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For Jewish drinkers, Chanukah has come early this year. A growing number of brands have had their spirits certified kosher, and now many labels not only list alcohol content, but also bear a tiny “U” inside of an “O,” which is the Orthodox Union’s stamp of approval.
Over the last ten years, the number of OU-approved distilled spirits has increased by more than 50 percent, according to the New York-based organization, the world’s largest kosher-certification authority. From major players like Absolut and Stolichnaya to boutique brands like Square One, Lucid Absinthe and Koval, there is now a large selection of bottlings that have been inspected and endorsed.
Just this past year, famed Scottish single malts Glenmorangie and Ardbeg both joined the list. (So far, Glenmorangie Original and Astar as well as Ardbeg 10-Year-Old are allowed to carry the OU seal.)
So what makes a spirit kosher, anyway? Basically, the alcohol must be made from grain or sugar. It can’t be produced from grapes and can’t be aged in a nonkosher wine barrel. (There are separate rules for making kosher wine and grape-based brandy.) That means Scotch—or anything else, for that matter—that has been aged or finished in a sherry, port or wine cask generally is not allowed. And any other ingredients used (and the distillery itself) also have to pass muster.
Besides looking at the label, you can tell if a particular liquor is kosher by going to the Orthodox Union’s website. You can search by both alcohol category and brand name.
L’chaim, and a happy early Chanukah!