Even though Hershey Park is replete with incredible action rides, roller coasters (home of the Sooper Dooper Looper, one of the nation’s first steel-track, loop roller coasters) and other great attractions, one of my favorite parts of a trip to Hershey remains the Chocolate Factory ride at Chocolate World. While patrons once took an actual tour through the chocolate factory itself (the factory is set just a couple hundred yards beyond the park) modern health and safety requirements have put the kibosh on that, so these days we need to settle for a cart ride through a simulated chocolate plant. No matter…even as a small child I loved the Chocolate World ride. I think my interest in the bitter cacao seed’s reduction to chocolate gold flashed early my future bewilderment at the alchemy that turns barley and yeast into golden malt whisky.
I ask you to join me now on a short ride. Step inside and let me provide a brief tour of how we cultivated Single Cask Nation, from a seedling to its culmination.
Joshua and I (Seth) met through mutual membership in our temple. Realizing we both enjoy malt whisky, Joshua started organizing a monthly gathering of temple members. We travelled from house to house, hosting themed whisky nights. We jokingly took on the name “Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society.” Joshua immersed himself in everything whisky over the next few years and began blogging. Before we knew it, he had garnered acclaim as a world-renowned whisky blogger and reviewer. Along his journey, he met Jason, a displaced Scot raised in Ayr, also with international acclaim as a whisky blogger and reviewer. The two collaborated on several projects, including the founding of The Whisky Roundtable, an affiliation of twelve whisky bloggers that comments on topics of interest to the whisky world. Jason travelled across the country to join Joshua and Seth at a special whisky tasting event that Joshua organized at the temple, where Sam Simmons, International Brand Ambassador for The Balvenie, came to present the Balvenie range to over 60 temple members and friends. Clearly the Jewish community showed an interest in social programming based on malt whisky.
Jason was impressed with the turnout and the tenor of that very successful event. There were many non-Jewish members of the Connecticut Shoreline community present, joining the Jewish community for Scotch in the Sukkah (the event was organized around the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, where Jews celebrate freedom by feasting in temporary huts – “sukkot” – that symbolize the temporary desert dwellings of the ancient Hebrews in the 40 years of wandering after liberation from enslavement in Egypt). Joshua and Jason noted the potential to bring this interesting cultural twist to a mass audience. The notion of organizing a society devoted both to whisky enthusiasm and to Jewish cultural flair (including sensitivity to kashrut) was enticing.
Joshua and Jason determined to form an America-based independent bottler of single cask whiskies. They consulted with me and ultimately brought me into the partnership for my interest, ideas and skill set, as well as for my participation from the earliest days. Since then, the three of us formulated and honed our business model, drafted a business plan, raised money and set about utilizing our industry contacts to bring our vision to fruition. Along the way there have been pitfalls and obstacles, but we have been quite fortunate to overcome them all.
A watershed moment was our business trip to Scotland in March, 2012, as detailed in my earlier series of blog posts. That trip was highly successful for the contacts made, lessons learned, bonding accomplished, and excitement generated. It became abundantly clear that there would be no looking back from that point on. We confirmed our hypothesis that the Scotch Whisky community would buy in to our plan as several distilleries lined up to offer their casks for sale to us, many of which were offering us exclusive access.
Next, we had to get our distribution chain up and running. We have been fortunate to work with incredible importers and a few choice distributors and retailers to ensure the smooth delivery of our fine expressions to Nation members.
With that chain in place, we were able to design labels for submission to the TTB (Tax and Trade Bureau) of the US ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms). Quite fortunately our labels ALL PASSED on the first attempt, which is rare. Credit to Joshua for consulting with the right advisors to ensure passage. The best news is that our whisky is now bottled, labeled and being shipped across the Atlantic. We are proud and excited and we think that our Founding Members, and soon-to-be members, will all be overjoyed when the welcome bottles arrive at their doors.
Along the way, a couple interesting demographic developments surprised us to a degree (but not really, when we reflect back on the statistics). We are generating a good deal of interest among the broad whisky-loving world, and also among women. So far, about 60% of our membership is comprised of non-Jewish whisky enthusiasts and about 15% of our membership is comprised of women! We are thrilled at the diversity of our membership and welcome all.
Despite that I have detailed you on the foundations of our Nation, the Whisky World Ride is only just beginning. We encourage you to remain seated and keep your hands and feet inside the ride until the ride has come to a complete stop.
L’Chaim & Slainte
On the topic of Heshey Park, our kosher observant members would be happy to learn that Hershey Park is a leader in accommodating kashrut. They have a kosher food stand right on the main fairway of the park, serving hotdogs, schnitzel, knishes, etc.
For all members of Single Cask Nation, it is good to know that the historic Hotel Hershey and Spa has a decent Single Malt Scotch Whisky menu in its Iberian Lounge. If you visit, be sure to eat a world-class dinner (with incredible chocolate desserts) in the award-winning Circular Dining Room, where you can order malts from the Iberian Lounge menu. Sure, it ain’t single CASK scotch, but it’ll do to take the edge off a family trip! …And if that’s not enough, be sure to stop in the spa for the famous chocolate spa treatment (Heaven).