In an apparent move to win back the lucrative and growing community of observant Jewish whisky connoisseurs, the nation’s premiere tasting event is moving away from the Sabbath after two years. But will Jews return after creating their own replacement?
There has been an increasing trend of observant Jews becoming fans of fine whisky, largely because much whisky is naturally kosher. When WhiskyFest New York, a major annual tasting event, first moved from a weekday night to a two-day event on Friday night and Saturday in 2012, hundreds of observant Jews were suddenly unable to attend. But Joshua Hatton, a whisky blogger and founder of the Jewish Whisky Company, quickly organized an alternative event that turned into a huge success.
Whisky Jewbilee celebrated its second year last month in Midtown Manhattan, with kosher food, a cigar tent, and of course, lots of whisky.
In a blog post about the return to a weeknight, John Hansell, editor of Whisky Advocate (which organizes WhiskyFest) made no mention of the Sabbath, instead emphasizing the change from a two-day event to a single day for supply reasons.
Curiously, New York is the only city to see the move from Friday night to Wednesday. WhiskyFests in Chicago and San Francisco next year are both scheduled for Friday nights. San Francisco’s is on Kol Nidre.
Though WhiskyFest being on the Sabbath was the original impetus to create the Whisky Jewbilee, Hatton isn’t ready to go away anytime soon. He guaranteed the Jewish Daily Forward that his event will go ahead next year, saying that he hopes observant Jews will return the Whisky Jewbilee’s loyalty:
“We’ve been here for the kosher-keeping, whisky-loving, Jewish community and, while we wish WhiskyFest all the success in the world, we hope that our community will remember us and will stick with us or go to both events.”