Johnny Walker whisky at centre of furious row over its kosher status
SCOTLAND’S most popular whisky is at the centre of furious row in Israel – over its kosher status.
The Chief Rabbinate – the supreme spiritual authority for Jews in Israel – has claimed that vast quantities of Johnnie Walker whisky in the country feature unauthorised kosher certifications.
Now the Jewish authority has warned followers that many bottles of the whisky – the most widely distributed brand of Scotch in the world – are off limits.
Two companies are licensed to import Johnnie Walker Black Label from Scotland into Israel.
The Israel Beer Breweries Ltd Spirits (IBBLS) paid to have kosher inspectors fly to Scotland to verify that the production processes of their bottles are in line with kosher standards.
Rivals Paneco have not carried out their own checks but declare the whisky is kosher on their labels on the basis it is exactly the same product.
That has earned them the wrath of the Chief Rabbinate, who urged a boycott of Paneco-supplied Johnny Walker in stores, businesses and restaurants.
But the Paneco company have hit back at the Chief Rabbinate, saying that their product is the same as that inspected by IBBLS, and therefore should inherit the same kosher qualification.
A spokesman said: “All products sold on Paneco.com are completely and solely original.
“The Johnnie Walker whisky products sold on the site are created by the primary manufacturer at the Diageo distillery in Scotland, and is the exact same product being marketed by a competing company in Israel, which holds the kosher certification for the product.”
The feud has caused confusion for whisky enthusiasts across the country, with reports that synagogues are still purchasing the unlicensed version and much confusion over whether the Johnnie Walker distilleries are kosher.
One Twitter commenter, Natan Mandelbaum, said the confusion was “another reason to stick to bourbon,”
Many argue that whisky is always a kosher product, as it is made from grain rather than wine.
But many distilleries use wine or sherry casks to age their spirit, which can result in a non-kosher branding from the authorities.
The Chief Rabbinate is the office of spiritual authority for Judaism in Israel.
As well as covering kosher certification, the office holds jurisdiction over marriages, divorces and family matters.
Established in 1820 in Kilmarnock, the Johnnie Walker brand is one of Scotland’s most recognizable products, with 130 million bottles sold annually.
The brand is currently owned by drinks giant Diageo, and is currently thought to be worth around $5.3bn.