Israelian distillery Milk & Honey has some fascinating experiments in their Apex series (a highly esteemed Pomegranate cask anyone?). In this case it consists of maturing whisky in the lowest place on earth, the Dead Sea. Temperatures are rising as high as 50°C, a pretty extreme climate for whisky maturation.
They used an array of different cask types and sizes (bourbon, red wine, STR) and during the first year they placed them on the rooftop of a hotel, 423 meters below sea level, exposed to the changing weather conditions (which led to an angels’ share of 25% in that year alone).
Milk & Honey Apex Dead Sea 2018 (56,2%, OB 2021, Batch 010, 4892 btl.)
Nose: sweet start on vanilla and marzipan, as well as some butterscotch. On the other hand there’s an assertive spicy side that shows prickly mint, citrus fruits and salty notes. A subtle darkness in the background, like chocolate or cold coffee, mixed with generous (but not overpowering) oaky warmth.
Mouth: firm and powerful, with pepper, allspice and caramel, hints of burnt vanilla pastry, as well as citrus candy. Some dryness but also a mouthwatering salty side. Whiffs of smoke, as well as aniseed and cigar boxes. You really feel the intensity of the climate, but it’s also surprisingly drinkable.
Finish: long, still showing a citrus and salt combo, with gingery heat and a dose of sweet oak.
Thanks to some intelligent pressure-cooking this totally exceeds its modest age. A success, especially for a first take at such a challenging maturation. Youthful but rich, with a specific salinity, and the best I’ve had from this distillery so far. Still available from The Whisky Exchange for instance.