“What occurred with Grey Goose vodka on Thursday clearly shows that our policy of encouraging Yidden to only buy liquors with a reliable hechsher is proper,” said Rabbi Sholem Yehudah Fishbane, Kashrus Administrator for the Chicago Rabbinical Council (CRC). “This time, we got lucky that despite the fact that we the CRC does not list it on there approved list of liquors, it ended up that there actually was someone providing supervision and there were no ingredients which rendered the product non-kosher. Nevertheless, it is a lesson as to how careful we have to be, both in what we consume and how we correspond with each other in this day of instant communication.”
The Grey Goose predicament began when someone innocently called Rabbi Fishbane to ask if Grey Goose unflavored vodka is kosher. “At CRC, we constantly stress that we recommend that people only purchase products which have a reliable hechsher. Yet as a community organization, we do publish a list of liquors which are permissible, and we do a tremendous amount of research before we add any item to the list,” Rabbi Fishbane explained. “When it came to Grey Goose, we heard from two Rabbanim in France, where the vodka is produced, that there may very well be a problem with it.
“Alcohol can be made from a variety of bases, and in France, where grapes are plentiful, there is a probability that it comes from grapes. The Rabbanim alerted us to this issue, and as a result of the questionable source of the alcohol, we of course did not put it on our approved list, but did not put it on the unapproved list either, since we had no proof that the source of the alcohol was from grapes.”
Recently a woman called the CRC office and asked about the kosher status of Grey Goose unflavored vodka. “The office told her that it is not on the approved list, and she posted on social media that it was unapproved. Within a short period of time, word travelled (as it usually does via social media) that was problematic. I happened to be in Florida this week, and someone asked me, ‘What’s the story with the vodka?’ I assumed he was speaking about Baluga Gold, which has an issue of alcohol made from a dairy source, which would render it problematic to consume it with meat. Little did I know that he was referring to the bruhaha that had developed with Grey Goose,” Rabbi Fishbane told Hamodia.
“I quickly called the Rabbanim who we had dealt with in the past, and they informed me that Grey Goose had contracted a special run for the duty-free shops in Israel and that product had a hashgachah. The Rav Hamachshir insisted that the product use a special run of grain alcohol from Strasbourg which had supervision. In addition, the Rav Hamachshir insisted that the entire factory only use this grain alcohol for their unflavored vodka, and actually koshered the machinery beforehand in order to certify the high quality of the hechsher.”
In the end, the Grey Goose unflavored vodka has a hechsher, and the people consuming it were not drinking a product containing stam yeinum. “We were lucky this time, but this only re-enforces the concept that I spoke about recently at the Agudah Convention,” Rabbi Fishbane said. “There is a disconnect in how people act concerning kashrus, and we must be vigilant as to verifying the certification of any product we consume.
“In addition, at this time the entire production is using the special run of alcohol from Strasbourg due to the insistence of the Rav Hamachshir for the Israeli run. However, there is no guarantee that in the future they will continue using only this alcohol, especially since it is more expensive.
“Those who keep kosher would never eat in a restaurant without a reliable hechsher, nor bring products into their homes unless verified to be kosher. The assumption is that prepared food and beverages are not kosher until verified otherwise. I hope this short-lived incident will drive home the idea that we must be extremely careful with any food or drink we consume.”
Updated Thursday, December 2, 2021 at 6:51 pm .