A piece in today’s Times:
The author of a “sexist” whisky annual has accused his critics of seeking “to muzzle freedom of speech” as retailers began to remove his books from their stores.
Jim Murray was speaking as The Whisky Exchange, a London-based online retailer, and the Thompson Bros distillery in Dornoch said they were delisting his book after criticism of tasting notes which compared drinking the spirit to having sex with a woman.
In one entry for a “heritage brand” of whisky Mr Murray wrote: “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 entry was one of several highlighted on social media by Becky Paskin, the former editor of scotchwhisky.com, who described Mr Murray’s tasting notes as disgusting.
In a statement on Facebook The Whisky Exchange, which has 227,000 followers, said: “We are passionate about making the world of whisky inclusive and accessible for everyone, and we do not feel that some of [Mr Murray’s] comments that have come to light represent this ethos or the future of the whisky community.”
Industry insiders said that Mr Murray and his Whisky Bible represented “the old guard” in a business where sexism had been rife for years. One woman, who asked not to be identified, said that “horrible” sexist language and behaviour were common at trade exhibitions and tastings. She said the attitudes were typical of “the older generation — or that mindset”.
Louise McGuane, 42, founder of the Chapel Gate Irish whiskey bonder, which buys then blends spirits, said: “Whisky is changing, and it needs to change.
“There are multitudes of descriptions of whisky that are probably more helpful than comparing it to a sexual encounter with a woman.
“For a long time the category was driven by and for men mostly, many of whom are a certain age, and for them it doesn’t have the kind of openness and sociability around it, which it does for a younger generation.
“Whisky is one of the last industries where you can get away with stuff that would be deemed unacceptable [J4MB: That weasel word again, up there with “inappropriate”. Deemed “unacceptable” by passive-aggressive hatchet-faced humourless harridans like herself, Ms McGuane means, of course.] in other consumer goods industries.”
Mr Murray, 62, who was born in Surrey, said charges of sexism were “trumped up”.
He added: “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. This is now a battle between free speech and humourless puritanism. I am not alone in finding this very sinister. Frankly, these people appal me because what they are doing is undermining society itself.
“How, in God’s name, can 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.” [J4MB: Good points, well made.]
Blair Bowman, the author of The Pocket Guide to Whisky, said “He is either having sex wrong, or he is drinking whisky wrong.”
He added: “The fact that he doesn’t see anything wrong in his words is shocking. It is completely unnecessary, vulgar and crude, jumping to sex to describe whisky makes no sense — apart from to him.”
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