Does Whisky Have A Gender?

by Oliver Klimek on August 23, 2012

“Whisky is a man’s drink.” This is probably one of the most commonly used stereotypes in the whisky world. But just look around at whisky shows, among bloggers or in the whisky industry itself: Lots of women love and know their whisky, and even if they are still outnumbered by men it is very obvious that today the “man’s drink” is only a myth. Actually I felt tempted to turn this into another “Whisky Myths Debunked” episode.

But one thing has made me scratch my head a bit. Quite a number of the whisky loving women who are active on social media or who have their own blogs seem to make quite an issue of the fact that they are women who love whisky, beginning with their choice of alias names or blog titles. I don’t know if this is rather subconscious or deliberate, but I often get the impression that fighting the “man’s drink” myth is one of their prime objectives.

I am prettty convinced that viewed from outside this stereotype is indeed still prevalent. If you asked random people – no matter if male or female -  on the street, I would not be surprised if most of them would susbscribe to it.

But I sincercly wonder how many men inside the ‘whisky universe’ would agree. I am sure there are still some sexist assholes around who think that anything beyond Baileys or Drambuie is wasted on women, as well as men who see it as a personal defeat if a woman knows more about whisky than them. But I trust the vast majority of ‘whisky men’ has no problems with ‘whisky women’ whatsoever and would feel more than happy if both sexes were equally present.

For me this gender question is a non-issue, so rather than dividing it into whisky for women and whisky for men I would much prefer a whisky world where gender does not matter at all.

Related Post

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Allison Patel August 23, 2012 at 11:37 pm

Oliver,
Great post! As a “whisky woman” I’d offer to say that you are correct, for the most part the men are most welcoming and as a player in the industry, I don’t often find that I come up against a sexist attitude – but I have certainly found myself in situations where I’d like to remind someone in what century we’re all now living. I fully agree with you that it shouldn’t be a male/female thing. I see no need – or benefit – to make the distinction in gender. As for the name, I can only speak for myself, but the “Whisky Woman” name was something people started calling me before I ever thought about setting up a blog. I also think that for a large part, the women who are blogging, tweeting, etc about whisky are still very small in number so adding “woman” or any variation on the gender to a name is perhaps just a way of adding a bit more distinction to oneself in a social-media saturated world.

Great discussion!
-Allison

Reply

Gem Scotland August 24, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Thanks for this interesting blog, which in some respects I agree with. As a whisky and real ale drinker I seem to face amusement & disbelief & patronisation on two fronts & while most comments are made in good spirit – it shouldnt have to be made at all. I’m not so knowledgeable about either as to blog about it or anything, but I enjoy reading blogs and articles from others. The difference between ‘women whisky blogs’ & ‘male whisky blogs’ if you can typify them in anyway – is that more of the whisky blogs written by women are fun and accessible & don’t assume such a massive degree of prior knowledge. That’s not to diminish them & say they are less knowledgeable – but it’s refreshing for relative newbies.

Reply

Whisky lassie August 24, 2012 at 10:49 pm

When I first started drinking whisky I often found myself surrounded by men when I attended events. The other 5% of women at the show were behind the tables, smiling and pouring. I will go as far to say that some men (not all) refused to believe that I was capable of discussing anything serious about whisky. That mentality, is changing, albeit slowly. The biggest challenge for most women when first starting out on their whisky journey is not feeling intimidated or stupid because they feel like they don’t know much. I LOVE providing women with their first “tasting” in an all girls environment where they feel safe and like equals. Once they get a bit of self esteem under their belt, they are invited to attend any of the tastings I host and 95% do. THIS, has made all the difference for at least 10 women that I know and have come to call my whisky sisterhood. So, do I believe there is a “gender” line, NO, not like us vs them or that as women we have something to prove.

I think you may be mistaking our “female whisky” social media ladies as feminists… On the contrary, I can’t speak for the others but for me, it’s more to show we “exists”, that there are females who love whisky, who write about it and who work in the industry from ground to shelf. I’ve come to realize that my responsibility to other women who are entering the lovely whisky universe, is to help them reach a level where they feel comfortable with anyone may it be male or female where they can enjoy, discuss and be part of the fabric.

It’s funny, when I first started looking at blogs, websites and anything else I could find on the web with regards to whisky I found the malt maniacs and I remember being so disappointed that only one woman was part of that “elite” group. One out of 35… What does that say about the current whisky “experts”? Did it mean there simply wasn’t any women out there, or none the group thought was worthy of entrance?

So, is it time for women to unite and create something special, maybe… but not because we want to exclude men or fight the man’s drink. Because it’s time to embrace and welcome many more lovely ladies to the “club”, period…

That’s my take on it….

Johanne

Reply

Oliver Klimek August 24, 2012 at 11:31 pm

No, I don’t see any ‘feminist’ tendencies here. It just strikes me that ‘whisky women’ so often focus on the ‘whisky and women’ theme. But perhaps you are right that this may be the only way to actually introduce more women to whisky. I just wish this wasn’t necessary.

Regarding the Malt Maniacs, I guess there simply were not any more women outside the whisky industry who fit the image of a MM. But I am sure that with more and more women actively taking part in the whisky amateur scene a female maniac count of one will not be the end of things. ;)

Reply

Alwynne Gwilt August 25, 2012 at 8:43 am

I think this is always going to be a tricky arena. But it is an area of confusion for many…on the one hand, the whisky industry often does not see any gender differences but on the other, I think much of society still does. I’m very open about the fact that one of the reasons I started my site was after a shocked man said he couldn’t believe that as a woman I should drink whisky. He was very much coming at it from an archaic standpoint we shouldn’t. And when I started exploring, looking around for women talking about or writing about whisky, I couldn’t find any (I later learned of the lovely Allison). All of the representation In the media was also by men, so when I started I didn’t even know if any women worked in whisky. It may seem naive because, after all, it is 2012 but I’d argue many people in the public think that is true.

And I’m also constantly being asked, “Hmmm…whisky. That’s an odd choice for a young female.” And I’ve frequently had offerings of ‘feminine’ whiskies at bars. So while this expression of ‘whisky women’ is in no way meant as a feminist rant, and while I dislike the separation of males andq females because I think we should all just get on with it and enjoy whisky, I agree with the others that it is an intimidating space. And I think it is just nice to know, like many things in life, that there is a community of like minded people out there. I’m proud that there seems to be a strong group of women emerging who are making the community stronger, I’m proud to be a part of it, just as I am proud to see how welcoming the world of whisky is generally.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a lot of confusions about women drinking whisky. I hope that will change, and I’m glad to be in such fantastic company while it is.

Alwynne

Reply

Oliver Klimek August 25, 2012 at 9:08 am

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Alwynne. I should add that despite what I wrote about whisky women focussing on whisky women, I find your intervew series very valuable for demonstrating that women already are playing a far more important role in whisky than just being exotic ‘decorations’ of an all-male buisness or carrying their husband’s bags on whisky shows ;).

Reply

Alwynne Gwilt August 26, 2012 at 12:02 am

Thank you for your comments Oliver. And glad you enjoy! And glad you brought this topic up. It’s an interesting one for sure.

Reply

Henry Hughes September 4, 2012 at 6:36 am

“…I would much prefer a whisky world where gender does not matter at all.” Leave out the word “whisky” and you have as decent a definition of feminism as you could find. How sad and strange then to see two women here apparently distancing themselves from feminism.

Reply

Ben October 2, 2012 at 7:20 pm

I remembered this article when I was recently touring Talisker, and the tour guide made mention of the fact that they specifically seek out female tasters to employ at the distillery as they find their perception of certain notes (pepper, specifically) to be different. So this is a whiskymaker who not only perceives a difference between women and men, but actively explores it.

… that is, if the tour guide was being truthful, which I assume he would be.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: