At a special event on March 30th in London, the World Whiskies Awards announced the winners for some of its most coveted categories. Hundreds of distillers and industry veterans in attendance that night patiently awaited the big reveal: World’s Best Single Malt. And many of them might still be busy picking their jaws up off the ballroom floor. The grand prize went not to a producer from the major malt making regions of Scotland, Ireland or Japan. Instead it was collected by M&H out of Tel Aviv. Yes, the Tel Aviv in Israel.
The distillery, formerly known as Milk & Honey, won the accolade for its Sherry Cask expression—non-chill filtered and bottled at 46% ABV. Now we’ve got some exclusive words with the man responsible for crafting it, head distiller Tomer Goren.
But first we’re going to tell you a little bit about what this now-iconic liquid tastes like. Initially released in mid-2020, M&H Sherry Cask is part of the brand’s Elements series which focuses on unique components of maturation. To wit, it is actually the first whisky ever to be aged in Kosher sherry casks from the Jerez region of Spain. In the hot and arid Middle Eastern climate, the application of this cooperage has imbued the underlying whisky with a thumping melody of red fruit, dark chocolate and, ultimately, tobacco. It’s a complicated symphony to consider and one which lingers on the palate for far longer than you might suspect from a non-age-statement offering.
Though we don’t know exactly how old this whisky is, M&H only started laying down liquid back in 2014. So, at the absolute oldest it’s still under a decade. This sort of depth detected after relatively few years in the cask is a testament to the benefits of accelerated aging experienced in this particular part of the world. Best of all, you can detect it on American shelves for a retail price of $65 per bottle. We can’t guarantee that price will hold after the news of this past week. But we can provide you with some insight on what M&H is up to next. Tomer Goren is interviewed below.
You can also check out the complete list of winners from the 2023 World Whiskies Awards here.
What does an award like this mean for your distillery?
Tomer Goren: “This is a dream come true. This award is a huge recognition of the whisky community in what we do. This might be a game changer for us in international markets.”
Sherry cask is obviously quite common in single malt maturation, what makes your expression so unique?
TG: “We make our Elements sherry like old style sherry whisky; it is not a sherry bomb but a balanced whisky. We monitor the process very carefully and even source our sherry casks from a specific bodega in Spain that we hand picked for its quality sherry.”
What distinguishes Israeli whisky as a subcategory of the spirit?
TG: “The Israeli climate is quite different than Scotland, for example. Israel is very hot and humid with more then 300 days of sunshine. This climate helps with fast maturation process. It also makes us be very agile and innovative; we experiment a lot with all sorts of casks and we get results quite quickly.”
What can we expect from M&H?
TG: “The late Dr. Jim Swan, who was our consultant, described Israel as a wonderful playground, in such a small country we have 4 different climate zones. We launched the Terroir series with the accolated Apex Dead Sea a year ago and we are now aging whisky in 3 other geographical zones: the Sea of Galilee, Jerusalem and the desert. These expressions will be released in about six months.”