After the release of whiskey critic Jim Murray’s annual “Whisky Bible” last week, multiple drinks industry professionals have denounced the publication for the sexist language used in his reviews.
Whisky journalist Becky Paskin was the first to speak out against Murray’s language in a thread of tweets on Sunday. She included lines from Murray’s most egregious reviews, which compare drinking whiskey to having sex with women.
“This post will no doubt attract some hate comments, but something needs to be said,” Paskin’s thread began. “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?”
Among the reviews highlighted by Paskin were these on comments Canadian Club Chronicles Water of Windsor: “Have I had this much fun with a sexy 41-year-old Canadian before? Well, yes I have,” Murray wrote. He continued: “But it was a few years back now and it wasn’t a whisky. Was the fun we had better? Probably not.”
Since Paskin’s initial tweets, writers, whisky brands, and trade associations have shared similar distaste over Murray’s reviews. Beam Suntory, whose Alberta Premium Cask Strength took this year’s top spot, acknowledged the issue in a Twitter post, saying it was “extremely disappointed” by Murray’s language, and thanking the writers who “rightly voiced concerns about the objectification of women in many of Mr. Murray’s reviews.”
Forbes’ Felipe Shrieberg also condemned Murray’s reviews, calling the writing “downright slimy reading.” London retailer The Whisky Exchange took the decision to delist the book from its website and stores. “We are passionate about making the world of whisky inclusive and accessible for everyone,” the store wrote in a Facebook post. “[W]e 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.”
On Tuesday, The Scotch Whisky Association released its own statement on the matter, saying Murray’s language is “offensive and we do not support it,” adding that “sexism and the objectification of women have no place in our industry.”
Single Malt producer Glenfiddich called Paskin’s comments “brave” and said they “inspired us to review the partners we work with so we can be part of building a whisky community that is more open and inclusive.” Meanwhile, Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard’s Scotch Whisky division) also commented, saying it is “proud to be part of the collective effort to make scotch more welcoming to women — which is why sexist comments have no place in our industry.”
Murray responded to the backlash on Tuesday in a statement published by The Spirits Business. He called the criticism “an attack on free thought and free speech,” and said, “I am not sexist; the Whisky Bible is not sexist, has never been sexist and I will not bow to this faux outrage.”
Murray continued: “I am famed for my ability to nose a whisky. And I can tell you that I can smell a huge rat with this entire manufactured and revolting affair.”
VinePair has covered Murray’s annual lists and winning bottles from the Whisky Bible in the past, including this year. We acknowledge that we should have — and will — look more carefully at the language contained within such reviews moving forward.