This is the fourth installment of my 10-4-10 series of interviews with people who are swirling winningly in the wide world of whisk(e)y. Up this time is Joshua Hatton, the President and CEO of Jewish Whisky Company, Single Cask Nation.
Thanks again to Joshua for taking the time to provide detailed informative answers to my ten questions; and here goes….
- What was the impetus behind the creation of JWC/SCN?
- From 2008 – 2010 I was actively looking to leave my current profession as a Director of Sales and Marketing for a manufacturer of Industrial Storage Supplies for something that was more near and dear to my heart: whisky. I spent a good amount of time looking for band ambassadorial work but for various reasons things never did work out for me as a brand ambassador. As a lover of independent bottlers and all of the special, and given my entrepreneurial spirit, starting my own independent bottling company seemed the way to go. I brought the idea to my friend and fellow whisky blogger, Jason Johnstone-Yellin, and he loved it. I instantly asked him to be my VP.
- Thankfully we have many friends and contacts within the industry that have supported us from the beginning to help get the company started. We went from bottling 3 casks in our first year to upwards of 18 casks in 2015. We hope to bottle around the same in 2016 – we shall see…
- Please explain how JWC/SCN membership works.
- Currently there are three levels of membership: White Lite Level, White Level, Silver Level.
- Regardless of your level of membership, purchasing your Single Cask Nation membership allows Nation members exclusive access to all our whisky releases. This is the number one benefit as a member of Single Cask Nation.
- Our $36 White-Lite membership level simply grants you access to our whiskies.
- White Level, provides Nation members with a full 750ml “Welcome Bottle” of one of our finest Single Cask, Natural Cask Strength Whiskies available. The choice of “Welcome Bottle” is completely up to the new Nation member. White Level members also receive two Single Cask Nation whisky posting glasses, a membership card, SCN or JWC t-shirt, and a copy of the latest Malt Whisky Yearbook by Ingvar Rhonde. Membership lasts one year and can be renewed for only $36.
- Silver Levelmembership allows new members to choose 2 full 750ml “Welcome Bottles” (again, new members get to choose the welcome bottles). Silver Level members also receive 6 SCN nosing glasses, membership card, copy of the latest Malt Whisky Yearbook, an SCN embroidered work shirt, and no membership renewal fees until the 4th year of membership.
- Unlike a wine-of-the-month club, we will not ship members any whisky they have not ordered or do not want. As a member of Single Cask Nation, you will have complete control of your purchases and choice of your “Welcome Bottle(s).”
- Did you have any “this is not going to work” moments that you would like to share?
- As with any new business, there have been rocky moments but we are continually amazed that we run this fantastic business. No, we always knew this was the right thing to be doing!
- Where do you see JWC in five years?
- Wow – interesting question. We do have a 5 year plan as well as a 10 year plan. However, much of it is very hush-hush. All I can say is “watch this space.”
- Care to share what bottles you will be launching this upcoming year?
- We’re very excited about the 28yo Bunnahabhain & 10yo Loch Lomond we just bottled. That will arrive to the US in a couple of months. We *just* released a 2yo Westland single malt that was chosen by us and 20 SCN members at the distillery. Also in the pipeline are the following: 8yo Craigellachie (sherry matured), 10yo American Light Whiskey (two different casks), Glen Moray Madeira Cask (6 years bourbon matured, 6 years Madeira matured). We’ve got a few other casks up our sleeves…
- What have you learned about the world of whisky that has surprised you?
- The stark differences between independent bottling as it’s done in Scotland as compared to how it’s done in the US. In Scotland, and our model follows suit, on the label is the bottler’s name and the name of the distillery where the whisky was produced. Here in the US, it’s more common to create a brand around whiskey produced at this distillery or that (usually MGP). As a result, our ability to source American spirits *and* put the distillery name on the label is limited. That said, we have bottled whiskey (both rye and light whiskey) from the Midwest Grain Products distillery (MGP) and put their name on the label. To our knowledge, we’re the first and only bottler to do this.
- Do you have particular SCN favorites? They are…
- While I am proud of all our bottlings, right up there would be the 6yo Laphroaig we bottled and the 2yo heavily peated, sherry cask matured Westland. That said, our 18yo Glen Elgin, 12yo Glen Moray and 13yo Arran are nothing to shake a stick at. I find these whiskies in my glass quite often (well, the ones we still have stock on that is).
- Do you collect any whiskies from around the world?
- I’m a terrible collector in that I open nearly every bottle I own. I do have some bottles that I have duplicates of so I don’t mind opening only one of them and I do have some that I’ll open *at the right time*
- With regards to whiskies from around the world — before Jim Murray gave his “Whisky of the Year” award to the Yamazaki sherry cask, I had quite a few Japanese whiskies in my collection. Karuizawa, Chichibu, Hanyu, Yamazaki, Chita, Hakushu, Yoichi… you name it. Whiskies from these various distilleries are now untouchable and that saddens me greatly.
- We have met at the Saratoga Whisky Obsession Festival several times. Tell us more about your Whisky Jewbilee events.
- Whisky Jewbilee is a festival we started in 2012 and is now in three cities. We started in NYC but have expanded to Chicago and Seattle. In short, Whisky Jewbilee is a festival for whisky geeks by whisky geeks.
- We cap the attendance for all of our events to ensure that attendees can comfortably move around and have a chance to talk with the exhibitors behind the table. What’s more is we have a no models policy. Everyone behind a table at Whisky Jewbilee must be distillery or brand direct and be able to talk in depth about their brands.
- At any given Whisky Jewbilee event, attendees can expect 40 exhibitor tables which will have between 80-100 brands, and a total of 200-300 different whiskies.
- There is no VIP hour, everyone is treated as VIP and we ask our exhibitors to bring in special bottles to pour for those that are truly interested in their brands (not just asking for the oldest/most expensive stuff).
- We are the only American whisky festival that features a special festival bottling to celebrate the event. So far we’ve worked with Heaven Hill, High West, Westland Distillery, MGP, and Wild Turkey for our festival bottlings. On Sept 1st we will have our 2nd annual Whisky Jewbilee Chicago event and our partner for that festival bottling will be Chicago’s Koval distillery. We will be bottling one of their oldest single cask bourbons for that event.
- All of the food served at Whisky Jewbilee event is kosher so that all can comfortably enjoy the event. While this is the “Jewbilee,” the event is focused on Whisk(e)y first and foremost. *All lovers and appreciators of brown spirits are welcome*
And do you have a fun or unusual story or experience when speaking with attendees at any festivals that you have participated?
- Two stories for you:
o A few weeks prior to Whisky Jewbilee NYC 2016, I found out that a friend of mine from NYC was good friends with my favorite comic book writer (Garth Ennis, writer of Judge Dredd, Hellblazer, Punisher, and among many other things, Preacher which is now a TV show on AMC) and that that writer was also a fan of brown spirits. I asked Garth to be my guest at Whisky Jewbilee and he graciously accepted the invitation. Having a chance to share whisky and pints with him made the 6 months of planning for our event that much more meaningful.
o This next story is a heart touching one (for me). One of our table runners needed me to talk to an attendee of our most recent NYC event. At first, I thought something may have gone wrong and I wanted to make sure all was fine. I went to meet the table runner and the gentleman that needed to speak with me. The gentleman pulled me to the side and said to me, quietly, in my ear, “you’re treating the Jewish people with respect.”
o Now, we do our very best to make sure that ALL are welcome. Jew, Gentile, men, women; all are welcome. But there is no other event like ours that makes sure kosher-keeping Jews are fully taken care of. I guess this gentleman saw and felt what we were doing with the event and it touched him enough that he had to tell me how much he appreciated our hard work. That made me feel great.
- Are there authors, bloggers, tweeters that you recommend readers of this site follow?
First and foremost, I highly suggest everyone stay up-to-date with Malt Whisky Yearbook. It is THE source for yearly updates on all things malt whisky related. I’ve always been a fan of Dave Broom as a whisky writer. My go-to blogs tend to be: whiskyfun.com and whiskynotes.be. maltimpostor.com is amazingly good fun though you may need to bring a dictionary and some sort of pop culture guide that spans from 623 BCE to today to fully grasp what they’re doing.
As a proud member of SCN, I can attest to the high quality whisky members and the general public will find through this young and growing independent bottler. Again, thank you to Joshua for participating in my 10-4-10 series.
Here are additional ways to check out JWC/SCN:
JWC Twitter: @jewishwhiskyco SCN Twitter: @monocaskism
I raise a glass to local entrepreneurs bringing us more great whisky!