The Ginsters have reached western Galilee, and gin has become part of kibbutz culture. “Akko” is the first premium gin made exclusively from Israeli plants.
Produced at his Jullius Distillery in Kibbutz Hanita, Yuval “Joov” Hargil’s “Akko Wild Gin uses twelve Galilean botanicals. The kosher-for-Passover friendly gin uses a base spirit made from grapes, not grain.
“I wanted products that were completely Israeli, from start to finish,” says Joov, a former journalist who opened the country’s first boutique distillery in 2008 with a friend’s father, the late Dan Yoeli (Jullius), an engineer who was starting experimenting with spirits while living in Amsterdam. The craft distillery was the first to specialize in the production of quality Eaux De Vieux fruit brandies. Indigenous plants like hyssop and fleabane were considered too strong for the pioneering gin from a distillery, originally a chicken coop. It is one of the few to be powered solely by solar energy.
“The juniper berries can only be found in Israel’s north, on Mount Meron and Mount Hermon. The botanicals include leaves of laurel, fig, olive, wild carrot, and mastic trees. Ingredients offering a very local, Mediterranean flavor.”
Israel is producing some very good premium gins. Tel Aviv’s Milk and Honey’s “Levantine Gin” starts the same as their single malt series – 100% pure malted barley that’s mashed in-house and distilled in our pot still. Then come the junipers and other botanicals. Pelter’s Mediterranean Gin is produced from Pink Lady apples. The award-winning Golan Heights Distillery, producers of “Holy Land Gin,” makes its Etrog Gin from Forbidden Fruits. Etrog being ancient yellow citron.
As well as an Israeli krupnik, Marc de Galilee, Tulca Peaches, a single barrel Israeli brandy and a slivovitz plum brandy, the “Jullius Distillery” makes an Etrog Eau de Vie. Adds Yoov: “I only pick on private land, not in nature reserves in a way that preserves the plants for the coming seasons. Each ingredient is separately distilled; the challenge I’ve given myself is to find fresh local counterparts to the classic gin ingredients.”