The BIG Business Of Kosher Tequila, Part IV

Why Go Kosher?

dulce vida, anejo, tequila, kosher tequilaThat’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.vida tequila, kosher 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.

montelobos, kosher mezcal
The many facets of Montelobos mezcal.

“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.”

With help from Leyenda del Milagro’s brand ambassador, J.P. DeLoera,

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.

milagro“Given the previous statements, we are Kosher because:

–       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.”

See The Miracle Men Behind Milagro Tequila videos here.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

The BIG Business of Kosher Tequila, Part III

[An urgent text message about Kosher tequila from an agave beverage manager at a thriving new bar in New York City, and the resulting questions raised from research into this misunderstood market from all points–tequila and mezcal brand owners, consumers, and rabbinical representatives of the Jewish faith–prompted me to finally discuss the positive, often flawed, and vastly under served kosher tequila and mezcal segments of the market.]

Still confused about the Kosher dietary laws and how it could affect your favorite agave spirits?  Then, check out Part 1.

Interested to learn more about how these agave spirits brands came to be certified kosher?  See Part 2.

If you’re a…

Tequila and Mezcal Consumer–

Arm yourself.

Both KMD and KA-Kosher supply lists of kosher certified alcoholic beverages.  As we mentioned in Part 1, so does the Chicago Rabbinical Council.  In each instance, be aware that when it comes to tequilas and mezcals…

All Lists Are Flawed!

kosher tequilaUnlike the CRT’s NOM Lists that are updated roughly each month, these kosher lists seemed not to have been touched in years.  And of the brands that were listed, more often than not, were now, sadly, extinct.

Upon closer examination of the KA-Kosher list, many of the certified tequilas are brands distributed in Mexico only.  The American kosher consumer is left out in cold (unless you’re on vacation in Mexico during the holidays!).

In another instance, tequila Embajador is listed as kosher.  When contacted, neither the importer nor the owners of the distillery was aware that the brand was certified.  When they contacted KA-Kosher about the discrepancy, a rabbinical coordinator admitted that Embajador’s certification had lapsed, likely years ago, but whose name still appeared on the list.

In KMD’s case, a quick search reveals that many of the popular global brands listed are suspect and known to process tequilas with diffusers.

In light of new industrial processes like diffusers and their use of sulfuric acid in catalyzed hydrolysis of agave, how can these tequilas be kosher–or even organic–for that matter?

We recently reached out to the cRc and confirmed in a phone conversation with a Rabbinical Coordinator that (at press time) it is taking steps to update its list of kosher tequilas, and, hopefully, adding mezcals.

In the meantime…

How Do I Tell If The Tequila Or Mezcal I Purchase

Is Kosher?

Glad you asked.  First, let’s dispel a few “kosher myths.”

Aren’t All Blanco Tequilas Kosher?

At one time, that was the general point of view by kashut authorities, until the use of glycerin became widely known as an approved additive in the tequila normas.

Here is an article on the OU’s (Union of Orthodox Rabbis) stance on “blenders” such as glycerin in the case of alcoholic beverages.

A Word About Barrels

Another rumor going around is that aged tequilas aren’t considered kosher.

Dulce_VidaNot so when you consider that one of the most popular kosher brewers on the planet, Shmaltz Brewing Company, ages all their lines, including their recent 2015 holiday offering,  Chanukah in Kentucky, in used Jim Beam and Heaven Hill barrels.

Dulce Vida’s 5 year Extra Añejo is also kosher, aged in used red wine barrels from Napa Valley.  (And, yes, there are kosher wineries in Napa.  Google it!)

Richard Sorenson, founder of Dulce Vida writes, “The barrels are Rombauer Merlot and Cabernet barrels.  They are gorgeous barrels and all have the Rombauer logo emblazoned in the wood.”

Without going into too much detail, in a phone conversation with the Rabbinical Coordinator for the cRc, he informed that if a particular barrel was first used to house kosher wine, then generally speaking, that barrel could be used in aging spirits.  He also mentioned that there was a way to kosher-ize (referred to as koshered) barrels for aging wines and spirits.

Research shows that some cooking utensils can be boiled or blowtorched to be spiritually cleansed.

In a follow up email with this cRc Rabbinical Coordinator, he wrote:  “Kosherizing a barrel which was used to store wine is a complicated and detailed process.  One method involves thoroughly cleaning the barrel, followed by a series of fresh water rinsings.”

The rabbi cautions, however, that, “Due to the complex nature of this process, it should only be undertaken by a recognized and reputable kosher agency.”

It goes without saying that each instance should be judged by that kosher agency on a case-by-case, or barrel-by-barrel, basis to ensure proper koshered rules were followed.

To learn more about the beliefs behind kosher wines, click here.

Isn’t Pareve Enough?

pareve-370x260-300x212This one’s tricky.

A food or drink item labeled pareve means that it can be used together with either a dairy product or a meat product and will not lead to the mixing of meat and dairy as per Jewish dietary instructions.  If you’ve perused the aforementioned lists above, you’ll see that term used after each brand.

Keep in mind that all agave spirits are fermented products.  Depending on the distillery’s fermentation process, they could be using enzymes and yeast accelerators that could come from animal sources that are prohibited by the Jewish dietary laws, and hense, not pareve.

To investigate pareve further, click here.

So, circling back to your original question–

Kosher Tequila, Or Not Kosher Tequila? 

Given the unreliability of the existing kosher lists in circulation, and the lack of transparency on behalf of multinational corporations that mass produce tequila and mezcal, proceed like any other tequila aficionado and–

Check The Label!

Similar to NOM numbers, and organically certified products, search for the seal of a trusted and well-known kosher certifying agency.  Familiarize yourself with their seals and logos shown in Part 1.

Any reputable agave spirit brand that claims to be kosher will proudly display the kosher seal they qualified for–and paid for the privilege of using–somewhere on the bottle or label.

Bottom line…

Santera_K

If it’s not there, it ain’t kosher.

***

In Part 4, discover why certain tequila and mezcal brands decided to “go Kosher.”

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

The BIG Business of Kosher Tequila, Part II

[An urgent text message about Kosher tequilas from an agave beverage manager at a thriving new bar in New York City, and the resulting questions raised from research into this misunderstood market from all points–tequila and mezcal brand owners, consumers, and rabbinical representatives of the Jewish faith–prompted me to finally discuss the positive, often flawed, and vastly under served kosher tequila and mezcal segments of the market.]

But first, if you’re a…

Tequila or Mezcal Brand Owner

…take a quick peek at Part 1, in case you’re still in the dark about what being kosher means.

Next, before you decide whether being certified kosher is the right move for your brand, here are a few things to consider.

Reliability

siembra_azulDoes the rabbinic field representative of the kosher certifying agency actually understand the tequila or mezcal making process?  Is this person willing to do his due diligence?  And, is he willing to be on-site and to participate at each stage of the certification process?

David Suro, importer and brand owner of the famed Siembra Spirits brands of tequila and mezcal, recalled only positive experiences with the rabbi who oversaw the kosher certification of the first batches of his tequila, Siembra Azul.

“The rabbi was thorough and always there,” recalls Suro.  “I was very comfortable with someone who cared that much.”

(Tequila Treasure Bottle Hunters take note:  Only the first three batches of Siembra Azul were ever designated kosher.)

Is It A Hassle?

Depending on the agency you use, your particular distillery, and if your processes and recipes are consistent, you may be subjected to only one on-site audit and subsequent annual fees to continue using the kosher seal.

Other agencies could require unannounced visits by rabbinical field representatives to determine if your brand should continue to carry its hechsher.

What About Going Organic?

dulce vida, tequila, reposadoRichard Sorenson, founder of Dulce Vida Tequila that is both organic and kosher, admits that the company tends to focus more on being certified organic, but doesn’t feel the two certifications “…are mutually exclusive, but go hand-in-hand.”

This helpful article on the EarthKosher website could help you weigh the differences and similarities of the two certifications.

What’s All This Gonna Cost?

Here’s where it gets sticky.

Depending on the brand’s (or distillery’s) needs, an approximate cost could range from $25,000 pesos ($1437.98) per year, to tens of thousands of dollars– per batch!

The price varies from business to business, and from industry to industry.  Your best bet is to get an on-site estimate from a respected agency and then determine…

What’s My ROI on Kosher Tequila? 

Baron-TequilaDepending on which estimates you believe, you could be missing out on your cut of a multi-billion dollar market.

With the spirits industry anxious to tap into Millennials, you might heed the words of Mordy Dicker, Executive Vice President of Business Development for KEDEM/Kayco, who was quoted in this 2015 Kosherfest press release, “‘People think positively about kosher food.  It’s become trendy.’  Dicker said millennials, vegetarians and people who are glucose intolerant can now find what they need in the kosher space.”

Perhaps they should be looking for your tequila or mezcal, as well?

***

If you’re a tequila or mezcal aficionado and want to “keep kosher,” or simply a consumer looking for new kosher sipping experiences to share with your friends and family, we’ll show you how in Part 3.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Happy Hanukkah from Tequila Aficionado

hanaukkah

 

If you’re looking for Kosher agave spirits, we suggest Mexican Moonshine Tequila, Milagro Tequila, Montelobos Mezcal and Baron Tequila.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

How to Get Paid to Drink Tequila:

How you can turn your passion into profits and get paid to drink tequila as a blogger, vlogger, podcaster or author

 

Salud!!