At Whisky Live London a few weeks ago, I came across a solution to a problem that hadn’t crossed my mind before. I am not Jewish and so the concept of kosher foods and drinks is not an idea I need to think about regularly. However, it had genuinely never occurred to me that any whisky that comes into contact with wine (in any form: port, sherry, madeira, cognac or paxarette, due to wine’s use as a religious symbol in other religions) is, by contamination, not kosher and, therefore, cannot be drunk by Jews. There are those that would suggest the Jewish population is relatively small; in the UK, Jewish people account for only 0.5% of the population: 292,000 people. Certainly not all Jews will want to drink whisky, so why provide whisky exclusively for such a small population? The point remains, in a free society, if any one individual wants access to something, they should be granted it.
And so here lies The Glenrothes, one of only three distilleries to be granted kosher status by the London Beth Din, the largest Jewish authority in the UK. The Glenrothes Alba Reserve, one of their three non-vintage reserves, is the only whisky in their range to be certified. As it has only been aged in American Oak which previously held bourbon, it has never had any contact with wine, nor has its taste deliberately altered by such a process. Once a year, a delegation led by a London rabbi is sent to Glenrothes to check the kosher status of the whisky and to ensure it is still maintained; the bottles can then be stamped with the KLBD sign.
The joy of this for the Jewish whisky drinking community is that not only is this whisky certified kosher, it is also superb. I have sung the praises of The Glenrothes before, having had their special reserve and their 1991 vintage, and can confirm that this is similar; it is identifiably Glenrothes, with just a little less sweetness than the special reserve because of that lack of sherry ageing. There is a hit of oaky woodenness on the nose and it smells, perhaps, fresher and greener, but, ultimately, it is essentially a dryer special reserve.
Having been unaware of the problem before Whisky Live, I now find that there is a solution to a previous unknown problem and from a whisky enthusiast’s point of view: not only is there an ideal whisky for the Jewish Community but that it is also a superb whisky in and of itself.