Whisky Jewbilee is moving up in the world. The kosher whisky event that started in 2012 when the much bigger WhiskyFest New York shifted from a Tuesday evening to a less Jew-friendly Sabbath timing, has announced its plan for 2014 and it involves moving itself up in terms of esteem, calendar and just plain location.
The headline change is a June 17 date. As WhiskyFest New York goes back to a weeknight (Wednesday, October 29), Whisky Jewbilee has moved its date up to the early summer and severed the calendar connection to Whisky Advocate’s massive event. With the fall holidays — and co-founder Joshua Hatton’s significant wedding anniversary — sprinkled throughout September and October, the organization decided to move to an “underserved time frame.” Hence June.
I put it to Hatton that it’s underserved for good reasons — June, and the summer in general, is neither a time to come to the city nor is it a time to drink dark liquor. He responded by saying that they knew the risks but the organizers were willing, with pun intended, “to take a leap of faith.” And he stressed that tickets, at $110 each, were selling strongly with 80% already “allocated” since they were put on sale in early February. The proof (again pun intended) of the choice will be in the attendance.
When WhiskyFest announced in 2011 that it would move to a weekend format, the Forward noted that it would be abandoning traditionally-observant Jews who made up a significant proportion of the attendees.
Into the breach stepped Whisky Jewbilee — from the founders of Single Cask Nation — providing a non-Sabbath, kosher-keeping option for Jewish whisky drinkers of which The New York Times assures us there are many.
After two highly successful Jewbilees (in 2012 and 2013), WhiskyFest has decided to move to Wednesday night October 29 for its 2014 New York event. That’s two weeks after Sukkot, for those keeping track. This sensitivity to its clientele is limited to New York — Chicago WhiskyFest will be on a Friday night and San Francisco WhiskyFest will be held on Friday night, Kol Nidre.
John Hansell, editor and publisher of Whisky Advocate — the organizer of WhiskyFest — noted that the “primary reason” for the switch:
Is that we want the New York seminar day to be the best whisky event anywhere. To achieve this, we need to have substantial quantities of incredibly rare whiskies procured for an audience of several hundred whisky enthusiasts; this is extremely difficult to accomplish on an annual basis.
Apparently the world’s premier whisky event can’t manage a two-day seminar every year without the Jews.
So WhiskyFest wants the Jews back, but will the Scotch-quaffing Heebs go back to WhiskyFest? Joshua Hatton from Whisky Jewbilee thinks the jury is out.
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.
He assures the Forward that, though the 2014 date for Whisky Jewbilee is yet to be set, it is definitely going ahead. The kosher food will be there, the cigar options will expand and the opportunities for schmoozing will be greater than ever.
The largest whisky event of the year took place last weekend at the Marriott Marquis. Stretching from sundown Friday to a later Saturday night, WhiskyFest NY was attended by hundreds of aficionados of the pungent malt. Sadly, I couldn’t make it this year, but I managed to stop by the first so-called “Whisky Jewbilee” run by Single Cask Nation just before the weekend.
Single Cask Nation is an attempt to turn a hobby into a business. Joshua Hatton, Jason Johnstone-Yellin and Seth Klaskin took what began as a blog and the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society and turned it into a niche bottler and importer of whisky. Though I was interested to see (and taste) what the hosts had found to put in their bottles, my expectations were fairly low. The location was a synagogue hall on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, I didn’t recognize the names of many of the whiskies being poured and the price seemed high at $75 (though, full disclosure, members of the press were not charged).