Why Go Kosher?
That’s what we asked several Kosher tequila and mezcal brand owners and ambassadors. Some of their reasons may surprise you.
Richard Sorenson, Founder of Dulce Vida Tequila, the only 100 proof organic tequila to date, comes from an organic foods background having developed the first USDA organic energy drink on the market to gain national distribution.
“Kosher certification is not something we focus heavily on,” admits Sorenson. Yet, in Dulce Vida’s case, it legitimizes and solidifies the company’s pledge to the consumer to be “authentic and pure.”
In fact, Sorenson does not believe that “organic and kosher certification are mutually exclusive” and instead, go hand-in-hand.
Lisa Barlow, co-founder with her husband, John, of Vida Tequila.
“Kosher means ‘fit or appropriate.’ Some people think that all tequila (blanco) is kosher.
“One thing we do, under kosher certification, is to use a kosher certified yeast for the fermentation process. Not all brands do this.
I love kosher law in general, and feel it’s been something I’m proud to say VIDA is.
“I know it’s trendy now to say you’re Kosher but for us it’s something we have been proud of since launching in 2007. To me it shows we care about the quality of our 100% Agave Azul line of tequila.
“I’m proud our product carries the kosher logo.”
Camille Austin, brand ambassador for Montelobos mezcal–
“To be Kosher is to guarantee, in all aspects of production, that all standards of cleanliness which the Jewish religion requires are met.
“This is an interesting subject I’ve touched with Ivan [Saldaña, developer of Montelobos mezcal] quite a bit, as well. In mezcal production, as you know with its diversity, a number of things can be crucial elements to ensuring all requirements are fulfilled.
“For starters, guaranteeing there are no animal products (meats or insects) that contaminate the process. Therefore, a traditional Pechuga mezcal could not be considered Kosher.
“Another important element would be to ensure that all animals involved in production are treated with dignity and respect as is the case with our beloved mule Rambo, who pulls the Tahona to make the Montelobos mash.
“We thoroughly pick through all our raw material, the espadin [agave], one by one, and make sure there are no worms, beetles or other insects.
“Fermentation is key as not all yeast used to make agave spirits has a Kosher origin. In the case of Montelobos, we ferment naturally in open air, without adding yeast, for a controlled period of no more than 7 days.
“There are many organizations globally that are dedicated specifically to audits and certifications such as this. At Casa Montelobos, we are certified and audited every few months through the OU, or Orthodox Union, based in New York City which is one of the most strict and internationally recognized Kosher organizations in the world.
“On the back label of each bottle you will find a big circled “U” identifiable with this organization.
“You could say that to be certified Kosher is to be disciplined, consistent and organized in your production process. It is a demonstration to those, albeit those who enjoy your product as consumers or those who are your mezcalero piers, that you are an open book with how you make your product.
“At Montelobos, although a quite small production, we are very proud of the final product and are committed to maintaining the cleanest and most natural standards to make our mezcal.”
Moises Guindi, co-founder of Milagro explains:
“As you may know, kosher certification is related to certifying that a product complies with a set of rules stated in the Jewish religion.
“That said, Tequila in its essence and based on the laws that regulate tequila production (NOM) would be with some exceptions I will point out, Kosher.
“That said, in order for a product to be Kosher, it requires an audit to ensure it does not fall into the exceptions that would make it non-Kosher.
“These exceptions, in the case of tequila, would be related in adding additives or flavoring agents that may contain a non-kosher ingredient. Other exceptions would be certain yeasts and the aging in barrels that contained non-kosher products beforehand such as Brandy or Wine.
“The Kosher certification also requires that there are no insects inside the bottles so quality controls to ensure this are required.
“On the commercial side, being Kosher is an enabler for all those consumers being Jewish or not that are looking to buy products that do not contain any non kosher ingredients.”
From Cesar Barba, Production Planning and Warehouse Coordinator at Milagro’s distillery:
“As Moisés stated, Kosher is a certification to ensure the Jewish community that the production process is compliant with the Jewish religion.
“That being said, this certification is made annually by a certification house that sends a rabbi to make sure that the agave, the distillery, and the barrels (if used), are all Kosher compliant.
“The rabbi sent by the certification house is like an external auditor, so it varies depending on the auditors’ availability, hence why there is no particular rabbi coming to OPTE. Also, there are some “surprise” visits during the year to make sure we are still Kosher compliant.
“We are certified with KMD, whose logo can be seen in the back label, but there several other certification houses and they are all recognized worldwide.
“The main advantage of being Kosher certified is that you can reach a very specific market niche.
– We are Kosher certified.
– Our third-party distiller partner is Kosher certified.
– We use Kosher certified products from non-animal origin during our production process.
– Our barrels did not hold any non-Kosher products.
– We have annual certification visits and one or two audits during each year, depending on the external auditor’s (rabbi) availability.
“Moy basically shared that one of the most important processes to scrutinize is fermentation, where producers may add non-kosher yeast and other additives i.e.: urea.”
DeLoera concludes, “Finally, a neat story is that Danny and Moy are from different Jewish backgrounds. Danny is from the Ashkenazi heritage, and Moy from the Sephardim heritage.
“Because Jewish weddings demand all products be Kosher, and Danny and Moy wanted Milagro at their weddings (of course!). Initially Milagro was certified by agencies from each and both Jewish traditions. Now it is a bit of good banter, and the one that stands is KMD, which is from the Sephardim tradition, and KMD is known to hold the strictest audits and standards.”