For years, Jim Murray’s self-published Whisky Bible was regarded as an authoritative source. And, for years, industry workers complained about the language and veracity of the reviews. The dam finally broke this week.
Following whisky expert, Becky Paskin’s viral critique of Murray’s sexist language, a slew of big players including Diageo, Bacardi, Beam Suntory, William Grant & Sons, Chivas, the Scotch Whisky Association, and the Whisky Exchange condemned the Whisky Bible.
After Murray released the latest printing of his book, Paskin took to social media to decry 34 different whisky descriptions invoking sex. She noted that an expression from Wales’ Penderyn Distillery, an all female team, was given the following description.
“If this was a woman, I’d want to make love to it every night. And in the morning. And afternoon, if I could find the time… and energy…”
In another case, Murray fantasizes about a whisky joining him in a threesome. Of Gelmorangie’s Artisan expression, he writes.
“If whisky could be sexed, this would be a woman. Every time I encounter Morangie Artisan, it pops up with a new look, a different perfume. And mood. It appears not to be able to make up its mind. But does it know how to pout, seduce and win your heart…?
Murray also enters this gem about Canadian Club Chronicles, Water of Windsor. “Have I had this much fun with a sexy 41-year-old Canadian before? Well, yes I have. But it was a few years back now and it wasn’t a whisky. Was the fun we had better? Probably not.”
As Paskin’s posts racked up shares and likes, Big Booze responded. Most major whisky producers released statements condemning the language and distancing themselves from Murray. Most companies used the term “disappointed”.
Diageo was “disappointed” by the descriptions “which directly contravenes our values”.
Bacardi was “extremely disappointed by some of the language used in many of the publication’s product reviews.”
“The full edition of Whisky Bible was not available to us prior to the announcement of ‘World Whisky of the Year,’ and we would like to thank the writers who have rightly voiced concerns about the objectification of women in many of Mr. Murray’s reviews,” the distiller added. “Language and behavior of this kind have been condoned for too long in the spirits industry, and we agree that it must stop. As a result, we are reevaluating all planned programming that references this recognition.”
Likewise, the Whisky Exchange stopped selling the book altogether. In a statment, they explained, “we are passionate about making whisky inclusive and accessible for everyone, and we do not feel that some of his comments that have come to light in the recent edition represent this ethos or the future of the whisky community.”
Murray, a Fleet Street veteran, granted an interview to The Times. He was not apologetic in the slightest. “Whisky deals with sensuality, so, therefore for some whiskies I may refer to sex, because that is what the whisky may remind me of. If it does, then I say so,” he told Mike Wade. “ If people can’t handle that, then fine. Don’t buy the Whisky Bible.”
“If I’m upsetting the woke, the intolerant, the humourless, the pompous and the whisky snobs, then I’ll lose no sleep over that.”
Then, he took aim at Paskin, an iconic figure in the whisky world. “This lady is entitled to her opinion, just as I am, about a whisky. The big difference is that while I have spent time to get to know and understand the spirit before making a critique, this person hasn’t a clue as to who I am at all.
“Frankly, it’s all as pathetic as it is predictable.”
Paskin was unfazed by the dense. She later wrote that she was proud to be woke.
The Keepr of Quaich was not alone. Even the notoriously conservative and reserved (except regarding trademarks) Scotch Whisky Association issued a statement labeling Murray’s work “offensive”.
“Sexism and objectification have no place in our industry,” the SWA declared. “We do not support it.”