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17th Mar 2023


The SMWS is spreading its wings this month, introducing a new distillery that hails from the hot and humid climate of an Israeli city on the Mediterranean coast in the Middle East

Maturation plays a key role in whisky’s production, and the climate under which our new distillery Cask No. 155.1: The rye pretender matured feels like a world away from a damp, cold dunnage warehouses of the Scotland Highlands.

The result is a whisky that at only 4-years-old has already taken on the characteristics of a Society Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits flavour profile, with notes of dried orange peel, pomegranate and red grape, followed by manuka honey and a stroll through a heady, exotic spice market.

Euan Campbell, SMWS Head of Whisky Creation, says:“We’re very excited to see this one. At 4-years old it’s quite young but it’s been matured in a hot climate in Israel in a lovely STR barrique, so it has a dark, rich colour. It’s quite a high strength as well at 65.4% abv, but it’s lovely stuff and another example from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society of how great world whisky can be.

“This form of rapid maturation in a Middle Eastern climate, where you have very high losses within a few years, ends up delivering a really flavoursome and concentrated whisky, quite distinct from the sort of ‘long game’ maturation we have in Scotland.”

Although the distiller is based in Israel, the it follows the same regulations around the production of whisky as Scottish producers, with spirit having to age for at least three years before it’s called whisky. The main difference is in the maturation climate, with the distillery using different locations across Israel’s different climate zones to mature its whisky. At one location at the Dead Sea, temperatures can reach 50° and the resulting angel’s share can be 25% a year, compared with around 2% a year in Scotland.

Cask No. 155.1: The rye pretender has been matured in a first-fill STR (shaved-toasted-recharred) barrique, an innovation by whisky expert the late Dr Jim Swan, who was advisor and the first master distiller at this Israeli distillery. With an STR cask, each stave gets shaved to expose new fresh oak, and then they are toasted to unlock the flavours before being charred at a much higher temperature to bring a layer of active charcoal as well.

“You tend to get a really lovely deep colour from the toasting and very fruity notes,” says Euan. “And this is a lovely distillate as well, very fruity in style when you pair it with this type of cask.”

Cask No. 155.1: The rye pretender

Age: 4 years

Date distilled: 24 June 2018

Region: Israel

ABV: 65.4% abv

Cask Type: 1st fill STR barrique

Spirit Type: Single malt

Price (UK): £74.50

Flavour profile: Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits

Tasting Notes

Our entrée was spiced marmalade on a wholewheat cracker before, floral and flagrant, rose petals landed on a warm hay bale. The palate opened with a pint of old English shilling ale, warming mace and a lot of dried orange peel, pomegranate and red grape. Manuka honey followed, as did ginger and bramble jelly. Water offered a heady, exotic spice market, along with plum and treacle toffee. The palate was buttery, with olive oil cake and pistachios joined by bergamot and parma violets.

To find out more about Cask No. 155.1: The rye pretender, visit

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