Whiskey Makers Court Jewish Market

on 05/06/13 at 9:33 am

Spirits
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Photo Credit: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

For avid whiskey lovers, few events are more eagerly anticipated than WhiskyFest, an enormous tasting that touches down in several American cities throughout the year. But when sponsors of the New York festival suddenly moved it last year from Tuesday to Friday and Saturday, many regulars were unable to attend.

An alternative arrived suddenly in the form of a new one-night event, held on the eve of WhiskyFest. Despite little time to advertise, it drew a crowd of 250 to its unlikely Manhattan location: the West Side Institutional Synagogue.

These whiskey devotees, it turned out, were Jews shut out of the big event because they observe the Sabbath. And to drive home the point of the tasting, its founder, the fledgling Jewish Whisky Company, called it Whisky Jewbilee.

Whiskey has numerous fan bases, but few are more devoted — and arguably less noticed by the press and public — than Jews, particularly observant Jews. Synagogues are increasingly organizing events around whiskey, and whiskey makers are reaching out to the Jewish market.

Retailers have long recognized Jews as valuable customers. “Jewish men are very interested in the selection of whiskey available at a wedding or bar/bat mitzvah,” said Jonathan Goldstein, vice president of Park Avenue Liquor Shop, a Manhattan store known for its whiskey selection. “They very often will pick up a special bottle to offer close friends or relatives.” Of the Friday before the Jewish holiday of Purim, last February, he said, “It was like Christmas in here.”

 

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