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Row over kosher Johnnie Walker whisky

Johnnie Walker is at the centre of a row in Israel over claims not all of its bottles have been accurately certified as kosher.

As reported by The Scotsman the Israeli Chief Rabinnate, head of religious law and spiritual authority for Jewish people in Israel, has revoked the kosher certification for Paneco, one of only two importers of Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky. Shops and restaurants are now being told to remove these bottles from their shelves.

It follows a dispute over the company not having carried out a formal inspection of Diageo’s distillery in Scotland, and instead basing their certification on a rival importer checks.

Israel’s other Johnnie Walker importer, Israel Beer Breweries Ltd Spirits (IBBLS), paid to fly inspectors to Scotland to inspect the whisky brand’s facilities and ensure they complied with regulations for kosher status.

Paneco do not carry out checks, but maintain their Johnnie Walker is kosher because it is the same product.

“All products sold on are completely and solely original”, said a spokesman for Paneco. “The Johnnie Walker whisky products sold on the site are created by the primary manufacturer at the Diageo distillery in Scotland, and is the exact same product being marketed by a competing company in Israel, which holds the kosher certification for the product.”

This has led to the Chief Rabbinate to urge a boycott of Paneco-supplied Johnnie Walker in stores, businesses and restaurants.

Generally speaking, most whisky is kosher as it is made from grain rather than wine. However as many distilleries use wine or Sherry casks to age their spirit, checks must be carried out to ensure that products conform to the regulations of kashrut, or Jewish dietary law.

A spokesman for Diageo said: “While we are happy to share information about our brands, we respect that consumers themselves must choose whether to enjoy scotch whisky according to their own circumstances.
“We don’t comment on issues relating to third party distributors, but it must be stressed that there is no question about the quality and provenance of any of our scotch whisky brands.”

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