Jim Murray

Calls to delist “sexist” Whisky Bible

September 22, 2020
By Alana House

There are growing calls for the 2021 Jim Murray Whisky Bible to be delisted in stores due to its “sexist” language and the winner of this year’s Whisky of the Year has publicly distanced itself from the accolade.

Whisky writer Becky Paskin raised concerns about the annual whisky guide on Twitter, noting that there are 34 references to “whisky being ‘sexy’” with many more “crudely comparing drinking whisky to having sex with women”.

His entry for a Canadian whisky, for example, said: “Have I had this much 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.”

Paskin said: “I have been aware of some of the ways he has described whiskies in the past and cringed but then got on with my day. But I managed to get hold of a copy of the 2021 edition and went through it to pick out some of the most disgusting reviews that were in there and it was really shocking. I had anticipated a couple, but there were more than I could have imagined.

“It came out now because I don’t think we should be making excuses for people like that anymore. One person should not have so much power that they can get away with saying or doing anything they want.”

The Whisky Exchange was the first to delist the book, saying it is “passionate about making the world of whisky inclusive and accessible for everyone”.

Beam Suntory’s Alberta Premium Cask Strength rye whisky won ‘World Whisky of the Year’ in this year’s Whisky Bible, the first time a Canadian whisky has taken out the title. However, the company has moved to publicly distance itself from Jim Murray.

Beam Suntory said: “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.

Alberta Distillery

In another statement, Beam Suntory said: “We have halted all promotions surrounding the latest edition and will no longer promote the ‘World Whisky of the Year’ accolade. We will evaluate any future collaborations based on commitment to meaningful change from the author in the future.”

Distilleries including Glenfiddich and Glenturret have also come out in support of Paskin.

Glenfiddich said: “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.”

Glenturret added: “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 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.”

Pernod Ricard’s Chivas Brothers added that “sexism has no place in our industry”.

Scotch Whisky Association CEO Karen Betts has also released a statement condemning the language used in the recent edition, saying: “Scotch Whisky is for everyone – sexism and the objectification of women have no place in our industry. The language used in the ‘Whisky Bible’ which has been highlighted in recent days is offensive and we do not support it.”

Murray has refuted the claims.

“This is not a matter of alleged sexism on the trumped up charges against me – which have clearly been concocted for very clear purposes – this is an attack on the very essence of what it is to be a critic in any sphere, be it music, art, sport, wine or whisky. In other words: an attack on free thought and free speech,” he said.

“We are entering very dangerous territory when people try to control the thoughts of others and wilfully distort the truth for their own ends. This is now a battle between free speech and humourless puritanism. I am not alone in finding this very sinister.

“I am not sexist; the Whisky Bible is not sexist, has never been sexist and I will not bow to this faux outrage. I have always fought the bully and I will do so here. Debate has been replaced by the baying of the mob, common sense and decency by straitjacketed dogma. Frankly, these people appal me because what they are doing is undermining society itself.

“How, in God’s name, can, for instance, likening a whisky to an orgasm be remotely construed as sexist? Last I heard, male, females, transgender people, everyone is capable of an orgasm. I am a professional writer and use a language that adults – for the Whisky Bible is designed for adults – can relate to. I paint pictures of a whisky. And if that, on the rare occasion, is the picture or sensation that formulates in my mind, then I say so. As I have every right to.

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