How Three Jews Are Changing American Whiskey Drinking

The tasty and fulfilling story of why distillers like Laphroaig and Glen Moray would want to sell off their quality stock to three American Jews.

They might still be discussing that weeks parsha or midrashim and theyll have some bottles of whisky too. So they’ll have a lot of fun drinking whiskey and talking torah .

As a proud Jew and a hearty drinker, I can tell you firsthand we are not often regarded as great producers of intoxicants.

At best, you might think of Schmaltz Brewing, the solid, upstate New York brewery that attains plenty of Jew-punny brews like their HeBrew Jewbelation strong ales; at worst, though, you most certainly think of the god-awful Manischewitz Kosher wine.

But, believe it or not, some of the finest whisky being released in America at the moment is also coming from Jews. More specifically a trio of prefer people who not only dont hide their heritagethey even print it on their bottles alongside a prominent Star of David.

Even more interestingly, Jewish Whisky Company is show Americans both Jewish and gentile a whole new way that great whisky can be bottled and released in this country.

I think I first fell in love with scotch because its smokiness reminded me of going camping when I was a kid, Joshua Hatton, the companys chairperson told me.

What Jews go camping? I wondered, us Jews not exactly known for enjoying sleeping outdoors or getting dirty .

I had a non-Jewish stepfather! Hatton sheepishly admits.

Hattons initial love for scotch, though, was 100% Jewish-related, the love affair first stoked in his synagogue the working day at oneg a casual collect for snacks and drinkings after Friday serviceswhen a congregant poured him a peaty dram of Lagavulin 16. That sip would totally change his life.

I was never shy about get a Cosmopolitan, he readily tells me.

Hatton threw himself intensely into scotch, analyzing it almost, well, talmudically.

In 2010 he started a blog, Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society which was renamed Jewmalt after a legal disagreement from the powerful Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

His sophisticated scotch analyses speedily gained an audiencenot just of Jews, but of whisky lovers of all sorts. Still, his focus was always Jewish in ethosand so the idea to make a Jewish-made whisky formed.

Well thats a million dollar idea, Jason Johnstone-Yellin remembers thinking after Hatton told him his plan. Jason Johnstone-Yellin laughs. That was back before I fully understood how companies work.

Johnstone-Yellin was likewise a popular whisky blogger who had become friendly with Hatton over the years. He was also a Scot who just so happened to be married to an American Jew and living in the Pacific Northwest.

He immediately understood how something as simple as a whisky company could help bring people together.

When my wife first came over to Scotland fifteen years ago, my family took me aside and said, Tamara’ Jewish? What are we gonna talking here? It was a striking moment, Johnstone-Yellin explains. So when Josh came to me and said he was going to start a whisky company, with a Jewish community built around it, it just made sense. We would bring Jews and non-Jews together…and they could always just talking here whisky.

Johnstone-Yellin signed up as vice-president and with another friend and, yes, another Jew, Seth Klaskin, they founded the Jewish Whisky Company in 2011.

So we have a lawyer( Klaskin ), a doctrine professor( Johnstone-Yelin ), and an industrial components salesman( Hatton) these guys may have known how to drink whisky, but what did they know about actually building it?

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