Is whisky matured in a sherry cask Kosher? I know there is a Machlokes about this. Who holds what?
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Well, I'm the new Jewish boy around here. Please note that I´m also frum. Recently, I started to try beers more "pro" like, since I completely HATE vodka (what kind of Chabad am I, I don´t know, but smirnoff is definetly NOT my style), whiskey, many kinds of wine and, specially, gin and rum. But in beer I really found my spot, and started doing a "world tour" on different types, having a different one for every Shabbos. Last year though, when my mother, my father and I went into vacations for Sukkos, we decided to go to an empty pub the night before. There, she asked for a "beer that looks like wine" of course WITHOUT wine (there are some beers that mimic that taste without grapes, only the usual kosher stuff- yeast, malt, hops, sugar and water); the waiter came back with a Flanders Red Ale, at the time I had never heard of that type (there´s only like 5 or 6 brands that do that style, being the two most famous Verhaeghe-which is the best one and only does that- and Rodenbach). It tasted EXACLTY like balsamic vinegar and sour cherries, so my mom, apart from HATING balsamic, spewed it out thinking there were real grapes in the beer. Of course, this wans´t the fact. That beer had NOTHING of grape inside, but it had been matured in casks for months (between eight and eighteen months). Later I would learn from the brewery owner (without him knowing that i was asking for halachic purposes) that those casks (or tanks, since they are REALLY bigger), besides NO grape adding or wine (I told him I was allergic), hasn´t seen real wine for MANY years. Of course, I went directly to my rabbis concerned about the fact, specially because I know that Yeyn Nessech Eino Batel, and two of them permitted whilst one didn´t want to answer. I´m at the moment finishing my Smicha and the good thing is that I had a contact with the Shulchan Aruch in a closer way than bochur yeshives normally get. In Siman 137 of Yoreh Deah says that if the cask spent 12 months without wine, its ok. Even if in the meantime you put there beer or water (and some sustain even other liquids), the clock does not stops (although some maintain that that is only when there is a Sheish to batel the wine in the walls of the tank or cask)! Plus, there are many opinions that beer, more than ANY other liquids, POGEM the wine (see the Taz on Yoreh Deah 99, and Avodah Zarah where, I believe, Rav permits Ravina to store beer in a Kli that has been previously used for wine). I also heard, on the other hand, that Rabbi Landau Shlit´´a from Bnei Brak DEFINETELY prohibits ANYTHING that had been placed on those barrels, although many other poskim suggest that that´s just a stringency. I won´t say that Lechatchila it´s ok, but maybe bedieved there is where to Somech since it is not only one or two poskim, but MANY that maintain that beer Pogem the Wine (and even for a good Cheilek of people, the beer I just mentioned has a VERY PAGOM taste - specially those that aren´t in the "sour" type of beers). I would like to ask you guys opinions on this. Also, the first thing to mention is that this specific beer is matured on oaken casks that is about almost ten times the size of a Sherry normal cask, and has probably about a hundred years.