Imagine you are a sentient bottle of Mithuna by Paul John Indian Single Malt Whisky.
The very day you receive high honors from Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, your acclaim is overshadowed by the headlines, in the New York Times no less, “Jim Murray, Top Whiskey Critic, Faces Accusations of Sexism.” Every whiskey news outlet, podcast and social media account immediately follows suit, and what should have been a celebration of Mithuna being decreed the “3rd Finest Whisky in the World” turns into L’affair Murray.
People who aren’t even aware of Jim Murray’s writing showed up to attack him. Men spoke out in solidarity with the offended parties, one hand on the keyboard, the other firmly patting their own back for having the courage to write something sympathetic and hit send. To those admittedly well-intentioned gentlemen, a word to the wise: it doesn’t count if a woman calls it out first. You don’t get points for echoing someone else’s point. As you can see, I have some major opinions on the matter. I am a woman, I work in whisky, I have been outside my house, and I can say whatever I want without the fear of my life’s work being sullied because I talk like a pervy boomer dude.
I have some notes for “the failing New York Times.” Jim Murray is not “a” top whiskey critic, he is “THE” top whiskey critic. His experience is vast. He holds the world record for a person with most distillery visits, last I heard. He wrote several books on various specialized whisky subjects before the publication of the Whisky Bible, which quickly made his reviews the biggest game in town. Since 2007, I have awaited Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible anointings with baited breath. I own a hardcover first edition of the first Whisky Bible published in 2003. His writing was integral to my insatiable whisky curiosity.
Jim Murray’s word can make a brand overnight. In 2014, Mr. Murray shocked the world by dubbing Royal Crown Northern Harvest Rye as Whiskey of the Year, and I bought it immediately. I liked it! I still like it! It tastes like the milk after a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Royal Crown Northern Harvest Rye is a staple to any collection and I will die on that hillock of rye.
This was the year the cynical rumors began to swell about Big Spirits Company Payoffs. Corruption? In the whiskey industry? I shant believe it! I don’t care if Jim Murray’s award was bought off. He earned his credit and I consider him a superior word on whisky. Selecting such a cheap whisky as the best, following the years of Japanese dominance, was a social statement, in my opinion. Whiskeys are like universities; being expensive doesn’t make you the best. The man wouldn’t put his credibility on the line unless he could defend its honor valiantly.
Speaking of the man’s credibility…
The New York Times reported that Jim Murray was accused of sexism, which is defined as “discrimination on the basis of sex.” His writing was called out for being overtly sexual in nature. The article cites one woman, Becky Paskin. Ms. Paskin’s Instagram post was quoted by the Times as being the “first of the accusations to burst into the open.” Ms. Paskin is just as whisky-worldly and wise as Mr. Murray, albeit her attention on this subject being her zenith of influence. Oddly, she did no actual accusing. She clearly stated her totally reasonable opinion as food for thought. It struck a nerve. Although Jim Murray did not display prejudice per se toward anyone on the basis of their gender, I found his response to her post, and the statements of those who rose in indignance to defend him, more offensive than the original criticism for objectifying women.
The problem is not “woke culture” or “cancel culture,” but the fact that – even in the year 2020 – Jim Murray thought it was okay to compare a whisky to “a lover’s lingerie.” This is ill-advised to the point of being boneheaded. On the other hand, regrettably, the industry’s reaction was equally devoid of nuance. Several large distilleries and brands cut ties with Murray, severing decades-long relationships when all that was needed was a healthy, open dialogue. The backlash was reflexively hysterical and I’m sorry, it was undeserving.
People needed to air their objections, Jim Murray needed to listen, and then everyone needed to wash down this teachable moment with some maturity and restraint. Had Jim Murray manned up and owned that his writing offended people, my respect for him would have increased. Heaven forbid someone acknowledges an error, takes steps to learn from it, and then be provided the opportunity to do so. Remember, you can’t call yourself a progressive if you won’t let people progress.
Sadly, although predictably, this did not happen. Jim Murray doubled down and, in doing so, dug his own cancellation grave. He made every possible, predictable mistake you can make when a demographic other than yours expresses offence: he closed his ears, shirked personal responsibility, and blamed others. Cue the Twitter mobs!
Again, for those unfamiliar, let me offer up a few Murray gems. How does one say that a particular dram is spicy? Easy! Compare it to, “a 40 year-old woman who has kept her figure and looks, and now, only satin stands in the way between you and so much beauty and experience … and believe me: she’s spicy.”
”A 40 year-old woman who has kept her looks.” A woman who has had the audacity to reach the shameful age of 40 yet not look decrepit. Fortunately for her, she has had the decency to maintain her mid-20’s market value. I have never met Mr. Murray, but – given his views on physical preservation – I am safely assuming he looks like Thor. Adding injury to insult, it’s a bad analogy. Like a bouquet of balloons that have lost their helium, it is as colorful as it is useless.
One whisky’s flavor is described by Murray as being, “Like after you have just made love… and you are unable to speak or move while your senses get back into some kind of normality. Is as good as having sex.”
This one is my personal favorite, where you can almost hear him mentally unraveling: “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. It is hard to imagine what could be, as this whisky simply seduces you with the lightness and knowledgeable meaning of its touch, butterfly kissing your taste buds, finding time after time your whisky erogenous zone or g spots … and then surrendering itself with tender and total submission.”
Is he even serious? So, he liked it, I take it? It’s so goofy! He doesn’t describe the nose, palate, finish, the color. His sexual descriptions are so frequent, apparently in his in-person events too. I’d want to shout out “Oh for Godsakes, Jimmy! We get it! YOU’VE HAD SEX. We believe you!” Maybe I’m missing the point, and Jim is pioneering a new field? Whisky Erotica – like the George Bataille of whisky reviews – yet it somehow leaves you as frisky as reading some Ikea bookshelf instructions. The more sexual descriptors of Jim Murray’s I read, the more he starts to sound like that kid in middle school who has a girlfriend… but he met her at camp… and she lives in Canada… but he has a picture of her… but it’s actually his cousin… and she doesn’t like him.
Am I offended, personally? No, I’m just cringing because it’s super dorky. But I work in whisky, I’ve had a bit of practice smiling and nodding at guys that don’t understand how uncomfortable they’re making me with their dumb sexual jokes. Occupational hazard. I’m glad Ms. Paskin piped up about Jim Murray’s obnoxiousness. It’s time men realize that that kind of humor is rarely as funny and cool as they think it is. And better her than me! I’m always too embarrassed to call out men in the moment. I’m from Nebraska. I was raised to pander to men.
Full disclosure: I have worked two events for Paul John whisky, and I am never far from the PJ booth at various whisky shows. I am well acquainted with their core range, and look forward to every special release. They are all tropically juicy and aromatic. I can’t get enough of Paul John, and it’s criminally overlooked in my opinion.
I was gifted the Mithuna, the one that garnered Jim Murray’s sparkling erogenous review, by Koray (who is so well known he can pretty much go by his first name, but also his last name is impossible to read or pronounce). Koray is their US Portfolio Ambassador. Hilariously, the etymology of the word “mithuna” is a Sanskrit term most often used in Tantra meaning “sexual union.” Ha! The world gives you so many funny gifts, if you are open to receive them. I slurped my Mithuna gift thoughtfully, and I was astonished by the colloidal medley of almond extract, buttercream, and eggy brioche. Spectacular!
The Jim Murray call-out made global headlines and perhaps injected the Mithuna by Paul John with somewhat more far-reaching attention, whereas: in the years previous, the only people that cared about the Whisky Bible were the whisky fans and spirits industry. It bummed me out that the delicious vanilla-extract-marzipan Mithuna was overshadowed by a sincere post on social media that mutated into a scandal. So I decided to review the Mithuna and give it the spotlight it desires.
Paul John Mithuna – Review
58% ABV. £181 from Master of Malt.
Color: Rich copper.
On the nose: Salty nutsack, pendulous testicles, pineapple, bleach, like a mixture of chin stubble and facial sebum scratching up your face and irritating your skin. Old boxer shorts, with the waistband worn and lacking elasticity. Like the cherried breath of that one guy you hooked up with in Greece but can’t remember his name. The nose is cute and patient, like the soft bodied, short-penised finance guy so overly confident in his rote lovemaking routine that you have to gently interrupt and redirect him, all while wondering if “fiscally conservative” means he’s a registered Republican, but that’s what you get when you swipe right on a guy who is holding a fish in his profile picture.
In the mouth: Like being invited to your first gang bang! Mouth watering, like the taste of the tongue of man who is hot but not very bright. The girth of a dong engorged with blood and engulfed by sticky breasts, intermingled with the sweat of buttocks clenched tighter than a pitbull’s jaws on a mailman’s leg. Like the chapped lips of a 35-year-old post production supervisor who still smokes, mindlessly thrusting and disrupting your ph. Finish: Hard. Stiff. Bulging. Surprisingly bold, like the guy getting his masters in creative writing who sends you artfully composed dick pics then later paws off your panties like a bear craving salmon from a cold mountain stream.
See? It’s weird when a woman does it, too. The Mithuna is exquisite, you should get it.
Image courtesy of Paul John.