You read that right. Here's what it means.
|These four whiskies in the Milk & Honey|
Art & Craft series were aged in ex-beer barrels.
So they gave six Israeli craft breweries empty barrels which once held Milk & Honey whisky.
|Milk & Honey Head Distiller Tomer Goren|
at work in the distillery.
|One of the whiskies was aged|
in barrels which held this
Barrel Aged Porter
from the Shapiro Brewery.
I got together with some fellow Tasters to try the first four of these whiskies. (The remaining two will be released shortly.) Writing about whisky is out of my comfort zone, since I am a beer writer after all, but I was hoping to make the connection with the beer barrel aging. Let's see how this works out.
The first whisky we tried is called Ex-Islay IPA Cask. The beer that was aged in the barrels was made by The Dictator Brewery, which closed around four years ago. It was a peated (that is, smoky) IPA, which was never released to the Israeli market.
As expected, this whisky has aromas of smoke, though quite light, along with some citrus scents. There is more smoke in the taste, full roastiness and ash. The alcohol by volume (ABV) is 53.2%, high enough for us to feel the alcoholic fumes and, yes, experience the throat burn that comes with whisky this strong. Adding a few drops of water to your glass, just a few, will enhance the flavor without diluting the whisky.
|Jeremy Welfeld, partner of Jem's Beer Factory,|
introduced me to his 8.8 Belgian strong ale
aged in barrels which then held
Milk & Honey whisky.
(Photo: Mike Horton)
The second bottle was Chocolate Porter Beer Cask (56.2% ABV). These barrels were used to mature the famous Imperial Chocolate Barrel Aged Porter, released by the Shapiro Brewery (Beit Shemesh) in 2018. It was among the most rich and flavorful Israeli beers I've ever had.
The whisky maintains the chocolate aroma, vanilla, caramel, nuts, and booziness. The taste brings milk chocolate – think of those whisky-filled chocolate candies – and oak. The finish is very smooth with a candy sweetness.
Next was Belgian Ale Beer Cask. The beer aged in these barrels was the 8.8 Belgian strong ale from Jem's Beer Factory in Petach Tikva. This beer was offered to the public only at the 2019 BEERS Exhibit in Tel Aviv by Jem's partner Jeremy Welfeld himself. I was lucky enough to have tried some.
|One of the whiskies was aged in barrels |
which held this OMG barrel-aged
Doppelbock lager from the BeerBazaar Brewery.
Last was the Doppelbock Beer Cask, aged in barrels which held the 2019 OMG (Oh My Goodness) beer from the BeerBazaar Brewery in Kiryat Gat – a barrel-aged Doppelbock lager. BeerBazaar has been producing annual OMG barrel-aged beers, each one based on a different style. Doppelbock (Double Bock) is a strong, German-style lager, low in hops but distinguished by malty and nutty flavors.
|The whisky aged in barrels |
which held this
Alexander Barley Wine (2019)
will soon be released.
Within the next few weeks, two more whiskies in this series will be released by Milk & Honey.
Barley Wine Cask – These barrels held the first Israeli Barley Wine (2019) from the Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer. Barley Wine is one of the strongest beer styles in the world, reaching alcoholic volume of 13%, full bodied and very bitter. The whisky is 55.7% ABV.
Stout Cask – The beer aged here was Stout from the Malka Brewery in the Tefen Industrial Area. After maturing for six months in the barrel, it wasn't released on the market, but was "privately used" by the brewery workers – which probably means that they drank it all themselves! The Milk & Honey whisky that was then matured in these barrels has an ABV of 54%.
|Time is money:|
The Milk & Honey whiskies matured for three years
in ex-beer barrels cost NIS 355 for a 700 ml bottle.
As you can imagine, the entire four-year process was very time-consuming and costly for Milk & Honey, and this is reflected in the price: These Art & Craft whiskies cost NIS 355 for a 700 ml bottle.
A final word: Israel is in this case picking up on a trend that has been going on for several years in the craft beer world: Utilizing the synergy between breweries and distilleries to produce new and exciting beverages. Using each other's barrels for maturing is perhaps the most obvious example. We are fortunate that we have the forward-thinking breweries and distilleries which can do this well.
[This article appeared in The Jerusalem Post Magazine
on Friday, September 16, 2022, under the title of
"Well, well, well, whisky."]