Carmel Winery has launched a new limited edition brandy called Rishon Brandy XO. It is the last product to be produced at the famous Rishon Le Zion Winery, which is closing its doors after a long, illustrious history.
The name 'Rishon Brandy' was chosen to commemorate Rishon Le Zion Wine Cellars. In fact the names 'Rishon' and 'Rishon Le Zion' frequently appeared on labels as the first brand names in the early years, along with those of Carmel and Palwin.
The base wine was produced from Colombard and Muscat of Alexandria grapes, grown in the coastal regions of Mount Carmel and Judean Shefela. The wine was double distilled in the four beautiful old pot stills situated in the spirits tower at the winery.
The resulting brandy was aged in the unique brandy cellar, with the wooden slatted roof and the powerful, alcoholic 'angel share' aromas, remembered by all who visited. The older components from Carmel's library of older brandies, were matured in Limousin oak barrels. The younger components were matured in used wine barrels. The Muscat was matured in barrels used for fermenting and aging Chardonnay. It can therefore be described as a 'wine finish' brandy.
The minimum age statement of the brandy is 15 years, and the maximum age of the components in the blend are no less than 30 years old. Fifteen percent of the blend was matured for 15 years, sixty percent for 20 years and twenty five per cent for 30 years.
Rishon Brandy XO is a unique and rare expression. Only 2,500 bottles were produced. This 'wine finish' brandy has a dark amber color, with a bouquet of dried fruits, with a hint of dark chocolate, nuts and spices. It is rich, round and velvety, with a long warm finish. There was no addition of caramel or coloring.
Carmel Winery has always been famous for its brandies. The Carmel Extra Fine Brandy was one of Carmel's earliest and most long lasting labels. The Carmel 777 was one of the largest selling brandies in Israel. The Carmel 777 Gold and Brandy XO won gold medals at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London, then the foremost competition in the world for spirits. In 1998, Carmel was awarded the ultimate prize. The Carmel Brandy 100, 9 year old, won the prestigious Best Brandy Worldwide Trophy, at the IWSC.
Carmel relaunched another expression of Carmel Brandy 100, initially produced to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the company. In 2010, Carmel Brandy 120 was released, to commemorate the 120th harvest at Rishon Le Zion Winery. This was referred by the legendary wine critic, Daniel Rogov z'l, as the finest Israel brandy he had tasted. He gave it 95 points. A pity he is no longer around to taste the Rishon Brandy XO! In 2005 Carmel Winery stopped producing spirits and liqueurs and then gradually wound down its brandy operations.
Rishon Le Zion Wine Cellars was built in 1890. For 125 years it has been arguably the most prominent symbol of the Israeli wine industry founded by Baron Edmond de Rothschild. The place reeks of history. Three future prime ministers of Israel worked there, including David Ben Gurion. It was the site where the first telephone and first electricity were used in the country.
It was the largest Israeli winery from 1890 until 2010. From the 2011 harvest, Rishon ceased to receive grapes and the winemaking was redirected to Carmel Winery's Zichron Ya'acov Wine Cellars, which was enlarged and refurbished. The bottling plant and offices remained at Rishon. In 2015 the bottling was finally closed and a new state of the art bottling plant was built at Carmel's new winery at Alon Tabor.
Carmel Winery's Rishon Brandy XO is for collectors and brandy connoisseurs. It retails for roughly for 1,000 shekels and comes in an attractive presentation box, with a product information sheet inside. The drawing on the label is taken from an old postcard of the Rishon winery. The brandy is available only in some specialist wine shops and also at Carmel Winery's Center for Wine Culture at Zichron Ya'acov Wine Cellars.
Carmel Winery's Rishon Brandy XO remains as a tribute to celebrate 125 years of winemaking and distillation at Rishon Le Zion Cellars, the first commercial winery of Israel. History in a glass!