Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Kosher Whisky: Overly Machmir Caterers

Read my other posts on the production (link) and sherry-related issues (link) of Kashrus and whisky. You can also listen to an interview I did on Arutz 7 on the topic by CLICKING HERE.

Due to my access and knowledge of whisky, I've been asked to buy whisky for a few weddings for friends. Thus, I have dealt with many caterers and have learned about their knowledge of whisky. Since all of the Hashgachos locally have a machmir stance on the whole sherry cask issue, so do the caterers who are certified by them. Knowing this, I wouldn't buy a sherry aged/matured for a wedding, knowing that the caterer would scream chai v'kayam.

However, I've gotten a couple arguments with caterers regarding bottles that were neither aged nor finished exclusively in sherry casks, for the following reason. Most people assume that whisky is aged in a wooden cask, and when it's ready to be bottled they put a tap in the cask and begin the bottling process. This simply isn't the case; let's take for example, a bottle of Balvenie 10 year old. Whiskies of various ages and various types of casks, after maturing, are put into and mixed in a large vat (in a process called "vatting). The whisky is usually then diluted down to a normal ABV of 40-46%. The "10" in Balvenie 10 means that the youngest cask of whisky used in the vatting process is 10 years old. Thus, in your bottle of Balvenie 10 there is certainly whisky that is older than 10 years old. More importantly, though, is the fact that different types of CASKS are thrown into the vat. With only a few rare exceptions (Glenlivet 12, Ardbeg 10 to name a few), there is no whisky that does not have any sherry-aged liquid in it, due to the fact that distilleries use a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks to store their goods. To clarify, however: the hashgachos are only machmir on those that contain liquid that was 100% aged/matured in a sherry cask.

If you've ever read the back of a whisky bottle/tin, you'll know that the distilleries love to tell you all about their whisky. Often mentioned is the different smells, tastes, and aftertastes of the whiskies. It is not uncommon for the back to note either a taste/aftertaste of sherry, even if the whisky wasn't EXCLUSIVELY aged/matured in sherry casks. However, due to the caterers’ lack of knowledge about the product, they read sherry, and they say no. Again, the point is that whisky can have somewhat of a sherry taste (or so the distillery wants to claim) without being exclusively aged/matured in a sherry cask. Thus, whisky which, if the hashgachos had a full list of what whiskies were allowed/not allowed, would be permissible, has been nixed due to some overzealous explanation on the behalf of the distillery.

Perhaps it's asking too much of the caterers to have this kind of product knowledge about whisky. I think, though, that it's their job to put on a Simcha and make the guests as happy as possible; so it doesn't seem too far-fetched to me that they know this simple piece of information. I would suggest putting together a list of whiskies, by distillery, that are permitted/prohibited - that way, when someone brings a bottle to a wedding that the caterer has never heard of (most of these guys haven't heard of anything past Glenlivet), they won't nix it immediately. I'd volunteer my services to do it, but I don't think the idea would be received well.


Anonymous aishel said...

I don't think it is so hard to do. If someone (you) were to compile a list of various whisky's, bring it to Rabbi Heber or someone similar to have them review and sign off to it, the list could then be distributed. It doesn't really sound like a big deal to me.

7:21 AM, June 13, 2007

Blogger Natan said...

Where do you like to buy your whisky in b'more? The only place that I found with a good selection is Diwine.

2:04 PM, June 29, 2007

Blogger Ari said...

First time reader...nice blog. Anyway, my brother got married a few weeks ago and I was interrogated by the mashgiach. Of course he banned the MacCallen 30, but what surprised me was that he wouldn't let me use ANY opened bottles. So let me understand this- they trust the drunk goy in Scotland to bottle it up and keep it kosher, but once I open it in my house it's no good. Typical.

12:23 PM, July 17, 2007

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2:16 AM, May 08, 2014


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