Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Is whisky matured in a sherry cask Kosher? I know there is a Machlokes about this. Who holds what?

share|improve this question
1  
Most Chabad rabbonim with whom I am acquainted hold that Macallan (prime example) is completely kosher as it is 1) free of grapes and is 2) considered a great whisky. –  Noach mi Frankfurt Mar 20 at 22:50
1  
I went to a discussion on this where it was mentioned, uncited, that the London Beit Din never had any concerns about the kashrut of Scotch. –  Charles Koppelman Mar 21 at 2:48
    
Isn't this a dupe somewhere? –  Double AA Mar 21 at 5:09
    
What suprises me about the cRc opinion is that they follow the idea that the entire volume of the aging barrel wood has to be nullified by the whiskey. However, i think it is very unlikely that the wood is as porous as a sponge, so that close to the volume of the wood absorbs wine. I would be surprised if the wine made it much deeper than a centimeter or two into the wood, and even there, the wood is much denser than a sponge. In other words, I bet the actual amount of wine that would need to be nullified is probably no where near the volume of the barrel wood! –  MAF Oct 13 at 21:43
    
@noach mi frankfurt regular Macallan is not aged in a sherry cask. if they have a specific one which is then that one would not be kosher. this would have no affect on the other scotches which are not aged in sherry casks. having any type of wine product used to affect the flavor of the whisky is a problem. The crc does a good job with identifying alcohol which is and isn't recommended and are willing to answer any question concerning specific products which are not on their list –  Dude Oct 19 at 23:02

3 Answers 3

See here.

Kosher and Sherry Casks

Rabbi Pinchas Teitz of Elizabeth, NJ, first reported in 1949 that there may be sherry wine in blended whisky – which would obviously create a problem for observant Jews who are also whisky lovers. It would then follow that any single malt Scotch that is exclusively matured or finished in sherry casks would pose a problem as well.

Rabbi Teitz raised the issue regarding the permissibility of drinking sherry-infused blended whisky to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. Rabbi Feinstein, one of the 20th century’s great minds regarding Jewish law, had 3 responsa (rabbinical rulings) on the topic.

Essentially Rabbi Moshe Feinstein does not seem to have a problem with whisky matured in sherry casks. However he is reported to say that a "Ba’al Nefesh" should be stringent.

There is a very full discussion here where you can find all the sources.

Amongst Kashrus authorities, a search showed

1) Jersey Shore Orthodox Rabbinate

Scotch There are two types of Scotch commonly available, Blended and Single Malt. All types listed as being aged in sherry casks‟ „sherry finish‟ „port finish‟ or dual cask finish‟ are not recommended.

2) cRc - Liquor List - Chicago Rabbinical Council Similar to 1

3) Star-k

Scotch and Irish whisky would be acceptable unless specifically stated that the beverage has been aged in sherry casks finished in sherry or port casks. We do not have to assume that this is the case unless the company asserts that it is so. Our recommended liquor list reflects those products that do not specify aged in sherry casks.

My personal experience is that most people including our LOR are not worried about whisky matured in sherry casks.

share|improve this answer
    
could you source Rav Moshe's responsa? –  Bochur613 Mar 20 at 23:09
    
So my question is why those major Kashrus agencies are worried about Sherry Casks if Rav Moshe is not. In other words, what posek has given the opposite opinion? –  andrewmh20 Mar 20 at 23:14
    
@andrewmh20 You are right. To get the answer, we need to summarize this large article referenced above crcweb.org/Sherry%20Casks%202.pdf. I have not been able to do that. –  Avrohom Yitzchok Mar 20 at 23:19
    
It's in 2 Teshuvos in Igros Moshe: Yoreh Deah 1:62-63 –  Zvi Mar 22 at 23:09
    
why do you write 'It would then follow that any single malt Scotch that is exclusively matured or finished in sherry casks would pose a problem as well.'? There are strict regulations about Scotch - you cannot add sherry and still call it Scotch! –  Zvi Mar 23 at 10:56
up vote 2 down vote accepted

There's a good article that summarzies the opinions here: http://doseofhalacha.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/kashrus-of-scotch.html Read through the comments, too:

The Poskim agree that ordinary Scotch whisky (whether single malt or blended) which has no mention of any wine casks is perfectly Kosher. The question arises when whisky has been matured in wine casks, such as the Macallan Sherry Oak. R’ Moshe Feinstein famously addresses this issue in 2 responsa: Igros Moshe YD 1:62-63. While the Shulchan Aruch (YD 134:13) forbids drinking a gentile’s beverage when it is customary to add non-Kosher wine to it, R’ Moshe follows the more lenient Rema. Providing the wine is nullified against 6 parts whisky (as opposed to the usual 1:60 ratio), the wine is Kosher. While R’ Moshe advises that a baal nefesh should best avoid such whisky, seemingly he was specifically referring to a scenario where wine had actually been added to whisky. As Scotch Whisky Regulations dictate that Scotch may only contain water, grain yeast and caramel colouring, we can be assured that wine is not added.

Many American Poskim are concerned that as the entire sherry (or port, Madeira, etc.) cask is saturated with non-Kosher wine, the wine is no longer battul 1:6 in the whisky. Others, including R’ Akiva Niehaus (Sherry Casks, A Halachic Perspective) argue that R’ Moshe wasn't referring to Scotch, but to American or Canadian whiskey. Accordingly, they forbid Wine Cask Finishes, arguing that the wine adds a recognizable taste to the whisky. Nonetheless, Rabbanim in the UK (including the London Beis Din) maintain that R’ Moshe’s rulings apply to Scotch, and follow Dayan Weiss’s permissive ruling, too (Minchas Yitzchak 2:28).

Note, that distilleries outside of Scotland (including Ireland) are not bound by the same regulations, and their whiskies may be problematic. Thus one must consult their Kashrus authority.

share|improve this answer

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was addressing blended whiskey, but the issues are basically the same with regards to a sherry-cask scotch as far as I know.

Rabbi Feinstein said it was allowable, but not preferable; he personally made reasonable attempts to avoid such a product (as a chumrah) , and gave his blessing to those who would make a product certified as free of non-kosher wine. So authorities such as the cRc and Star-K who don't recommend "sherry-finished scotches" are following Rabbi Feinstein. They're not necessarily saying they're certifiably not kosher, just that they're not endorsed.

The Star-K's position, for instance, is if it says on the label "this contains sherry" (in one language or another), then they don't recommend it. If you don't know, then you can rely on its permissibility if it happens to be there.

share|improve this answer
    
why do you say that R' Moshe was only ' addressing blended whiskey'? He didn't write that, and most certainly knew about the different types. If he didn't specify so, then surely his hetter applies to all whiskys and whiskeys?! –  Zvi Mar 22 at 23:07
    
@Zvi his responsum --YD1:62 -- is to Rabbi Teitz regarding "blended yash", that's what it says explicitly. (New York Jews 50 years ago drank that more than single-malt, from what I understand.) The concern there was that wine and glycerin were added as ingredients. However the poskim cited here (and R' Dovid Miller of the Gruss Kollel) all say that the same logic would apply to a single-malt that may contain some non-kosher wine due to the sherry cask. –  Shalom Mar 23 at 6:31
    
so what if they drank that more?! R' Moshe knew about single-malt and would have specified that his hetter doesn't apply to single-malt if he wanted to. Glenfiddich has long been the world's most exported whisky.. See scotch-whisky.org.uk/media/12744/… Other than caramel, no ingredients may be added. The English Rabbanim who know first hand what's going on are generally Mattir. –  Zvi Mar 23 at 10:59
    
@Zvi I think we're agreeing here, the same heter would apply according to Rav Moshe, though he said it was better to be machmir. It's just important for history's sake to accurately describe Rav Moshe's words. –  Shalom Mar 23 at 12:36
    
@Zvi one argument suggested why sherry casks are less of an issue than a blended containing wine -- the wine in a blended is there for color/flavor. The sherry cask may not actually be there to impart the sherry flavor, but instead to tone down some of the wood flavors. –  Shalom Mar 23 at 12:37

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.