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Opinion: What if Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible reviews were written by a woman?

Published:  28 September, 2020

Backlash around sexually charged descriptions used in critic Jim Murray’s annual Whisky Bible has ignited debates around the double standard for the treatment of men and women both inside and outside of the whisky industry.

Whisky giants Bacardi and Beam Suntory have since distanced themselves from the 2020 publication after its reviews were called out on Instagram. Murray himself has refused to bow to criticism.

Here, marketing consultant Racheal Vaughan Jones, who has worked with Murray in the past, asks what if the boot were on the other (gender’s) foot?

The world of whisk(e)y has been slowly making steps toward becoming a more inclusive, non-sexist industry. But it certainly feels, thanks in part to Becky Paskin’s recent call-out of the uncomfortably lewd and demeaning language of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, that the sector is finally having its own “me too” moment.

I have been passionate about whisky since it was first rubbed on my gums to help with teething as a toddler, spent half of my career working on a world-leading Scotch brand, and have various whisky-related passion projects in the pipeline. In all this time, one thing is for sure – if you are a woman who shows interest in, works with or, God forbid, actually enjoys whisky, then get ready to be viewed as a pariah.

“How can this be so?”, “Whisky is so strong, powerful, not for the feeble female palate!” and “But what would you rather drink, really?” are all common to hear.

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible takes this one step further, regularly using the objectification of women and unnecessary tales of his sexual encounters to regale the tasting experience of his latest favourite. Amongst my peers, there has been an outpouring of support for Paskin and a sense of relief that 'finally' someone said what we had all been thinking. But as with all overdue movements, if you look a little closer, you’ll find those that think this is an opportunistic power grab, that Murray's sexualisation of women is only in jest and that all the silly women should pipe down. Not to mention Murray's own defiant response and accusations of bullying. Well, that’s bollocks, and to prove a point I thought it would be fun to imagine a few whisky reviews* as if Jim were instead a sexist woman.

*No real whiskies were harmed/named in the writing of this article

Ballydovan 21YO Scotch, 42%

This whisky has a full and robust punch that slaps you round the mouth in the same way you might approach a 21-year-old Scottish man’s rump. Smooth and long, the finish lasts better than some of the midnight encounters I’ve had, whilst the delicate spice simulates the somewhat pleasant feel of a stubbled chin against the lips.

Glentochan 12YO Scotch, 40% ABV

On first impression, this whisky is a little limp and disappointing on the nose but, once taken into the mouth, has a satisfying fullness that would quiet even the most demanding of palates. The firmness of the higher ABV is not overpowering but provides some much-needed lubrication for the ripe and bulging fruitcake notes.

Aberteldevan 15YO Blended Scotch, 40% ABV

If this whisky could be sexed, it would be male. This blend refuses to seduce and every new encounter is somewhat overpowering, each bottling with its own unusual musk. Overripe and stewed stoned fruits dominate unexpectedly, and the occasional smattering of smoke promiscuously peeps its head from bottle to bottle.

Appetising? I think not.