The Jew And The Carrot

The First Israeli Whisky Distillery

By Simon Fried

  • Print
  • Share Share
Picture a bar in Tel Aviv, it’s early 2012 and a group of friends are joking about starting a whisky distillery – in Israel. It may sound funny, but this is no joke, and since those first meetings, I have been part of a team working tirelessly to make it a reality. Our efforts to open the first Israeli distillery – Milk & Honey - are moving along, but we have reached a critical stage and we are looking to Israel supporters, whisky lovers, and anyone who loves a crazy idea to become part of the story.

This may sound like an incredible challenge, to make a product that competes with the traditional masters in Scotland or with America’s famous bourbons. But we see an opportunity to put Israel on the whisky map, and this is what has helped push us forward. When we set out to make the first Israeli whisky, we knew we were undertaking a challenge that no one had succeeded in before. We needed to find the right recipe to get the job done. Much like making a good whisky we had to be methodical and precise. So here is our recipe for building the first Israeli distillery from scratch:

1) Put Together An A-List Team
Our first step was to find a group of Israeli whisky fanatics for our team. The team ranges from passionate home-brewers, bar owners, whisky consultants, to a food and chemical engineer.

2) Find The Right Equipment, Equipment, Equipment!
If the secret to real-estate is location, location, location, then the secret to whisky is making sure to have the right equipment to get the job done. Fortunately, we were able to acquire two beautiful hand-made copper pot-stills. These stills are the real deal, weighing in at about four tons each and reaching heights of more than 20ft.

3) Recruit A World-Class Master Distiller
In order to ensure that the whisky meets the highest quality we hired a famous Master Distiller - Dr. Jim Swan, probably the world’s leading master distiller. His guidance will ensure that nothing is left to chance. Dr. Swan is an expert at aging whisky. He also happens to be particularly skilled at aging whisky in warmer climates such as Israel’s. Contrary to what you might expect, a warm climate is a good thing when aging whisky. The warmth speeds up the exchange with the wood. As a result the whisky matures more quickly. Such a whisky can be as mature as a Scottish 10-year-old after only three years!

4) Like Mana From Heaven – Get Special Ingredients From The “Holy Land”
To make a good single-malt whisky you need high quality grain, lots of pure water, expensive copper pot stills and hard-to-find barrels. It’s a big ask, but we’ve got all of this under control. The barley will be imported from a leading supplier, the Israeli water – with its special significance to people of faith around the world - will be carefully filtered and purified, the copper stills are already in place and the barrels have been sourced.

5. Keep It Completely Kosher
Now we have to work on making sure that the product is also strictly kosher. You might ask, why bother? Isn’t all whisky kosher? Well, not exactly. Those that keep strictly kosher are not able to enjoy any old whisky. Beyond the standard presence of a masgiach (inspector of the production process), there are other things required to keep a whisky strictly kosher. Any kosher distillery has to ensure that the barrels are kosher, which means they cannot ever have contained non-kosher wine. This means no sherry finish whisky, unless it was a kosher sherry barrel. Being an Israeli distillery, Milk & Honey has to do a few other things:
• The distillery has to sell all of its’ chametz (basically ingredients and all whisky) before Pesach every year.
• Where the ingredients are Israeli we have to observe regulations such as ‘shnat shmita’ (Shmita Year), when grain cannot be grown, the year during which Israeli agricultural land is allowed to rest.
• The distillery cannot operate during the Sabbath
The Jews, it turns out, are actually quite big drinkers, at least when it comes to Scotch. Apparently there are enough Jewish Scotch drinkers keeping kosher to make it a ‘thing’. There are lots of signs that bear testimony to the depth of Jewish passion for Scotch. The Single Cask Nation is a US company that sources kosher whiskies from un-supervised distilleries. Their whisky jewbilee events have been proving to be very popular. Perhaps most telling is that the last few years have seen many Scottish distilleries seeking out kosher status, such as Glenmorangie and Isle of Jura. There are very few that are universally accepted as kosher, however.

6) Ask The Tribe For Support
The Milk & Honey Distillery is now getting ready to make the first ever batch of Israeli single-malt kosher whisky. We want to give our community of supporters the opportunity to join us in making the very first limited batch of Israeli single-malt. We have created a crowdfunding campaign to purchase the ingredients for the initial run of our whisky. Anyone who is interested in helping to put Israel on the whisky map, or who would simply like to receive one of the very first bottles of Israeli whisky can donate to the campaign. Our dream is only a few years away. Hopefully, Jews all over the world will have a special, kosher, Israeli whisky on hand the next time they have something worth toasting. That’s definitely something worthy of a “L’Chaim.”

Simon Fried is one of the founders of the Milk & Honey Distillery.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Whisky, Milk and Honey, Israel

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.