There’s a lot of commentary on the latest Jim Murray publication, particularly on the revelation that Scotch whisky is going to the dogs. Well now, I thought, sipping on something new and exciting from that not yet and perhaps never will be independent land just north of England, what on earth possessed Jim to take a swipe at the Scotch Whisky industry?
I went along to Jim’s website and saw that he says he is “the world’s foremost whisky authority”. Ok then. Shows you how little I know. I thought that becoming an authority on anything generally involves decades of dedication, working hard, understanding the intricacies of the subject. Take Whisky, for example. I thought that people who work in distilleries, the master blenders, the distillery managers, those who spent their entire adult lives working on whisky, would be the leading authorities on whisky. But clearly not. Jim is. He says so. And he says so in the Bible. So it must be true. So Jim is the world’s foremost authority on whisky and he produces a bible. Wow. It takes a hell of an ego to come up with that!
Now let’s step back and think for a bit, because we whisky lovers sometimes like to sit and think and drink. Has the whisky world gone mad? Jim is obviously knowledgeable, but the tastings are sighted, personal preference (or what could well be a personal gripe) has to play a part in the final scores. Of course, there is some merit in what he does, but there comes a point when what seems to be a personal issue between Jim and Scotland has overflowed into his bible. Whisky people shouldn’t stand for it. With caramel, sulphur, and whatever else cropped up as complaints in the past few bibles, Jim may have had a point. But this latest biblical revelation should be seen for what it is – a personal gripe.
Sensational headlines sell and yes, I think Yamazaki produces fantastic whiskies. Well deserved to them. But ultimately, Jim does sighted tastings, bias comes into results, the vagaries of the day, the mood, these all play a part in decisions. Panels and blind tastings are the way to go. Not one person, sighted.
And ultimately, it is just Jim’s view. Not yours, not mine. I’ve only been doing whisky properly for about 15 years, hosting tastings, talking whisky, participating in panels and so on. I know a lot, but Jim knows a lot more. I defer to his knowledge, but not to his palate. Because taste is subjective. We should never be too influenced by what other people say about something as personal and subjective as taste. If you like a whisky, drink it. If you don’t like a particular whisky, don’t drink it. Choose for yourself. Play around with blind tastings. Have fun. This is whisky, not brain surgery. And hey, if perhaps one day God comes along and says, “Bernard, this is the best whisky in the world”, perhaps I’ll listen.
But for now, Jim, forgive me for I know exactly what I do, and what I do is suggest that whisky lovers take your latest guide with a pinch of peat…