While some campaigns soar, others flounder. But that’s exactly what crowdfunding is good for – yes, it’s great for gaining access to capital, but it’s also an immensely powerful market validation tool. If people are prepared to stump up cash for something that doesn’t yet exist, then it must mean there’s big demand for it, right?
That’s what the folks at Milk & Honey have discovered, as they seek to become the first single malt distillery in Israel. They launched an Indiegogo campaign back in October to raise liquidity to the tune of $65,000. By the close of the campaign last week, that goal had been smashed, with almost $75,000 in the coffers.
Though whisky is perhaps synonymous with Scotland, many other countries have entered the fray in recent times – Japan’s Yoitchi single malt scooped a prestigious global whisky award back in 2009. Other markets such as Taiwan, India and Sweden are also producing their own incarnations, while Canada, Ireland and the USA have been doing so for years.
Israel, however, doesn’t have much of a history to speak of when it comes to whisky, says Milk & Honey’s Simon Fried. “There isn’t much to know about Israeli whiskies,” he says. “In the seventies, there was an Israeli brand that resulted from bottling imported Scottish blended whisky. That is the only other commercial Israeli whisky label. Milk & Honey is the first and – so far – only single malt whisky distillery in Israel.”
So why would they choose to crowdfund rather than seek capital from more traditional means? Well, simply put, they saw it as the best way to reach a lot of people. “It’s a borderless, international way of connecting with supporters and whisky collectors,” explains Fried. “Using an established platform means it is more trusted, and supervised by a third party.”
And why not Kickstarter, which seems to be the darling of the crowdfunding space these days? “It doesn’t allow alcohol as a perk and that pretty much ruled them out,” adds Fried.
For the endeavor, Milk & Honey have brought on board Dr. James Swan from Scotland as their ‘master distiller’, who also happens to be an expert on whiskey production in warmer climates. Climates such as Israel’s. But why not just take production to Scotland itself then, a region that has the infrastructure and resources needed to make great malts?
“Whisky is currently a booming business with huge investments being made in Scotland so there are many good reasons to be making whisky there,” says Fried.
“There are, however, reasons to make whisky elsewhere as well – there is currently a boom in distilling and many countries want to have their own national whisky contender,” he continues. “Israel is interesting for several reasons. The warm climate and large daily temperature range mean that the whisky will age more quickly, while delivering an equally good product. Check out Kavalan, a new Taiwanese whisky, to see how many prizes can be won with a 3 year old whisky. Also, there has never been a proper whisky distillery in Israel which means it’s an open playing field. A fully kosher Israeli product is also able to turn to markets that are difficult or even impossible for other distilleries to approach.”
In other words, Milk & Honey can lay claim to being the only Israeli single malt, and that in itself is worth a lot from a marketing perspective. People like new things, and this will definitely be a new ‘thing’.
While the whisky doesn’t yet have a name, one interesting facet (interesting to whisky aficionados, at least) is the choice of spelling of ‘whisky’. Throughout their crowdfunding campaign, they elected to use ‘whiskey’, which is more typically used in the US, Canada and Ireland. But it seems that there was no real reason for this beyond the fact that Indiegogo is an American platform – when this eventually comes to market, it will probably be dropping the ‘e’.
“The single malt will most certainly be a ‘whisky’, as it will be malted barley and traditionally pot distilled,” explains Fried. “It will be in accordance with the time-honored Scottish approach. The distillery will likely also make whiskey as some other spirit lines may contain other grains or even be made using a column still.”
However, the goal here isn’t so much to challenge the status quo and long history associated with Scotland and other markets. It’s more about making a local whisky that is “just as good” as others…but one that is tied to Israel.
“The goal is to be the Israeli whisky and for it to be accepted as a good one,” says Fried.
The distillery isn’t fully up and running yet, but the Indiegogo campaign is being used to pre-sell a limited first batch of the beverage. It will be a while before you will be able to treat your tastebuds to a dram of the stuff however – production is kicking off around March/April this year, and shipping will start around the end of 2017.
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