Milk & Honey creates terroir-focused whisky

by Kate Malczewski

Israel's Milk & Honey Distillery has developed a whisky that aims to showcase the influence of the Dead Sea.

Milk & Honey (M&H), Israel's first whisky distillery, made the new expression as part of its research and development (R&D) programme. The producer worked with the late Dr Jim Swan, whisky expert, to determine five climate zones in the country – the Dead Sea, Upper Galilee, Jerusalem mountains, Negev desert and Mediterranean coast – and is exploring their terroir by experimenting with cask ageing in these different environments. M&H Apex Dead Sea is the first whisky to be released as a result of the R&D initiative, and is the eighth bottling to join the distillery's core range. In October 2018, M&H began its Dead Sea experiment by placing 20 ex-Bourbon, ex-red wine and ex-STR (shaved, toasted and re-charred) casks on a hotel rooftop in the Dead Sea zone, at about 423 metres below sea level. The barrels matured there for a year, and were then returned to M&H's warehouse in Tel Aviv until the liquid was bottled in July 2021. "Due to the evident rapid wood effect and maturation in this very hot and intense climate, we had to inspect the casks more frequently and thoroughly," said Tomer Goren, M&H's head distiller. "Understanding the impact of the desert climate on the cask was a fascinating experiment and study project." According to the producer, the Dead Sea's low precipitation levels, desert climate, heat and high salt content result in an angel's share – the amount of whisky that evaporates through the wood during the ageing process – of up to 25% each year, compared to 2% in Scotland. Sitting at 56.2% ABV, the whisky features a nose of French vanilla, chocolate, a touch of cigar box and spearmint, as well as oakiness. The palate offers notes of black tea leaves, warm spices like cinnamon and coriander seeds, dark chocolate and white pepper, while the finish delivers candied ginger, cloves, roasted herbs and sea salt. Apex Dead Sea is available in select markets, including the UK, France, the US, the Netherlands, Taiwan and Germany. The first run of the whisky is limited to 4,892 bottles. "I look forward to continuing our geographical experiments, with the Sea of Galilee and the Jerusalem Mountains coming up next,” Goren said. In January, M&H appointed Penderyn as its distributor in the UK.