by Jeremy M. Ben-David, Founder, Managing Partner
If you have read this far (yes, I know this is just the beginning), then you probably have some degree of interest in the caramel colored alcoholic beverage that is estimated to be worth about 88 billion dollars in 2023 as per the Statista website. If you are now frowning at my characterization of your favorite drink, then it’s clear that you know when a whisky (without the letter ‘e’) is not a whiskey (with an ‘e’), and that the former normally refers to those such spirits originating in Scotland, Canada, and Japan and the latter to those from the US and Ireland, as per the Oak and Eden website.
The fact is, origin does matter, probably no less than the type of whisky (I’m going for the Scottish spelling) and an abundance of other parameters which are of great importance to whisky connoisseurs which, by the way, I am not. Full disclosure: I like whisky, but other than my preference for peaty or smokey whisky, and my snobbish preference of single malts, I really couldn’t tell you much else.
So why am I discussing this? I’ll tell you.
We have just celebrated the Jewish New Year 5784. In our firm, as in many places of work up and down the country, it is customary to raise a glass to the New Year. During our ‘lechayim’ (defined here as a ‘Jewish drinking toast’) I made reference to the ‘Slingshot Bourbon’ that was in my glass. It was at this point that Avraham Hermon (a partner in our firm and host to our Israel Technology Founders Speak podcast) corrected me, and said that I couldn’t refer to the particular spirit that I was drinking as ‘Bourbon’ as that moniker was reserved to such drinks produced in the US. He was, of course, correct. However, that got me thinking about the issue of legal descriptors, trademarks, appellations of origin (see Ivan Lipshitz’s recent post on this subject) and how much it all matters to the man or woman in the street – or does not.
I mentioned ‘Slingshot’ above. Said beverage is produced by the Legends Distillery founded a few years ago in Israel, and producer of a fine spirit characterized on their website as “Bourbon Style Whiskey made in Israel”. I am generally not a fan of Bourbon, but this non-Bourbon beverage has grown on me.
And should you be wondering about such beverages made in Israel, it is true that that our country has become famous for its hi-tech, water technologies, defense systems, cyber capabilities and so on. However, over the past couple of decades our ancient wine industry of 2,000 years ago has undergone a renaissance, spawning hundreds of wineries up and down the country, and following on from that, the past few years have seen the advent of a spirits industry, resulting in a handful of distilleries. In addition to the Legends Distillery, one of the finest whisky enterprises in the country is the M&H Whisky Distillery in Tel Aviv which won “the world’s best single malt in the “World’s Whiskies Awards” competition“ as reported in Whisky Magazine. Fine whiskies and spirits are also produced by the Golan Heights Distillery as well as by the Yerushalmi Distillery ; and it is on the original product of the latter, that I wish to focus.
I am referring to the Yerushalmi “Mount Moriah” product. The casual observer, on picking up the bottle, will see a whisky colored liquid inside which, according to the label, is Israeli, peated, single malt and small batch. It even has a description referring to the fact that it is ‘double oak matured etc….’. As far as I recall, it is slightly peaty, and goes down very easily. I have had it on a number of occasions, and I like it very much.
So, what’s missing from the Mount Moriah label?
The word ‘whisky’ (with or without an ‘e’) is missing. It is nowhere to be found(!)
When I first noticed this, I realized that the missing ‘whisky’ descriptor has to do with the fact that in the hot climate of Israel, whisky (and whisky-like spirits) take significantly less time to mature than, for example, in the cool climes of a distillery in Islay or any other whisky producing region of Scotland. Therefore, an Israeli whisky can mature for, let’s say, three years and taste like a much more mature whisky, with none of the roughness of a young whisky. On the other hand, a Scotch whisky that has been in the cask for less than 3 years, cannot be called ‘whisky’. Call it what you want, just not whisky. And bearing in mind that this particular Yerushalmi beverage had spent less than 3 years in the cask, and the desire to be in accord with what has now become an internationally accepted standard, the one word missing from the label was ‘whisky’.
But did it bother me? No. Not one iota. As far as I know, my friends who enjoy a finger of liquid gold now and again are also not bothered by the absence of the ‘w’ word from the label. The fact is, we know what we’re drinking and it tastes good.
My point is as follows.
We regard our profession with the utmost seriousness, and rightly so. We certainly take our commitment to our clients’ business and intellectual property matters seriously, and believe that intellectual property laws across the board, especially trademarks, appellations of origin and other regulated descriptors, are essential to our well-being, both physical and economic.
But sometimes, we simply have to take ourselves not quite too seriously or overthink certain things (such as whiskey).
So, glass in hand, I wish you a happy New Year. A year of health, meaning and prosperity, from wherever you are reading this.