Photograph: Magnus

Interview with Gal Granov

This is the second inter view in a serie of inter views with people who love whisky. This time I have interviewed Gal. Gal is running the only english blog about whisky in Israel. I first found Gal on Twitter where he fearlessly tweets 24/7 (38 tweets per day!). His tweets and blog posts are great inspiration to the whisky community, please give it up for Gal.

1. Tell me a little about yourself?

GalI am 35, father of 2 amazing kids (3.5 and 6 months). When not dealing with whisky I am a software team leader working in a company that develops an online advertising platform. only a few years ago I didn’t even like whisky. But this is all changed now. I am also a big jazz fan. In my spare time (before I had kids, that is) I love reading books, watching BBC dramas and crime, and my childhood hero was Sherlock Holmes. Yea!

2. How did it all started, what’s your first experience of whisky?

I drank a few blends in my young 20′s but never liked them too much. One evening, at my a friends house, I sipped the Balvenie double wood, and loved it. The flavors were very different from what I thought ‘whisky’ to be, and I bought a bottle, and everything is history since then. I just became in love with this nectar and I’ve never looked back. 100′s of drams later i still love it even more each day.

3. What’s your favourite and worst whisky experience and why?

My favorite whisky experience was the first whisky I had and loved (the Balvenie). I remember sipping it and saying, Woha! The worst experience was drinking a bad J&B blend which my father kept for years, and saying, damn, this is grose!

4. What’s your opinion on today’s whisky rating systems (1-10, 1-100, stars etc.)?

Rating systems are something we need, but they are very misleading. 1-10 is not enough since the variation is so big, you can not judge a whisky that is 8.4 and 8.6. Those differences are not something we can describe. I believe in nose, palate, finish and overall system, but again, if you are not in the same “head” as the reviewer, you can go wrong and get whiskies he loves, and you will not. This is why I never grade whiskies in my blog. But just describe how I feel about them, without a mark.

5. How do you taste whisky? Do you use water, and when?

I prefer tasting whisky neat. But sometimes whiskies cry for a wee addition of water. Take as an example the Caol Ila Unpeated, which is over 62% and is not very drinkable without water. I do find that watering down the whiskies usually makes them inferior to my palate, so I usually refrain.

6. How is the whisky ‘climate’ (bars, clubs, events & magazines etc.) in your country?

Whisky in Israel is in bad form. Due to a draconian customs taxation of over 200% on whisky, prices are so high, most people do not buy it here, but prefer to buy at the duty free shops. Due to that (and that Israel is a small country , 7 Mil people) we do not get many whiskies in shops, and even if you are willing to pay X2 money, you can not get the more interesting expressions beyond the core range and young ones. Also, Israel is a very hot country and whisky it is not easy drinking when temp. most of the year is over 27 deg. and all summer long ~30 C. In addition, our culture is not very “alcohol” related, and a lot of people do not drink much alcohol at all. All this is changing, and whisky is gaining popularity (a few bars have a very broad selection) but prices are insane. One dram in a pub here is almost as much as a full bottle of whisky in some countries.

7. What’s your opinion on different cask-finish expression?

I am not entirely against this, as I’ve tasted some amazing finished whiskies.  It depends on the expression. Some finishes can ‘hide’ blemishes in certain whiskies. I do believe we see too many finishes in bizarre wine casks, that I don’t normally like. Also I do find it sometimes that “finishes” of good whiskies can be not as good as the original. For example : Talisker Distillers Edition, Dalwhinnie Distillers Edition. The exception is Lagavulin Distillers Edition which is exceptional.

8. What is your opinion on the whisky snobbery that some are talking and writing about?

Whisky snobbery can be nasty, but depends on what you call snobbery. I do belive if you take anything to the extreme it may backfire.

9. Where in the world would you like to go to try whisky? Why, do you have a favourite place, distillery or country?

Of course Islay. I am a huge fan of peated whiskies and especially Islays. Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig etc… I love them all, I’ve seen pics of this wonderful island, and heard stories from friends who visited Feis Ile. I must go there, and I will in a few year’s time. ISLAY. Period.

10. What whisky trends are you seeing, how does the future look like?

There are a few trends i am seeing: NAS (no age statement)- a lot of NAS expressions, I do not think it’s a bad trend, and some of those expressions are amazing. I think this trend will continue as it allows the distilleries more freedom. This also allows them to sell young whiskies for more money….

Distilleries all over the world – I hope one will be build in Israel, in the coming years.

Prices – prices are on the rise. Those damn collectors are pushing prices up, and it’s hard keeping up the pace with them. Single cask bottling are so expensive, and they disappear 5 minutes after being offered on sale… I hope prices will not be too high, as to allow us all whisky lovers who don’t collect , but drink to enjoy…

Did you enjoy the interview? If you would like to be part of the serie or know someone else who would, please let me know.

  1. Inter view with Filip Ling
  2. Inter view with Gal Granov
  3. Inter view with Jörg Bechtold
  4. Inter view with Mark Gillespie
  5. Inter view with Thomas Maufer

September 9th, 2010

I have to disagree on the Lag DE. I think it’s terrible. All the good things about Lagavulin flattened by finishing!

[...] Also, as an aside and with regards to The Balvenie DoubleWood, this whisky was my good friend Gal Granov’s (Whisky Israel) gateway dram.  You can read about it here in this interview with him on [...]

August 13th, 2010

Great reading, Gal and Jens.

Looking forward to future interviews.

Jason JY

August 13th, 2010

Nice interview with Gal, Jens!

August 13th, 2010

Cool ;)

thanks for the opportunity man, and interview.

lovely stuff.

Gal, Whisky*ISRAEL