Whisky People #9 – Gal Granov

by Oliver Klimek on October 24, 2010

Fact Sheet

Name: Gal Granov

Year of Birth: 1975

Place of Residence: Kfar Saba, Israel

Profession: Software development

Whisky Involvement: Blogger

Portrait

Israel is not really a place you would immediately associate with whisky. But even if it might not be the most popular drink of the country, there still a small whisky scene where maltheads try to enjoy their drams despite the horrendous taxation on alcohol in general and imported whisky in particular. And there even is an Israeli Whisky blog!

Gal Granov is the co-founder of Whisky Israel, an English language blog on whisky, focusing mainly on single malt Scotch but not neglecting other types of whisky. Gal’s partner on the blog is his friend Kfir Bloch. The blog has a straightforward and functional design and features many reviews of the whiskies that Gal has tasted so far. They include tasting notes as well as background knowledge about the bottlings and distilleries. Other blog topics include interviews and reports of tasting events; also a few guest bloggers have already joined the party at Whisky Israel. An addition to the blog, Gal is head of the Whisky Israel Society, a circle of currently seven Israeli whisky aficionados.

But Whisky Israel not the only blog that Gal is managing. foodnwine.co.il is one of Israel’s leading food blogs in Hebrew language, again a joint venture with Kfir Bloch. Gal has a great passion for good food and wine and is always on the search for interesting restaurants and recipes to try out.

Gal Granov lives in Kfar Saba which is a town in the north east of Tel Aviv and is working as a team leader in a software company. He is married and the father of a 3 year old boy and a 8 month old daughter. Apart form enjoying whisky, wine and fine food, Gal is also a great jazz fan.

Interview

Whisky in Israel is very expensive. How do you manage to be a whisky fanatic without being broke all the time?

Well, whisky in Israel is very expensive, and you just can’t really grasp how much. Let’s say it’s from 2 times to 4 times as expensive as it is found in Europe/UK. So, how does one survive?

There are 2 solutions. I buy most of my whiskies from duty free shops, either when I travel (which I scarcely do) or from friends and colleagues who travel abroad. I am fortunate to work for a multi national company that has offices in both the US and London so there are many opportunities to ask people for help by bringing me a bottle or two. There are always online shops, but there is the customs issues which is also a big problem. Let’s also say that one has to resort to ‘smarter’ solutions, and will say no more. ;)

How popular is whisky in Israel in comparison to other alcoholic drinks?

Israel is a hot country. Most of the year the temperature is over 28 degrees, so it’s not easy drinking whisky. With whisky taxation so high, it’s really not a huge market. Vodka, beer, breezers etc, are much more popular. The whisky community is very small, and bars have quite a small selection. So, I have to say we’re not doing great here. But this is changing. Younger people are getting into the whisky world, and I am sure with time whisky will take a bigger piece of the alcohol pie.

There was a bottling of an Arran single malt that was matured in Israel. Do you think there will be a proper Israeli whisky distillery in the future?

Israel is well known for its excellent wine industry, and we have quite a few good boutique breweries, so I see no reason for a whisky distillery not to exist here and be also successful. It should start small as a micro brewery. Whisky takes patience. Maturation is a slow process, and we israelies do not have much patience, we’re known for it. ;) But the climate is on our side here, as with the high temp. whisky can be matured in 3-5 years, just like Amrut is in India… so, I am optimistic.

Your hobby is cooking. Do you often use whisky as an ingredient?

Since I became a father, my free time has been cut dramatically ;) and I do not cook as much as I did. But I do try to use whisky in cooking, mostly for baking (chocolate cakes) and even some meat dishes can profit from that. I need to try it more, I have some recipes on my list, but no time. Alas.

Do you think that blogging about whisky is only a temporary hype or is it here to stay?

Of course its here to stay. Blogging has changed the way we live. Not just whisky blogging, but any type of blogging. Getting information on whiskies was tougher before blogs started popping up, and now I can say that most of my information comes from blogs. I prefer reading about a new expressions from an independent blogger rather than the distiller and his “official” tasting notes. I think most of us do.

There is always the problem of integrity, and I am sure as I try to blog about how I feel and not get paid to write “whisky a is great – buy it”, that the bloggers which are precieved as objective will stay, and those who do ‘paid advertisment’ blogging will not stay for long.

The internet is amazing, and whisky bloggers are helping both whisky lovers and whisky brands. It’s a great blessing And I am thankful for this medium.

Common Questions

1. Please share a memorable whisky moment with us. This might be a fantastic dram, someone you met or any other situation that left a deep impression in your memory.

It was a few years ago. I was sitting at my friend Kfir’s house and he suggested we drink some whisky. I never liked whisky back then and I said, OK, how bad can it be? Then I sipped this nectar from a glass and wham bam! I was in love. It was the Balvenie Double Wood, and I just loved it. It tasted like nothing I had before. It was so damn good. I knew that moment that my life will not be the same, and the week after I bought my first single malt, and have not looked back since.

2. What percentage of your life do you dedicate to whisky (sleep ignored)? Do you think it should be more or less, or is it just about right?

It’s hard saying how much in percent, but I think it might be 25% during the week time and less in the weekend. I have work and family to juggle and weekends are mostly family time.

I do think in the future, as a 2nd career I would like to increase this percentage and deal with whisky, internet and tech. these are things I love, and hopefully in the future I can make a living out of it.

3. Your three tips for whisky novices

A.Try as many drams as you can. explore.

B. Don’t despair if you cant smell/sense all those things we (whisky snobs and geeks) find in drams : wet dogs, Turkish delight, old granny’s coat, damp sheep, pencil shavings, etc. enjoy your whisky.

C. Age / Price are not everything. there are some amazing cheaper malts, and boring expensive malts. Also the same is true for age. Age does not mean a whisky is better, it just means it spent more time in a cask. Some whiskies are better drunk young and kicking in my view (young peated ones) and old age doesn’t serve them well.

4. Your three tips for experienced whisky lovers

A. Use the web. it’s an amazing medium for information. It lets you connect with people 1000’s of miles away, like your favorite distillery manager. You can ask, chat, and get information first hand from all those people who love making whisky, and they will answer you with pleasure.

B. Keep a journal / web site / blog documenting your whisky journey. It’s fun to look back and see how your palate / preferences/ images of whisky changes over the years. Always nice to remember the best ones you had, and when you had them.

C. Drinking with good company, makes your whisky much better.

5. What was the last dram you had and how did you like it?

The last dram I had was “Nikka from the barrel”. It’s actually a blended whisky, but it’s amazing. It’s double matured and bottled at cask strength, and it is one of the best whiskies I’ve drank this year. It’s stunning. All this from a young blended whisky from japan. I urge everyone to give it a try. It’s also not expensive at about 35 GBP per 0.5 litre. Cracking stuff. I thank my whisky buddy Richard for insisting we try this in our last whisky ‘summit’.

Slainte!

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