Whisky People #5 – Joshua Hatton

by Oliver Klimek on September 29, 2010

Fact Sheet

Name: Joshua Hatton

Year of Birth: 1973

Place of Residence: Guilford, CT, USA

Profession: Sales and Marketing Manager

Whisky Involvement: Whisky society president, blogger

Portrait

Today is the last day of Sukkot, the week-long Jewish holiday celebrated shortly after the Jewish New Year. As today’s guest is Jewish he had the idea of lining the portrait up with Sukkot, and I am happy to oblige.

But this is not the only reference to Judaism in this issue of Whisky People. Joshua Hatton is the founder and president of the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society and he is also running a blog of the same name that you may already have come across.

Being a New England Scotch addict, Joshua Hatton happend to notice that many of his Jewish friends were just as much into whisky as himself. So in the year 2009, the idea was born to start a unique Whisky Society with a Jewish perspective on Scotch.

Not long after the formation of the society, Josuha started the blog in early 2010. Since 2009, blogging really caught on among the many whisky lovers assembled on Twitter and Facebook, yours truly included. And so Joshua is part of an ever-growing and vital whisky blogging community, a phenomenon the even led John Hansell to dedicate the 2010 Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Pioneer of the Year” award to whisky bloggers in general.

Joshua’s blog features a good variety of whisky reviews with slightly unusual but very entertaining tasting notes that are garnished with images of his taste associations. What sets this blog apart from others is a special categorization of reviewed whiskies by moods. We all know that how you enjoy a whisky is not only a matter of personal taste but also strongly depends on the current mood, so this feature is designed to help you choose the right dram for the moment. There is also an great section of very informative interviews; and if you are a die-hard fan, you can even buy apparel with the society logo via a Cafepress store.

Just as Keith Wood, Joshua is also a member of the Whisky Round Table, a group of twelve whisky bloggers hosting monthly virtual meetings on their blogs.

But Joshua Hatton is not only devoted to whisky. He is the bass guitar player of Kimono Draggin’, an indie rock band playing a style of music that might best be described as “old school avant-garde”, nocticeably influenced by Frank Zappa and Talking Heads. The band has been perfoming since 2003, they have recorded a number of CDs and their touring activity even led them to the renowned German Zappanale festival in 2007.

Just as much as he loves playing the stage excentric, Joshua is also quite a family man enjoying as much of his spare time as possible together with his wife and their two little daughters.

Interview

What brought you to blogging about whisky?

You know, I often wonder about that myself. I’ve had so many false starts when it comes to blogging. I’m into a lot of things; be it music (70’s glam rock, Zappa, punk, pre-punk, classical (Jascha Heifetz being my great grandfather’s 1st cousin), jazz, etc…), Jewish issues, guitar pedals, etc… Somehow this one clicked. Perhaps it’s the passion. Not just for the fluid itself but for the industry as a whole.

Are there any good places to enjoy fine whisky in your area or would you have to go to NYC to have a decent dram?

There is a place in New Haven, CT called The Owl Shop, which is a really nice cigar bar. They’ve got a fair selection of whiskies and an amazing selection of tequilas. But to me (and I’m sure some may give me flack for saying this) cigars and whisky simply do not mix. I love a good whisky, I love a good cigar; I do not love what happens when you mix the two. All of the flavors I loved from the whisky have been demolished by the cigar and via versa. For me, I want a separation of church and state.

Sorry for the rant there. I still need to answer your question, don’t I? Firehouse 12 in New Haven, CT has a decent selection of bourbons but not much in the way of Scotch. There may be some nice places in Hartford (the capitol city of Connecticut) but I don’t get out there much. So yes, I’d head out to NYC if I were going to go dramming.

Although you are American you seem to be pretty much focused on Scotch single malts. What about bourbon or rye?

Very true, Oli. My tastes do lean more toward Scotch malt whiskies. Those and Japanese malts.

I do like a good bourbon, rye or American Single Malt (Hudson & Stranahan’s come to the forefront of my mind). However, I find that they all have a similar flavor profile/backbone that the nuances spring forth from (perhaps due to the fact that American whiskey needs to be matured, by law, in new charred barrels) whereas with Scotch & Japanese malt whiskies can be amazingly varied in flavor (due to peating levels, a wide array of cask finishes, choice of new wood, ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, ex-insert-type-of-wine-here, etc…)

Please understand that the above statement is not to knock American whiskies at all. America simply has a different approach to whiskey. It’s not a bad thing, it’s different. There are some American whiskies I would sip on every day if I could (Hudson, Parker Heritage 27yr, Pappy 20yr, Stranahan’s, Bookers, Eagle Rare 10yr, Catoctin Creek Rye) and a few of which I am waiting with baited breath to be released (Angel’s Envy specifically).

You are a big Glenmorangie fan. How do the recent bottlings compare to the old “Sixteen Men of Tain” range?

I’ve got to say that I’m just very impressed with what Dr. Bill Lumsden (and his team) have been creating as of late. It first hit me with their relaunch in 2007. They’ve upgraded their 10yr to what I feel is a more complex and balanced dram. The Nectar D’or is one of the better Sauternes finished whiskies I’ve tried. While I like the Quinta Ruban (port cask finish), I’ll miss the older Madeira wood.

Then there’s the Signet. Sweet fancy Moshe, that is just a smart dram. Plain and simple. So well composed and unlike any other whisky on the market. A stroke of genius (if you ask me and… you did ask me!).

The Sonnalta PX is, by far, the strongest page on my blog. There may be a reason for it – it’s a sherried Glenmorangie done quite right.

I had the good fortune of tasting their new Finealta a few weeks ago. A brilliant dram. I love the new direction of Glenmorangie.

How much Judaism is there in the JSMWS? Restricting yourself to certified kosher whisky might become a bit monotonous. Or is it all just fun?

Well, the JSMWS is actually a society. I’ve got about 22 members and most of them are, well, Jewish. One is a rabbi and another is nearing completion of his studies at a rabbinical college. With regards to kosher or non-kosher whiskies – that is a hotly debated subject in the whisky-loving Jewish community.

With regards to sherry casks and them not being kosher — there are two schools of thought on this as it relates to the Jewish kosher diet:

Sherry (or ANY wine for that matter) is not kosher unless it meets certain rabbinical guidelines in the production process (which going into all of them would make for a very long email). Let’s just say that wine, throughout history has been used in many religious rituals and the practice of kashering (making kosher) wine was started to ensure that Jews were using Jewish wine for Jewish practices.

So there are some Jews who keep kosher that will say if the whisky was matured in a sherry or wine cask that held non-kosher wine, then that renders the whisky un-kosher. Whisky is kosher-by-nature by the way.

Then there are the kosher keeping Jews who know that the sherry influence on the whisky is less that 1/60th of the actually fluid so they feel it’s OK to drink the whisky. The 1/60th rule came from a biblical or Talmudic passage which I cannot remember right now.

Then, there’s actually a third and much larger school of thought with respects to Jews & Sherry or wine influenced whisky. This school couldn’t care less about the rules and regulation of kosher or non-kosher wines influencing whisky. I am a part of this group. To me, all wines are kosher-by-nature just like grapes are a kosher fruit. I will tell you that I would steer clear of a swine finished whisky, however.

In sum, Judaism plays a huge part in my life and in my whisky life. It’s also fun.

How about your fellow band members? Do they feel the Whisky Groove as well or do they regard you as a weirdo in that respect?

My band members really couldn’t care less about whisky. They respect my love for and knowledge of whisky but the stuff does not click with them. My drummer is a fan of beer and wines and the guitar player/singer is more of a beer & Jagermeister guy.

Common Questions

1. Please share a memorable whisky moment with us. This might be a fantastic dram, someone you met or any other situation that left a deep impression in your memory.

There’s actually a recent one I’d like to share. A few weeks ago, while out in Chicago, I met with a new friend Andy Hogan who is a sales manager with Arran. We were sitting down at Delilah’s talking over some beers and an amazing 36yr old Blackadder Raw Cask whisky when the owner popped over to say hello (neither of have ever met him before). Andy, being the smart sales guy he is, had a full box of Arran whiskies and preceded to give an impromptu tasting to both Mike (Owner of Delilah’s) and I. Before that night, Delilah’s had no Arran expressions on their shelf (Delilah’s, by the way, boasts over 400 whisk(e)ys). After that night, I am happy to announce that Delilah’s stocks Arran whisky! They’re crackers too, it’s no wonder!

2. What percentage of your life do you dedicate to whisky (sleep ignored)? Do you think it should be more or less, or is it just about right?

That’s a tough question. I’m not sure I could calculate it all out and put it into a percentage. I can tell you that a good deal of my life is dedicated to the reviewing of whiskies, evangelizing whisky, running a society with monthly tastings, frequenting whisky tasting events (such as WhiskyFest, Whisky Live, Whisky Guild Cruises, Scotch Malt Whisky Extravaganzas, etc…) and reading about it (both current and older publications).

Is it too much? I don’t think so. I am very stretched, that’s for sure but I feel life is balanced. Who knows, maybe some day I’ll get paid for being a whisky-er. Then I can devote my current work time to full-time whisky-time ;)

3. Your three tips for whisky novices

A) Put all prejudice aside. Whisky is not a drunkard’s drink, it’s not to be knocked back, it’s to be enjoyed the same way wine should be enjoyed (and appreciated).

B) Age doesn’t mean everything. There are some amazing young and fairly inexpensive whiskies out there to try (E.G. for Scotch whisky: Highland Park 12yr, Glenmorangie Original, Glenfarclas 12yr, Old Pulteney 12yr, Balvenie DoubleWood, Springbank 10yr, Ardbeg 10yr, Bowmore Legend – for Japanese whisky: Yamazaki 12yr, Hibiki 12yr – for American Whiskey: Elijah Craig 12yr & 18yr, Rittenhouse Rye 100 Proof, High West Rendezvous Rye… The list can go on)

C) Ask questions and a lot of them! Reach out to bloggers, distilleries, local distributors, etc… People who talk about, make and sell whisky tend to be passionate and would be happy to help you.

4. Your three tips for experienced whisky lovers

Another tough one. I think I have one bit of advice: Help the novices out as much as you can.

5. What was the last dram you had and how did you like it?

The last dram I had was the Glenfarclas 12yr and I liked it quite a bit. It’s like the Glenfarclas 15yr old’s perfectly behaved little brother.

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