Drink Picks

What Does an Extreme Climate Do for Whisky?

Israel’s Apex ‘Dead Sea’ Whisky uses the salinity, heat, and altitude of the Dead Sea to create an entirely unique expression

Photo (above) courtesy of M&H Distillery. Photo (below) courtesy of Galit.
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Recommended by

Scott Stroemer, bar director,

Galit, Chicago

In the last 20 years, there has been a wave of distilleries from outside of the traditional whisky-producing countries that have been getting the world’s attention with outstanding expressions. M&H Distillery in Israel is one such producer, and many, like Scott Stroemer, the bar director at Chicago’s James Beard Award-winning Middle Eastern restaurant Galit, eagerly awaited its 2020 arrival in the U.S. As Stroemer says, “Killer whisky from Israel in a Middle Eastern restaurant? It’s kind of a no-brainer for us.”  

For Stroemer, the entire Apex series has its strengths. “Working with the whisky Einstein, the late Jim Swan, they have a beautiful base malt and range of classic expressions (sherry cask, peated, etcetera), and push boundaries with cask finish, aging, and blending,” he says. 

But the Apex ‘Dead Sea’ Whisky stands out for him. Aged on the shores of the Dead Sea, at almost 1,400 feet below sea level and in temperatures that exceeded 120 degrees Fahrenheit, these extremes resulted in a “truly unique, masterful dram,” Stroemer says. “The salinity from the Dead Sea doesn’t bring saltiness to the whisky, but rather enhances the flavors the way a chef would use salt.” 

M&H Apex ‘Dead Sea’ Whisky Selling Points

  • This is an opportunity to try a whisky aged in one of the lowest and hottest places on the planet, and a demonstration of the potential of whiskies produced outside of the category’s dominant strongholds. 
  • Taiwan, India, and Israel—all now producing interesting malts—were long assumed to be too hot to age whisky, but M&H uses climate as an interesting ingredient in maturation. 
  • “It’s bottled at cask strength but doesn’t drink hot,” says Stroemer. Rather, it’s layered with deep, rich flavors and a finish that “lingers for days.” 

M&H Apex ‘Dead Sea’ Whisky Tasting Notes 

“The extreme temperatures push the whisky deep into the STR casks [standing for ‘shaved, toasted, re-charred,’ which refers to a cask style developed for spirits maturation by Swan] and pull deep notes of baking spice, stone fruit, vanilla, and pastry cream,” says Stroemer.

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Tyler Wetherall is the senior editor for SevenFifty Daily and the Beverage Media Group publications. Her drinks journalism has appeared in publications including PunchThe GuardianCondé Nast TravelerThrillist, and The Spirits Business, which awarded her the Alan Lodge Young International Drinks Writer of the Year. Tyler is also the author of No Way Home: A Memoir of Life on the Run, and her first novel, Amphibian, is forthcoming. Follow her on Instagram at @tylerwrites.

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