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Aug 14, 2001 12:53 PM

Question . . .

  • c

Is Chivas Regal Scotch Kosher? This question was asked today on the radio show "Food Talk" and now I'm curious. How would you find out which spirits are Kosher? I don't believe any are labeled as wines are.

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  1. I once had a facinating conversation with an Orthodox rabbi regarding the kashrut of scotch. The problem, it seems, is that most scotch whiskies are aged --at least partially -- in old sherry barrels. In order for the scotch to be kosher the sherry would have had to have been kosher. According to the rabbi only a scotch that was aged exclusively in bourbon barrels -- Glenmorangie 10 year old single malt whisky, for example -- could possibly be kosher, at least if one were not overly concerned with the question of whether the distiller was shomer shabbat.

    There are lines of kosher spirits. I know I have seen kosher vodka, gin, bourbon, cognac, and cordials in a liquor store in Monsey which, for those not from NY, is the home of many Orthodox and Hassidic Jews.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Deven Black

      Yes, thank you for that explanation. I suspected it might have to do with the aging process. Bourbon is aged in barrels that have never been used for anything else. Would that make it Kosher?

      1. re: christina z

        The way the rabbi explained it was that spirits are inherently kosher parve because they have neither animal ingredients nor "fruit of the vine" as sherry does.

        Bourbon barrels have the additional advantage of being charred which, again according to the rabbi, burns off anything that might possibly have contaminated them.

        The only issue remaining is whether the distillery is shomer shabbos, which may or may not matter depending on the strictness of one's individual observation.

        1. re: Deven Black

          ALl beer is kosher. I believe that other hard liquor is as well (e.g. vodka, gin). If it is flavoured in any way, (e.g. Malibu rum) then it needs kosher certification. Anything with a grape product in it needs certification, which actually is the reason why grape juice also needs to be kosher (sorry, Welch's grape juice isn't kosher, but their soda is because it's all artificial).

          1. re: Rachel Molly

            Hi, I was just wondering why wine would be considered unkosher these days, since it's a fruit. The precaution for kosher wine, as I understand it, was that it was not to have been sanctified for pagan use. But, paganism doesn't exist anymore, at least not where wine is made (e.g. France), and in huge factories, will there actually be people sanctifying wine for any purpose?

            Likewise, I can't figure out why kosher wine would become unkosher if touched by a non-Jew (e.g. a christian).

            Please, enlighten me. These questions are tormenting me lately.


            1. re: SY

              The prohibition on wine that has been moved by someone who isn't Jewish is based on two reasons. One is that he may have dedicated it to a foreign god, and the other is to remind Jews, when they socialise with those who aren't, to keep a certain distance so that it doesn't lead to intermarriage, Gd forbid. The second reason obviously applies in full force; but even the first reason, which may seem obsolete in most places, still has the force of law because it was legislated by the Sanhedrin, and nobody today has the power to repeal it.

              Actually, idolatry is common in France - Judaism considers many forms of Christianity, including Catholicism, to be idolatrous. However, you are correct in saying that it is unlikely that a Catholic worker at a French winery will have dedicated any of the wine to his god, and for this reason the consensus among the Tosafists (experts in Jewish law in 12th century France) was that it was OK to sell the wine, but not to drink it. (Wine that has been dedicated to a foreign god may not be sold, or even given away - it must be destroyed.)

              (There were some Tosafists who held that Catholicism wasn't precisely idolatrous, but something in the middle, which they called `shituf', but this seems to have been a minority opinion. The majority of authorities ruled that Catholicism was idolatry, but that for one reason or another French wine did not have the full status of `yayin nesech', and thus could be sold.)

              Sorry for going on at such length...

              1. re: Zev Sero

                Zev, no problem at all about the length. . .thanks so much for your helpful answer.