This post will no doubt attract some hate comments, but something needs to be said. 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?— Becky Paskin (@BeckyPaskin) September 20, 2020
Of course, the problem is more deeply rooted than one guide’s comments alone comparing whisky to sex and to seducing women; it’s shone a light on the need to address gender stereotyping in the industry and its broader repercussions.
Earlier this year (before COVID-19; those were the days!), I had a few female friends over for dinner. I thought we’d finish with a little digestif – whisky.
Having proudly poured out a 12-year-old single malt, I watched them hold their glasses gingerly, take a reluctant sniff and then a small sip. “Too strong”, was the unanimous verdict. One even said it tasted like petrol (bit rude).
Fine; whisky isn’t for everyone. But I couldn’t help but believe their opinions were influenced by the way in which whisky is perpetually positioned as ‘a man’s drink’.
As an industry, we need to re-evaluate the way in which whisky is marketed.
Historically this has been primarily towards men, but we should encourage better inclusivity in our campaigns by reflecting the female whisky drinker.
Because there are female whisky drinkers out there (we’re no needles in a haystack); it’s not just for septuagenarians and cigar-smokers.
Not only will this challenge the gender stereotypes held by men, it will also inspire women who believe whisky isn’t a drink they can enjoy.
I’m confident we’re moving in the right direction.
Women drink 40 million more glasses of whisky a year than they did in 2010 – a rise of 15 per cent – while for men this has decreased by six per cent.
One might be surprised to learn that there are women at the helm of some big whisky brands: from Glenmorangie and Johnnie Walker to BenRiach, Penderyn and Dewar’s.
As a whole, there’s a demand for education in whisky, and an informal poll of my friends confirms it’s a confusing market. For example, should I buy a single malt or blended whisky? How important are age statements? What about ice/water?
Perhaps if it were better understood, then more women would be willing to give it a go.
Whisky is steeped in history, but it’s time to write the next chapter.
If we cut the bullshit, made whisky easier to navigate and did a better job of championing women in whisky, we’d have a less complex situation on our hands – maybe even a lighter, fresher finish in sight.
Jessica Bottomley is a senior account manager at Stir PR