Brands reject Whisky Bible following ‘vulgar’ reviews

Sep 23, 2020by Owen Bellwood

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible has been removed from store shelves and brands have distanced themselves from the publication following backlash surrounding "sexist and vulgar" language used to describe whiskies in the book.

Whisky writer Jim Murray publishes his Whisky Bible every year, compiling reviews of whiskies from around the world. The language was initially highlighted by Forbes writer Felipe Schrieberg and spirits writer and Our Whisky co-founder Becky Paskin. In a social media post, Paskin cited some examples of Murray’s comments and said that “something needs to be said”. She highlighted “34 references to whisky being ‘sexy’ and many more crudely comparing drinking whisky to having sex with women”. Murray responded to the criticism arguing the points raised online were "an attack on free thought and free speech". Since Murray’s remarks came to light, distillers around the world have begun distancing themselves from the publication. Beam Suntory, which was awarded World Whisky of the Year by Murray for its Alberta Premium Cask Strength rye whisky, thanked those who have "voiced concerns about the objectification of women in many of Mr Murray’s reviews" and said it was "re-evaluating all planned programming that references this recognition". In a statement, Beam Suntory said: “While we are honoured 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 behaviour 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 re-evaluating all planned programming that references this recognition.” Pernod Ricard-owned Irish Distillers, which walked away with the award for Irish Whiskey of the Year in the Whisky Bible for its Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy bottling, echoed these opinions. The Jameson owner said it would be “reviewing who we work with” in the future as it strives to “only engage with those who share our values”. A spokesperson for Irish Distillers said: “At Irish Distillers we strongly believe there is no room for sexism in the whiskey industry. We have a long and proud history of inclusiveness and equality, and we always strive to take positive steps in building a whiskey community, which celebrates and builds on these values. “In common with other producers, we will be reviewing who we work with to ensure we only engage with those who share our values.” Empty shelves Retailers have also condemned Murray's comments and the book has been removed from shelves in spirits retailer The Whisky Exchange as the company said it did “not feel that the comments made in the book sit well with our vision of the whisky community”. Sukhinder Singh, co-founder of The Whisky Exchange, said: “We have made the decision as a business to delist Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible from sale on The Whisky Exchange website and in our shops. “We have thought a lot about this topic and do not feel that the comments made in the book sit well with our vision of the whisky community. This year, more than ever, has been about making the world a more inclusive place and our view is that these ‘tasting notes’ do not make whisky inclusive – something that both Becky Paskin and Felipe Schrieberg highlighted in their social media posts and an article on Forbes online. “We feel passionately about making whisky a spirit that can be enjoyed by everyone, and the language used in the Whisky Bible runs counter to this business ethos. We have therefore decided to delist the Whisky Bible 2021 to stay true to this philosophy.” The book’s Irish importer, Irish Whiskey Magazine, also announced it would cease distributing the Whisky Bible as it found “the nature and tone of some of the content to be completely inappropriate”. 'Outrageous and concocted allegations' Murray has refuted allegations of sexism in the Whisky Bible and said the claims were an "attack on the very essence of what it is to be a critic in any sphere". In a statement he said: "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. "I have dedicated 30 years of my life, longer than anyone else on this planet, fighting for whisky and the whisky underdog, so people will discover great whiskies from wherever they may be in the world. This has put quite a few people’s noses out of joint. These outrageous and concocted allegations will not derail me in my life’s quest. My championing of great whisky will continue. My freedom of speech will continue. Whether these latter day Cromwellians like it or not.”