New Golan Heights distillery hopes to become Israel’s second producer of kosher single-malt spirits.
New Golan Heights distillery hopes to become Israel’s second producer of kosher single-malt spirits. Image via Shutterstock.com

When Milk & Honey Distillery announced its intention to serve up the country’s first homemade kosher whiskey in 2012, the declaration made headlines across the globe.

And now, Israel has a second single-malt whiskey distillery on the way — Golan Heights Whisky Distillery.

Both projects turned to crowdfunding to get their initial plans in motion. The Milk & Honey crew successfully raised more than $65,000 for its Tel Aviv distillery in a 2013 campaign.

The Golan Heights team had hoped to crowdfund $60,000 on an Indiegogo campaign but – unless a miracle happens between now and June 17 — looks like they’ll fall short of the goal.

Both teams sold bottles of whiskey years before they were made as an incentive of their crowdfunding campaigns.

מילק אנד האני- חביות צילום ניר גילת
At the Milk & Honey Distillery. Photo by Nir Gilat

Natural springs and wild barley

Whiskey production in warmer climates can be tricky, but both Milk & Honey and Golan Heights Whisky Distillery believe proper planning and research can help dreams come true.

“I decided to put this dream into action when I saw that the abundance of natural springs, the fields of wild barley, and the quality of life would make this the perfect place to create a new whiskey. I immediately ordered a copper pot still, a couple of fermentation tanks, and by that summer I was in the Golan Heights distilling my first single-malt spirit, and one of the first few Israeli whiskies to be,” David Zibell, the former real-estate agent who followed his dream to live in Israel and become a whiskey distiller, relates on Indiegogo.

Zibell, who was born in France and raised in Canada, Israel and the United States, has also produced a local, kosher Absinthe called Holy Spirit that he’s offering as a perk for crowdfunding contributors.

As for his whiskies, Zibell is waiting for his Stupfler still to arrive in Israel and he’ll get casks that once held Port from the Golan Heights Winery.

“Some of these casks will be used fresh after wine is dumped by the winery, and others will be carefully shaved, and toasted to bring out the fruitiness of the wine they once held and then charred to caramelize the sugars in the wood,” Zibell writes.

Tomer Goren at the Milk & Honey Distillery.
Tomer Goren at the Milk & Honey Distillery.

New Make

Meanwhile, Milk & Honey is making good on its old promise this month, with the release of its first product, New Make. In mid-2016, Milk & Honey plans on releasing an American whiskey, and in 2018 a single-malt Highlands-inspired flavorful whiskey.

“I’d love to have an Israeli whiskey that can stand on its own two feet,” Simon Fried, co-founder of Milk & Honey Distillery, told ISRAEL21c. “And to have it be really good and respected around the world, that would be really exciting.”

The eight member Milk & Honey team is also opening a Visitors Center (16 HaThiya Street, Tel Aviv)in mid-July for Israelis and visitors to come and learn about the history of this golden beverage. The center will also offer workshops on different varieties of whiskey and how it’s made. There will be a whiskey store on site, too.

L’Chaim.