A review of the Katlav Wadi 2007 and the Glen Grant 10 year old Single Malt Whisky.
By Joshua E. London and Louis Marmon
Washington Jewish Week June 1, 2011
The Katlav Wadi 2007 ($33) was the clear favorite at a recent group tasting held at Katlav’s Judean Hills winery. A medium-bodied blend of 50 percent cabernet sauvignon, 35 percent merlot and 15 petit verdot with a perfume-like aroma of black fruit and cassis, it displays lovely raspberry, dark cherry and plum flavors with a touch of leather and spice.
Located southwest of Jerusalem in Moshav Nes Harim, the kosher Katlav Winery was established in 1998 by architect Yossi Yitach. Named for the stream that runs near the Moshav, Katlav is a quintessential boutique winery. Yossi not only designed the facilities, but is also responsible for all phases of the winemaking.
Most of the grapes are from his Katlav Valley vineyards with the balance purchased from nearby vintners. He describes his grapes as being “from within the land rather than on the land.” His family was one of the original members of the Moshav whose members were farmers who tended orchards and vineyards. Yossi learned about winemaking from a Persian Jewish family and supplemented their teachings with courses on agriculture, wine-making technology and chemistry. In 2000, he released his first wines and is now making approximately 12,000 bottles each year of primarily cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay and the wadi blend. But no wines were produced in 2008 since it was a sabbatical year for the vineyards.
Spirits-wise, we thought we’d taste a decidedly lighter, more subtle single-malt Scotch whisky, like the Glen Grant 10-year-old ($45) from the Speyside region of Scotland. Much lighter and more delicate than most Speyside whiskies, this 10 year old is floral, bright, mouthwatering and graceful. The whisky exhibits honeyed vanilla and lively fruit notes, along with a hint of marshmallow, lemon and freshly mowed grass. The finish is soft, pleasant, dry, and with a strong sense of almond. This agreeable, clean, uncomplicated whisky is one of the world’s more popular, if lighter, single malt whiskies, and has been making steady progress here in the U.S., since re-entering the market last year.
The Glen Grant is a Speyside distillery that has often gotten little notice by American whisky aficionados over the years largely because official bottlings of the whisky have been largely unavailable in the United States for much of the last 20 years. For years before that, Glen Grant was only sold here at a mostly too young five-year-old expression (still the most popular expression in Europe). Further, Glen Grant’s delicate, easy-to-blend attributes offer none of the smoke and fury that American enthusiasts are increasingly chasing after.
The other official Glen Grant whiskies available in the U.S. market, is a delightful and more robust 16-year-old expression, but at nearly double the price, save that for a special occasion. There are and have been many independently bottled expressions available as well – many, if not most, of these are out-of-this-world good, but usually disappear quickly.
Built in 1840, Glen Grant is the actually the oldest distillery in the village of Rothes, right in the heart of Speyside. The vast majority of the Glen Grant’s production has been going to Chivas Bros blends (now about 50 percent goes towards blends), like the Chivas Regal. In 2006, the Campari Group bought the Glen Grant distillery and brand, invested some much-needed capital to refurbish and rejuvenate the place, and reinstalled Dennis Malcolm, who was actually born at the distillery, as the distillery manager (this is his second stint; he is one of only eight distillery managers since 1840). The only downside was that the Italians kept most of the single malt for their own market, where it has been the No. 1 malt whisky since 1961. Fortunately, they finally brought it back to the U.S.
If you have any friends or loved ones who have yet to discover the charms of single malt Scotch whisky, the Glen Grant is an excellent first step down the rabbit hole, a fine aperitif, and a lovely less assertive choice for your Kiddush club. L’chaim!