Ask the OU Kosher Rabbi

Dear Rabbi,

We are in the midst of deciding whether to go ahead with submitting our OU application. It has been brought to our marketing team’s attention that there is a growing tendency among kosher consumers to seek OU-certified liquor products.  Is that true? We are aware of requirements for kosher certification of wines, brandies, liqueurs, gin, vodkas and other alcoholic beverages. Is there also a need to obtain kosher certification for our bourbon, scotch and single malt lines? Your input and clarification would be appreciated.

Answer: You are absolutely correct that wines, brandies, liqueurs, flavored liquors and any products that are potentially grape-derived, require reliable kosher verification. This is due to the unique kosher sensitivity associated with grape products and their derivatives.

Grain and sugar-based alcoholic products usually have fewer concerns and are much more easily kosher-verified. Still, there is a growing interest in obtaining kosher certification for such products, and for good reason. They include:

Alcoholic products frequently do not identify the source material.

Even where the alcohol source can be determined, the frequent addition of neutral blenders can pose kosher concerns.

Grain alcohols may be stored or aged in wooden casks that had previously been used for grape-based materials.

Increasingly, alcoholic beverages are not being bottled at the source; they are transported to bottling facilities where processing equipment may be shared with non-kosher materials.

Many of the above concerns, even where they do exist, can be addressed in the context of a kosher program and the finished products can be kosher certified.

Informed consumers are feeding a growing interest in kosher certification for the alcohol market. Astute industry leaders are taking note of this phenomenon.

With best regards,

Rabbi Nahum Z. Rabinowitz,

Sr. Rabbinic Coordinator, The Orthodox Union

Rabbi Nahum Z. Rabinowitz