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Issue 91 - The last glass ceiling

Whisky Magazine Issue 91
October 2010


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The last glass ceiling

Liza Weisstuch is a spirit, lifestyle and business journalist who's work has appeared in the Boston Globe and the New York Times

As one of the few writers of the XY chromosome set to specialise in whisky, I can't help but reluctantly spend a fair amount of time noticing how odd it is that the spirit's unyielding reputation is that of a man's drink. I am talking about whisky across the board—American, Irish, single malts, blends— the whole spectrum. And the more time I spend studying the industry and products the more counterintuitive this seems.

Let me assure you: you're not about to embark on some shrill feminist screed. This is a rumination on advertising and marketing and how the big guys are missing the boat, neglecting a very major demographic with disposable income and a well demonstrated history of trend-setting, not to mention that whole tendency to talk amongst themselves.

Mainstream advertising for many whisky brands—at least in the U. S. – is presented in a way that not simply disregards women, but appears to alienate them. Take, for instance, the television spots for Jim Beam that show men pulling some kind of conniving stunt (often to get women's attention), and close with the tagline “Guys never change. Neither do we.” And then there's the Crown Royal slogan: “For Every King, A Crown,” which has a TV spot featuring a father intensely passing on the skills and tricks of something of no less importance than billiards amid a dark rec room. It's so somber, you'd think they were talking about the family history of prostate cancer.

To be fair, there are brands that have devel...

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