Johnnie Walker whisky facing kosher row in Israel

By @diplomatist10 on
Johnnie Walker
A worker looks at bottles of Johnnie Walker whisky on the production line at the Diageo owned Shieldhall bottling plant in Glasgow, Scotland March 24, 2011. Shieldhall is the world's largest Scotch whisky bottling plant producing around 24 million cases of whisky per year. Whisky now accounts for 40 percent of all foreign-produced spirits sold in China, about the same share as cognac. Though still small, the Chinese whisky market was worth close to 100 million pounds in 2010, from a mere 1 million pounds in 2000. To keep up with demand, Scotland's whisky industry has poured 600 million pounds into expanding and building new distilleries over the last three years. Long-forgotten still houses have been re-opened. Expansion is underway at a handful of big industrial grain whisky plants, bottling halls and cooperages, and also at some of the smaller 102 malt whisky distilleries scattered across the highlands and islands of Scotland. Picture taken March 24, 2011. Reuters/David Moir

Johnnie Walker, the leading Scotch whisky label, is at the centre of a controversy in Israel after the regulator enforced curbs on its sale, citing non-compliance of kosher standards by its importer. The issue came to fore when Israeli Chief Rabinnate, the head of religious law and spiritual authority for Jewish people. cancelled the kosher certification of the errant importer of Johnnie Walker Black Label, claiming that it was wrongly labelled.

Accordingly, all shops and restaurants have been told to remove such bottles. However, the curbs will not apply to the whisky imported by another Israeli supplier who claims to have the correct kosher certification, reports Scotsman.

Genesis of dispute

At the bottom of the controversy is the whisky dispute between Israel Beer Breweries Ltd Spirits, which is the official importer of Johnnie Walker, and its competitor Paneco. The former periodically takes inspectors from Israel to Scotland to check the whisky brand’s facilities to ensure compliance with the regulations for kosher status. But Paneco is allegedly not doing such checks and claims that its imports are automatically kosher-compliant because the products are the same.

In Israel, the kosher compliance certificate is issued by the OK Kosher Certification organisation, on which the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s Kashrut department relies for the supervision of all imported whiskey with the assurance that they meet all kosher standards.

The head of OK’s Israel branch, Rabbi Aharon Haskel, recently informed the Rabbinate’s enforcement department that his organisation does not supervise all the Johnnie Walker whisky produced and will take responsibility only for those batches produced in certain facilities, mainly imported by IBBLS.

Business  rivalry

Paneco alleged that its competitor is trying to harm its business and vouched that the Black Label supplied by it is fully kosher-compliant.

“All products sold on 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 exactly the same product marketed by a competing company in Israel, which holds the kosher certification for the product,” the Paneco spokesman said.

The manufacturer Diageo also gave its view on the issue and advised consumers to enjoy Scotch whisky according to their choice. It also refused to comment on issues relating to third-party distributors, but stressed the fact that there can be no question about the quality of any Scotch whisky brand.

Meanwhile, a report in Haertz advised the consumers to verify themselves the originality of a kosher-compliant Scotch whisky by inspecting the bottles in two ways. First, it must be checked for the details of the importer, and secondly, it must be ensured that the OK-certified bottles have the kosher approval stamped on the original label.

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