Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Breaking news: Don't care for creepy or greedy hypocrites

Ahhhh Jim Murray... The man serious whisky enthusiasts and industry loves to hate!!!

I don't care....  I really don't anymore. So what, he wrote a book that has a bunch of whisky stuff in it and he always scores his whiskies 10 points higher than he should. Live and let live I always say. The man sells books, it's what he does for a living. But I can't... I just can't anymore. Something stinks about this one, and it's not the fish n' chips I had on the weekend.

Honestly I know when you are a complete newbie you don't want to plunk down $100 on a bottle of whisky when you feel like you don't have a freaking clue what the hell you are doing so why wouldn't you put down your $20 for a book called the whisky bible written by someone who calls himself a whisky expert. The cover itself will tell you: "Jim Murray's Whisky Bible is the world's leading whisky guide". Says who? There is no quote from someone attached to that? You have no idea he's a self professed whisky genius. You only know that his opinion is the only one in a population of 7.3 billion people on this huge earth that matters... Because, when you are new you believe fully what you see/read and you have to start somewhere.

On average I know 10-12 people who started that way. They paid attention to every score, every tasting note and purchased many of their bottles accordingly. I made it a point before I wrote this piece to ask them if they still used the whisky bible now.... All 11 that I asked said no and they hadn't bought one for years, one joked it's in his bathroom in case he runs out of toilet paper.

In 2013 while I attended the Canadian Whisky Awards in Victoria BC, Jim Murray was there leading a sold out tasting as well as master class. He didn't hang out with the rest of us after hours like John Glaser, Iain McCallum or Mark Gillespie did. He only made appearance if he was paid to. Again, I may not agree with that but understand. He is, after all, the Mick Jagger of whisky (not my definition... I assure you)

SO here is what is really bothering me.... On that Saturday between masterclasses, some of the Canadian Whisky Awards judges and John Hall were brought upstairs to the penthouse (where his suite was I assume) and we were asked to wait in the hallway. John Hall (Forty Creek Whisky) was to go in first and have a few publicity photos taken with him and then if he had time, some of the judges would get to meet him. Well, we waited in the hallway for 25 minutes until finally someone knocked on the door, went in and it didn't take long for them to come out apologizing profusely to Mr. Hall stating Murray would not be taking any publicity photos or meeting any of the judges. 

I didn't ask any questions because a few of the organizers had mortified looks on their faces and spent the rest of the day at my masterclasses. About 20 minutes before the main event was slated to start, Murray was in the lobby and making his way through the crowd when one of the organizers took the time to stop and introduce me and a few others to him. He held out his hand for me to shake it and spoke directly to my chest. I don't think he knew I actually had a face. But seriously... that part albeit creepy is not what bothers me because I had been warned he often said and did inappropriate things amongst the women at shows and in his classes. (Warned ahead of time.... how sad is that)

Later though, when I had the chance to talk to a few people about the situation on the top floor it came to light (and I realize this is third party information I am about to share) that Murray refused to have any photos taken with Mr. Hall because Canadian whisky was utter shite and the only decent thing ever to come out of Canada was Alberta Premium Rye... 

Can some people have a change of heart? Certainly... I personally have written about the fact that I previously would often refuse to even try any Crown Royal bottlings as a result of a predetermined opinion that their entry level was crap so the rest of it must be crap too. 

BUT... then again, I don't sell thousands of books do I?

And I think I'd like to do a little math problem here for your benefit. So, the 2016 bible boasts that it has 4500 whiskies tasted (doesn't say personally analyzed by him, btw) of which 1000 are new for this edition. Let's consider the following:

1000 whiskies, 365 days if we start on January 1... Let's not count weekends so 365 - 104 = 261. Let's also remove book signings, whisky show appearances or travel time. I will guestimate low and say he travels 10 weeks a year (since there are less countries or whisky shows that allow him entry anymore). 261 - 50 = 211 days left. I'm sure the man takes holidays and must celebrate Christmas or some other pagan ritual? So again, let's be modest and say 4 weeks. 211 - 20 = 191. The man must get sick from time to time or have other miscellaneous days to himself to do laundry and mow his grass or something? Let's subtract another three weeks. 191 - 15 = 176. Now his whiskies of 2016 preview was announced the 3rd week of November plus it appears I can buy the book now on line so that means it had to have gone to publisher before the end of October at least (give or take a few days)... So that's another 9 weeks (45 days) removed from the tasting schedule...  

So... hypothetically speaking he had 131 days in 2015 to evaluate 1000 new whiskies. 

1000 divided by 131 days = 7.6 whiskies per day

Is that doable, absolutely... but doesn't it make you wonder even if for just a few seconds how much time he actually spends with each whisky? Does he review them once? Does he have a team to help? Does he even review them?

So back to his supposed hatred for rubbish Canadian whisky... Could be some truth to that but he is known to cause controversy on purpose. 

How is it possible that a Canadian Whisky which is available in Canada, USA and the UK suddenly becomes his top pick for 2016? If you take the time to read anything on social media and/or newspapers there are plenty of speculations that Jim went home with a few Crown Royal Purple bags filled with money? There are others who say he's trying to get back into favour with Diageo...  Me personally... Again I don't know and frankly I don't care.

So here is what I do know:

A) Jim Murray is the creepiest and rudest person I have ever met in my whisky world. 

B) The average consumer will clamber, stand in line or pay way too much to buy the magical "near perfection" rated whisky of the year (which I and many others have rated somewhere between 80-85) and be disappointed

C) The whisky world will continue to revolve around this one man's opinion because nobody will speak out/hear about the atrocities he commits or the people he belittles and humiliates... why?  BECAUSE IT MAKES MONEY for everyone: Whisky shows, whisky sellers and Mr. Murray himself!

Example of his "guidelines", not all are bad but some are just ridiculous...


D) I am left tipping my hat to the biggest bunch of hypocrites on both sides rolling in the money as a result of one person's opinion about a whisky he may have spent less than 30 minutes with, if he even spent any time with it at all. 

Well played again creepy old uncle Jim, well played...




  1. Another great article, thanks! I'm surprised that he would not meet John Hall as he has given 90+ reviews to a few Forty Creek whiskies - and he does give high scores to a lot of Canadian whiskies - are you sure that story is true? With regards to the Crown Royal award, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I fully believe him when he says that's his favourite whisky of the year - it's totally in his wheelhouse, given his love of rye. I think it's a very good whisky (though not even my favourite Crown Royal of the year, let alone my favourite dram of the year). And I don't think he is trying to get in Diageo's good graces or is getting graft for it - he is a lot of horrible things but he does strike me as someone with (gasp) integrity. People just get too damn excited and forget that this is one person's opinion. Having said that, his book is the leading whisky guide, and he is the most influential whisky writer in the world. His awards are the only ones that seem to have a huge effect on sales. In Ontario, there were TONS of CR NHR 2 weeks ago; now you can't find any at all. Like it or not, that makes him the most important whisky expert out there based on sheer influence.

    1. Thanks for theinput... I was in the hallway that day, but as I stated... it was third party information. We wil have to agree to disagree on all the rest... ;)

  2. Mr Picky here
    You removed weekends in your first adjustment ... then removed 7 days per week for each subsequent adjustment. That's double counting of 2 days each week

    So, still alot of whiskies per day but more than 79 days available ...

    just sayin


    1. Thank you for catching that! Made the changes accordingly, appreciated.

  3. I did fall into the "when just learning" category as well. I now read many reviews before making a judgment. Interesting to read your thoughts on his being a schmuck. I'll keep my eyes and ears open about the man going forward. Thanks for the heads up!

    1. I never bought a copy, but was given one by a very dear friend. I keep it for the touching inscription he wrote ;)

  4. I just think his judgment is totally whacked (maybe by payola, who knows) but when he declared Sullivan's Cove the best whisky in the world. It is probably the worst I have tasted, I mean the worst. Members in my club were also baffled by Sullivan's Cove.

    Go back a couple years earlier and he announced that Ballantine's 17 was the best whisky in the world, a blend. I have no problem with the concept of a blend being the best in the world (personally I think Hibiki 17 is the one of the top three - a blend) but I bought a bottle of Ballantine's 17, and it was good, but nowhere near the best I and others in my club had that year.

    Obviously, there is a great deal of subjectivity in opinions on the finest whisky, but I think a majority of knowledgeable people tend to agree on what is great and what is not. I remember being at a whisky tasting for about 40 people. I had everyone score 8 whiskies and it was interesting to note that of forty people, 75% scored a certain whisky near the bottom and the same three near the top.

    So, this year Murray says Crown Royal Northern Harvest is the best whisky in the world. I was happy to read that. I bought a bottle and am sampling as I write this and must say it is decent, it is good, but not exceptional even in the field of Canadian whiskies. Wiser's Legacy is better. Alberta Premium Dark Horse is better. But lets move away from that.

    When I try Balvenie 21 year old Portwood and then try this Crown Royal Rye, there is no comparison. The former makes me think wow, there is a G-d, the latter doesn't ring my bell. I really try not to be contrarian, but i guess I can't help it here. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye is ok, dare I say great as a mix, but on its own, I dunno. Hopefully, you will get a bottle and review soon. By the way, it is selling out really fast. Cheers!

    P.S. Sorry for the long comment.

    1. Thank you Jason!!! It goes to show how important it is not to take just ONE person's opinion on anything. Whisky like everything else in the world is subjective. What if someone proclaimed brocolli to be the best vegetable of the year... I'M OUT!!! hehehe

      I agree with you, let's compare apples to apples. Northern Harvest Rye is NOT, in many people's opinion the best that came out this year... It's an ok whisky for a decent price. I tried Davin's single barrel rye from CR and it was truly spectaculor for a CR... I will likely not write a review for it, wouldn't want to be accused of jumping on that bandwagon anytime soon. I have a bottle, I tasted it... it's value for money whisky... End of discussion! Cheers and thanks again for weighing in.

  5. I fell in the newby trap as well... it was the book I bought, along with Davin's... my first two whisky books (I do not count a very old Michael Jackson I got about 30 years ago)... funny thing is, almost as soon as I got it, I started reading bad stuff about how rude (and kind of a pig) he was... I have not touched it since and will probably not again...

    1. yah... there really should be more books available for newbies... Graham said we should write one and call it the "new testament".... hehehe ;)

  6. Speaking of creepy: Isn't that cover photo just... I thought it was a book about whisky, not a Twilightesque thriller? Cause that's the vibe I get from that black-and-white-but-with-freaky-orange-eyes thing.

    I used to fall for the hype as well, though I'm happy to say I never actually purchased a copy of "the bible".

  7. Best. Whisky. Blog. Post. Ever. Although I don't necessarily agree with everything, the whisky world isn't just about unicorn and pony (or in French, c'est pas juste un monde de Calinours à la Justin Trudeau), and it is fun to see something I suspected since a long time. I remember a few years ago when we were offered to host a Jim Murray tasting, the price tag was higher than having John K. Hall, Jim McEwan and Davin de Kergommeaux together. And is it just me or the cover of his "bibles" getting creepier and creepier? This year's is horrible at best. Anyways, congratulations for your post!

    1. We are never meant to agree with everyone on everything, that's what makes us interesting and different.... just like whiskies!!! thanks for weighing in, appreciated.

  8. NorthernEuropeanMarzipanNovember 25, 2015 at 7:35 PM

    Johanne, you really have to come out and say what you think. Enough beatin round the bush.

    What I have learned to do, over many happy years of experimenting, is to try as many whiskies, from anywhere and anyone, as possible and form my own opinions. If I like it, to me that is all that counts.

    1. Agreed fully! I think it takes time for most of us to realize that... SUBJECTIVE!

  9. Omg, after reading Ragnhild's comment I had to Google the book cover...I honestly thought this image was pgotoshopped to add creepiness!
    (I hadn't seen the boom as it is obviously forbidden in this house!)
    I now fully understand that no extra creepy is required here, he's covered it on his own!!

    1. Forbidden indeed... some of my friends refuse to even use his name... He will be known as "the one" or in some cases shit head, depends who you are talking to.... hehehe

  10. It's a great read.

    When I was first getting into Bourbons three years ago I got his 2012 Bible as a Christmas present.

    I began to suspect his choices when he named Yamazaki single malt / sherry finish his 2013 whiskey of the year.

    I was in Orlando last week when his choice was announced. My hotel bar had the Crown Royal;
    I tried it.

    MEH... I'm not much of a Rye drinker but it didn't move me at all... Innocuous is the word I would use.

    However, I bought a bottle of the Murray's second place whiskey "Pikesville Ry"e (the six year version). It's pretty damn good for a rye.
    Rye Bite on the tongue ... Smooth mid palate...
    And a pleasant tingle lingers for a a minute after swallowing.

    The overall taste is sweeter that most ryes I've tried... But not overly so. I feel it's a well balanced whisky.

    1. I appreciate the heads up and I will look for that one. I love spicy rye whiskies and there are several great ones on the market these days. Thanks for weighing in and sharing your info!

  11. I believe you are the second person I have seen use those words. Honestly, I have never tried CR with coke... My dad wouldn't let CR in the house when I was a kid, he was a Gibson's man... I think my biggest fear about all this is that yes, for the 15 seconds of fame Canadian whisky will be blared through the speakers and on every front page of a newspaper somewhere... then when people taste the whisky, they will say what you did... This is "meh" and Murray lied... and then he and the category will be frauds.... Sigh....

  12. Glad I didn't pre-order a copy of Jim Murray's 2016 Whiskey Bible, nor will I be buying any future copies. I tried the Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, and would say it's an acceptable whiskey for its price point. But certainly not something special, not even something I would have a second glass of if there were something else to try. Maybe poor Jim has finally blown out his tastebuds testing 50 scotches a day.