Monday, 29 July 2013

Kashrus of Scotch

Question: I have noticed that certain Scotch whiskies now have a hechsher on them. Does whisky need a hechsher?
Answer: 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 R' Yitzchok Yaakov 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.


  1. Replies
    1. YY, fancy meeting you here! You need to come back on the show with some Macallan!

  2. I had a very pleasant discussion with R' Akiva Niehaus (quoted above). He asked me to post the following clarification:
    R' Niehaus maintains that Rav Moshe was referring to American whiskey into which wine was added, and they knew that the minimal volume of wine was batul, but this is not the case with regard to Scotch. Scotch, as you mentioned, may not contain any ingredients other than barley (or other grain), yeast, water, and caramel coloring. Wine is never added directly, but it seeps in during the maturation process. According to many Poskim, storage in wine barrels (kavush) requires bitul against the entire thickness of the walls, and this volume is not present due to the thick barrel walls. However, because most Scotches are a mixture of Bourbon and wine casks, the only Scotches to avoid are those which advertise that they are exclusively matured, finished, or double matured in Sherry casks. All others likely have enough volume of Bourbon casks to nullify the wine casks. The interested reader may read Sherry Casks: A Halachic Perspective, available for free download at

    1. Hi Chaim nice post. Please look again at link- it goes nowhere. YLB

    2. try it without the full stop - it works fine. See R' Ari Kahn's article, too linked below.


  4. For Rav Asher Weiss's Teshuva, allowing sherry cask whisky, go to