words by Shamim de Brún
photos from thewhiskeybible.com
Jim Murray’s 2022 Whisky Bible landed this week. In it, he addresses last year’s controversy and proclaims himself a champion of free speech and a lifelong feminist despite accusations of sexist remarks in his work.
Murray is an OG whiskey critic. He was the UK’s first full-time whiskey writer some 30 odd years ago. Every year since 2003 he releases his self published “Whisky Bible” where he espouses his opinions on world whiskies.
According to Murray, he was one of the first to champion Irish whiskey in the 1990s, before its renaissance, crediting himself with reviving the “dormant” Irish single pot still whiskey category. Neglecting a lot of the tangible work done by Irish Distillers with Pernod Richard, and more recently the independent distilleries.
Several distillers and retailers severed ties to the gospel according to Murray last year after complaints surfaced about the treatment of women in his books. These included Irish Distillers, Celtic Whiskey Shop, Diageo, and Dingle Distillery.
Last year, English-based whiskey writer Becky Paskin said many of the reviews in his 2021 offering contained sexist language. Some choice passages include:
“If whisky could be sexed, this would be a woman.”
“Every time I encounter Morangie Artisan, it pops up with a new look, a different perfume. And mood. It appears not to be able to make up its mind. But does it know how to pout, seduce and win your heart …? Oh yes.”
“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 …”
In the year since the controversy, his annual whiskey bible went from being consistently referenced, to rarely even mentioned.
In an interview with The Times, he dismissed last years controversy saying “I believe in free speech. You have to write to entertain … I don’t think there is anything in there to get people hot under the collar. But then there never was.”
Murray has since cited agony aunt Marje Proops’ defence of him, maintaining she called him a feminist.
He pivoted to telling the interviewer that he had helped women to win jobs in the whiskey industry. Stating that the industry habitually patronised women and he turned the tide against it.
According to The Times, Murray believes the accusations were “cynical attempts to destroy his reputation and success as a drinks writer.”
Without addressing the specific complaints made against Murray’s work Times columnist Quentin Letts said “Critics, in whatever sphere, aim for the truth. The best way to do that is to write from the heart. Once we start trimming our verdicts, fitting them to fashionable concepts of etiquette or political correctness — which is another word for dullness — the truth is impaired.”
At the time of publication, there were no independently verifiable reviews or testimonials on behalf of the self-published 2022 Whiskey Bible.
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