Jim Murray's Whisky Bible has come under fire for sexist remarks - and has been de-listed from many retailers, with industry support.

Whisky journalist, co-founder of Our Whisky and former Scotchwhisky.com editor Becky Paskin recently called out the self-published author of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, on his sexist remarks in the latest whisky guide.

The controversial but highly anticipated guide often does not feature Scottish whiskies in its top ten, leading to many comments on social media, but the sexually explicit nature of some of the remarks aren’t often pointed out.

The latest guide once again had no Scottish whiskies in its top three, with a Canadian rye whisky taking the top spot.

It was Murray’s comments on this whisky, plus a number of others, that led Becky Paskin to tweet a thread of the most controversial aspects of the guide, which compares whisky to sex and seducing women.

Posting on 20 September Becky wrote: “This post will no doubt attract some hate comments, but something needs to be said. Why does the whisky industry still hold Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible in such high regard when his tasting notes are so sexist and vulgar?

“In the 2020 edition there are 34 references to whisky being ‘sexy’ and many more crudely comparing drinking whisky to having sex with women.

“Penderyn is made by an all-female team of distillers and blenders, yet this is how he refers to their whisky: “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…” (Penderyn Celt)

“Murray refers to Canadian Club Chronicles, Water of Windsor as: “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.”

The list goes on, with Murray referring to maltiness as how a ‘sex addict revels in a threesome’ and ‘If whisky could be sexed, this would be a woman.’

Becky concludes with: “Despite sexually explicit language being a mainstay of Murray’s reviews, his ‘bible’ is still held in high regard by brands and whisky lovers when it’s published every year.”

Speaking of her posts and the decision to speak out now, Becky said: “People keep asking me, ‘why now?’ and the answer is, it hasn’t only just come up now, everyone’s been talking about it.

“But I think it just needed something to be written in black and white. And for someone to say, ‘Hey, guys, look, this is actually a thing. Here it is, you can’t refute this evidence that sexism in whisky is a thing.’ I think it’s more deep rooted than just Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.

“I think brands are appalled by what they’ve seen, and it’s not something that they stand for. The whole industry has been striving towards gender diversity – not just Scotch, but the whole industry – striving towards gender, race diversity and equality for so long.

“When this was brought to their attention, the immediate reaction is ‘we can’t support that.’ I think that’s why (the focus on this) has come about now, because no one really noticed and I completely sympathise. ”

Becky says she would like to see this discussion around sexism in the whisky industry continue, resulting it being stamped out.

“This is a discussion around stamping out sexism in whisky. And I think the reason why this has blown up as as big as it has, is because so many people have now come out with their own stories, and identified with some of the things that have been said.

“This is whisky’s me too movement. This is our moment, and it’s our time’s up movement, as well.

“The stories coming out of women being harassed through to occasional unconscious bias, with remarks such as ‘do you even like whisky?’

“We’ve been talking about this for years, but it has never really been taken seriously. And no one’s really said or done anything to stop it.

“There are brand values within companies, which say that they that they don’t condone sexist behaviour. But then again, what frameworks are in place to stop this?”

While more and more women are working in whisky, it is still very much seen as a man’s drink, something which the marketing companies and campaigns need to take a look at, advises Becky.

A former national newspaper journalist, Mr Murray has said to The Times: “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 said. “ 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.

He added, in reference to Becky’s comments, that he thinks this is about free speech rather than sexism, saying: “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.”

When asked to reply to these comments, Becky said: “I’m proud to be woke, it’s a positive thing. I am genuinely proud to champion equality and diversity in the industry that I love.”

Industry response

Since her tweets and Instagram post, many brands in Scotland, Ireland and beyond have come forward in support and to de-list the Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible from sale. The Whisky Exchange  being one of the first followed by Irish Whiskey Magazine.

At the time of writing, Glenfiddich has also voiced their support of Becky’s comments and highlighted their stance against sexism in the industry, saying: “We at Glenfiddich fully support Becky Paskin in calling time on sexism in whisky. It has no place in our industry.

“Her comments have inspired us to review the partners that we work with so we can be part of building a whisky community that is more open and inclusive.

“It is never easy to be brave and take a stand so thank you for this Becky.”

The team at Irish Whiskey magazine commented on de-listing the book, saying: “Last year Irish Whiskey Magazine acquired sole distribution rights in Ireland to Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible.

“Given the revelations over the past few days we have ceased this distribution arrangement and upon learning of the content immediately removed the publication from our store.

“We find the nature and tone of some of the content to be completely inappropriate. They do not have a place in an industry which has come a long way in providing equal opportunity and respect for women.”

One of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, the Glenturret also threw its support behind Becky, by saying: “At The Glenturret we will not be collaborating with Jim Murray or stocking his books.

“We do not support sexist behaviour in our industry and we will work with our peers and partners towards a future where this does not exist. Thank you Becky Paskin for standing up and speaking out.”

The Scotch Whisky Association has also tweeted a statement of support, saying that whisky is for everyone.

Beam Suntory has also come forward to say: “While we are honored that our Alberta Premium Cask Strength rye whisky was named “World Whisky of the Year” by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2021, we are 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…

“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.”

The sheer number of companies supporting Becky’s comments and removing the book from sale shows a turn in the tide for the whisky industry, which hopefully sparks real, tangible change.

 

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About The Author

Rosalind Erskine

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related.

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