18 April 2014

(Title to be read in the tone of a hang wringing marketing executive)

I love whiskey. I love the soft smoke of Bowmore, reminiscent of the embers of a bonfire on the beach. Sometimes I am in the mood for the prickle and spice of Hudson Rye and others, the hot rich smoke of Balcones Brimstone, the tannic finish leaving me with the feeling that I have just left a particularly arid sauna.

Yet, so many of the whiskeys I love publicly tell me not to love them, they say I am just not their type. Whiskey advertisements are becoming a cliche; a love story between a man and his malt. It is lazy marketing, tired and weak. Worse, it is reductive and offensive: women are objectified, belittled and excluded. The rich legacy of women in whiskey production is wilfully ignored. Bothersome also is that this well worn tableaux of the lads and their spirit, of the brotherhood, the mates, the well heeled chaps with exquisite taste in liquor, women and waistcoats is alienating half the drinking population, perpetuating the myth that whiskey is a man's drink, for drinking by your father, your granda and other men, presumably while engaging in manly pursuits like arm wrestling or whittling a hunting knife from a bough of oak. 

Amongst the offensive (Dewar's,  Maker's Mark) and the exclusionary (Chivas Band of Brotherhood, Bushmills Brothers), Woodford Reserve's latest offering is simply bizarre. The copy reads like it was written by a lovelorn teenager, one who has a tentative grasp on applied mathematics. I tried to inbed the clip but my technical ineptitude prevented that, so you can watch it in all it's lomo-tastic glory here. 

When I see a man drinking bourbon,
I expect him to be the kind of man who could build me a bookshelf.
But not in the way that one builds a ready-made bookshelf.
He will already know where the lumberyard is.
He’ll get the right amount of wood without having to do math.
He’ll let me use the saw,
and not find it cute that I don’t know how to use the saw.

Heavens to Be(t)sie! Apparently drinking bourbon gifts you with the ability to divine how much chip board is required for a set of book shelves and scant need for a street directory. The woman's role in all this seems to be to simperingly gaze on while her chap gets on with the testosterone fuelled business of shelf building and bourbon swilling. 

Heretofore, I liked Woodford Reserve. It is warming with a hint of leather, smoke and butterscotch. It tastes of the grains it was made with and the wood that it laid in. It was a firm favourite, neat, with spiced almonds or in a savage old fashioned. Please stop telling me the liquid I love is not for me. 

World wide 25% of whiskey drinkers are women. Whiskey companies, please hear this: one in four drinkers of whiskey could be drinking your whiskey, if only you didn't keep dismissing us, telling us your whiskey isn't for us, it is only for the bros.  


  1. Spot on. By contrast, check out the 1970s campaign by Guinness which targetted women directly - see e.g. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2322669/Here-come-Guinness-girls-The-retro-1970s-advertisements-meant-ladies-LBD-thats-Little-Black-Drink.html

  2. Thanks Mel. I hadn't seen all of the 'Guinness women' ads before. I like the first one. Very striking.