been legal in Switzerland since July 1, 1999.

The Swiss are gaining international recognition for their Aqua Vitae, and even the experts from Scotland agree that the Swiss have a knack for distilling fine spirits. This undoubtedly lies in the long tradition of distilling fruit brandies like Williams and Kirschwasser.

Until July 1, 1999, Swiss law prohibited the use of staple foods such as grains and potatoes to be used for the purpose of distilling. However, with pressures from the WTO, Switzerland gave up the law which was also used to lower the tariffs on imported spirits.

Back to the question on age, Swiss law - like Scottish law - only allows a distillate made from malt to be called whisky after it has spent at least three years in the barrel. The Swiss admire the Scottish tradition, which is also why they have chosen the Scottish and not the Irish/American spelling of whisky.

There’s even a Swiss 26 inn whisky trek!

Cambeltown, Scotland

With lots of rich farmland, local barley, peat and fresh water, it was almost inevitable it would become a vital part of the history of whisky distilling.

In the Victorian age, Campbeltown was known as the whisky capital of the world.  Campbeltown - not the town’s original name - began to be settled in 1607. It was known as Lochhead until the mid-19th century when the name Campbeltown was invented, rather immodestly, by the local lairds, the Campbells!

By 1795 there were 21 known illicit stills in Campbeltown and 10 in the surrounding countryside. The first distillery in town was the Campbeltown Distillery, established in 1817.

Scotia was established in 1832 - one of the 29 thriving Distilleries in Campbeltown.

Campbeltown’s boom in whisky production was due in part to steam navigation – this allowed whisky to be shipped directly to Glasgow in just 9 hours.

In 1923 the local colliery closed ending cheap local fuel supplies. Meanwhile, the Great Depression and Prohibition were playing their part.

1929 - only three distilleries remained open in Campbeltown: Scotia, Springbank and Ri-Clachan.

1930 saw the last production at Scotia before the distillery fell silent.

1989 saw an upturn in fortune once more and Glen Scotia opened again. It was joined in 2000 when the Glengyle distillery reopened. Crucially, this brought the number of distilleries in the area back up to three, re-establishing Campbeltown’s status as a whisky-producing region.