In spite of the size of the Polish Jewish community before its extermination by the Nazis, kosher vodkas are a relatively recent invention, with the exception of an episodic history in Silesia, where the distillation of plum eau-de-vie is more common. The latest example comes from a man named Zygmunt Nissenbaum, a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto and the founder of a foundation that bears his name. In 1987, he began making a kosher vodka in partnership with Polmos. Its production is inspected yearly by rabbis, and the rules specify that the water used must come from an inhabited region and must not be used for agricultural purposes. The bottles must be sterilized before each use. The process has to be completely automated, without human intervention at any stage, from distillation to bottling. The equipment must be used only for this purpose.
Such rules raise production costs, but the brand has had a great deal of commercial success, both in Poland and on export markets, an indication of its quality. The Nissenbaum Foundation has set up its own distillery in Bielsko-Biala, with a range of grainand potato-based vodkas (under the brand Nisskosher), as well as an herb-flavoured version. They have been approved by the American Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations. Profits are used for the renovation of Jewish cemetreies and monuments in Poland.
Inspired by the success of these kosher vodkas, other Polish distilleries have created their own: Bielsko-Biala’s Happy; Zielona Gora’s Koszerna; Poznan’s Herzl; and Lancut’s David, Rebeka and Judyta. Many of these vodkas are slightly flavoured with a little fruit eau-de-vie.