Whisky Advocate

Your take on Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible?

December 10th, 2008

We just got our shipment of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible (2009 Edition) into the Malt Advocate office, and they’re flying out the door. With the passing of Michael Jackson last year, Jim’s Whisky Bible really is the only “regularly updated” book with detailed numerical whisky reviews.

So, what are your thoughts on the book? What do you like about the book in general? What would you change? And what do you think about Jim as a reviewer?

40 Responses to “Your take on Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible?”

  1. I think Murray’s Bible is a fun read, but I don’t take his scores too seriously. He used to just uses the upper 35 points of his 100 point score, but since this year’s update to an effective 200 points to divide, I can’t really take it seriously.

    His non-food descriptions are fun, though.

  2. Patrick says:

    Hi John,
    You are really selecting hot topics lately!
    After the heated Bruichladdich post, the temperature will not cool down with this new one.
    I will skip the discussion about the Whisky of the World, which has apparently never existed, to focus only on the book.
    I have bought the first editions and I will stop buying unless the following has been done:
    1) Cleaning the mess. JM is just adding new whiskies on top of the previous version(s) without “updating” the old one (i.e., a new one will be released in 2007 or something of the sort)
    2) Writing tasting notes that gives an indication about the whisky (e.g., slightly Jekyll and Hyde)

    On the positive side, the book is pocket size and thus convenient to take in the shop.
    About Jim has a reviewer? When looking at the tasting notes, I am wondering if there are no conflicts of interest. There are no disclaimers and we know that Jim is working with the Industry. Are the rating not biased?

    Personally, I prefer to consult the tasting notes in magazines such as Malt Advocate or WhiskyMag, as well as indepedent website (e.g. when I can’t taste the whiskies myself.

    But If want to look for a book with the latest (or 1 year old) whisky review, then you will have to go for this one. It might not be the best book ever written, but it is correct. And anyway, do you have the choice?

  3. John Hansell says:

    Patrick, yes I think we just about beat the “Bruichladdich” topic to death, so I thought that this would be a good one to keep the momentum going.

  4. Patrick,

    I agree with biased reviews, and that they are bad thing, but I think even people like the MaltManiacs are, in a way, biased. As are the magazines.

    I head many stories about magazines charging distilleries and importers quite the amount of money to have their whisky tasted (exit small brands, enter big rich dudes) and I think most of the bigger tasters like Malt Maniacs, WhiskyMag and (no offense, I love your mag) MaltAdvocate cannot be independent. There is always a conflict of interest, because of advertising, among other things.

    I do use the magazines as buying guides, although I can almost never find the more obscure releases in shops. The Whisky bible and other annual releases of tasting notes (maniacs awards, WhiskyMag’s awards and so on) are more the check to see if I was right last year. They only publish releases of the past, which makes it a bit more fun to just read, and not so much a guide to buy whiskies. Too much new stuff going on to be dwelling on the past, I say.

  5. John Hansell says:

    Sjoerd, I don’t want to go off topic here, but I really must comment on your statement above and it’s accusations.

    I can’t speak for other magazines or whisky writers, but I assure you that I would never charge for a whisky review. And while it is true that I consult to the whisky industry, I make it clear right up front with them that if I help them design a whisky, I can’t review it. That’s where Jim and I disagree. I never liked it when he picked the Knappogue Castle Irish whiskey barrels for bottling and then rated the releases in his Whisky Bible.

    And finally, while I can understand that you might think that magazines are all biased because we accept advertising, I assure you that I am not. (Again, I can’t speak for other magazines.) I really don’t give a damn whether a company is an advertiser or not. If I don’t like their whisky, I will give it a low rating. Case in point: I don’t like the new Benromach Origins, and I think I rated it lower than any writer in the current issue of MA. The Gordon & MacPhail management, and G&M’s importer, are friends of mine and have been long-time advertisers and they were (understandably) not happy with my review. But that didn’t stop me from telling them (and my readers) that I didn’t like the whisky.

    Okay now, let’s get back on topic here.

  6. John,

    First of all: Sorry. I never meant to accuse you of being biased. I never intended to accuse anyone, of anything. I may have formualted my opinion in a wrong way, and I appreciate you correcting me and pointing it out to me.

    I want to stress that, as I posted, these are stories I hear. To be honest, they are from a guy who has made himself impopular in the Dutch industry, but still has an incredible lot of knowledge on how things happen here in the Netherlands.

    I really do appreciate the fact that you have a strong opinion on designing and rating whiskies. I think that is the way to go.

    I, maybe, should not have included MA and WhiskyMag in my list, but I know the advertisement / rating stuff happens, not only in the whisky industry, but in many industries with specialist magazines, be it beers, computer games or music. What I did try to point out is, that unless specifically noted not to be biased (which you clearly did in your message) I take ratings in any media with advertisements with a grain of salt.

    I thank you for your message, and in pointing out to me that I am wrong. It gives me greater confidence in the ratings of Malt Advocate.

    On Topic, the Whisky Bible: I think information from a book like the whisky bible is to read up on missed expressions, or to see if your choice of purchases over the last year are in line with what the experts say.

    I try to use magazine’s ratings to my advantage and as advice, but I never solely use a single rating. Usually, unless you like to buy the most obscure releases, it is quite easy to find more than one rating floating around on the net. What I try to do then is look up other ratings by the same author on whiskies that I know, to see if he/she and I have a bit of a similar taste.
    I know, since many differences in personal ratings and reviews by mr. Murray, that I do like his, sometimes hard to understand, descriptions, but I do not agree with his scores too often.

    Still, it is a good read, as are most whisky related books and magazines.

    Again, John, sorry for being unclear in what I wanted to say. I never wanted to make anyone look bad or point an accusing finger at them.

  7. John Hansell says:

    Sjoerd, I can certainly understand why you (or anyone else) would automatically assume that we have to be biased because we accept advertising. (And for some of you, no matter what I say will convince you that I’m not. Fair enough.) But I discovered a long time ago that I would rather go to bed at night with a clear conscience and fewer dollars in my pocket.

    Can we have more thoughts on Jim’s book? The older I get, the smaller the font size seems to be. That I know for sure!

  8. Todd says:

    I find the Murray Whisky Bible to be a very useful and colorful (eg @*%# my old boots Rosebank) resource. IMO, I have found several examples of underrated whiskies (1970 Bruichladdich OB first release, 1975 Talisker 25 yr OB) or overrated whiskies (Cardhu 12 yo, Glen Moray 12 yo, the Macallan Fine Oak series which are apparently loved only by professional whisky writers).

    But more often than not, the Whisky Bible has led me to delightful whiskies that I would have not purchased otherwise. In addition to characterizing hard to find single cask bottlings, the Bible is updated frequently enough to have spurred me to stock up on the most recent Ardbeg 10 yo and try the . My only significant beef with the Whisky Bible is the time lag between its availability here and the UK – and the subsequent disappearance of highly rated rated whiskies in the interval.

  9. sam k says:

    Off topic, but potentially relevant. I found it interesting that , though John has panned the Benromach Origins, Benromach still placed an ad in the latest issue of Malt Advocate. This shows that both organizations are bigger than their potential disagreements. Slainte!

  10. Sku says:

    I buy the Bible every year, but like those who buy Playboy for the articles, I really buy it for, well, the articles. I think Jim’s “Bible Thumping” piece is one of the influential voices in whiskey. He has effectively used it to raise industry-wide concern about practices such as caramel coloring and the use of sulpher, and I always find it interesting and provocative. I also enjoy the introductions to each geographic area and the year in whiskey.

    While I love the articles, the reviews, not so much. First, I simply have different tastes than Jim and while we intersect on some things (including love of Ardbeg), I often find myself sipping a highly rated WB whiskey and wondering if it’s the same thing he tasted.

    Second, amen to Patrick’s point about it being a mess. The number of symbols and the number of old reviews which stay in the book makes it more difficlut to read every year. Is the whiskey I buy on the shelf today the one he gave a 97 to or that earlier one he gave an 82. Oi!

    Third, I have a general problem with numerical ratings (and that goes for WM and MA as well). I just think they are not only subjective but difficult to keep consistent, and that makes them not so useful. If I’m looking at a rating, the only thing I really want to know is should I buy or taste this whiskey. A three to five point rating would be just as helpful. In addition, I’ve always, wondered, does the best Canadian Whisky you’ve ever had get the same score as the best Scotch Single Malt you’ve ever had, even if you think the single malt is better than the Canadian? In reviewing Jim’s scores, I tend to think the answer is yes (maybe not exactly, but you get my point).

    I love JM’s passion and his obsession with completeness, and since I buy every edition, I guess I have to say I like the Bible, though I find its ratings pretty flawed.

  11. Mike Dereszynski says:

    Hi John,
    Great conversations ,keep stoking the fire,it makes for great reading with my evening dram.
    I have enjoyed Jim’s bible for a number of years and usually buy more than one to give to others as a guide into the world of whisky.
    Regarding Patricks comment about the lack of updating,tasting 811 “fresh to the market” whiskies in 2008 and 1227 in 2009 is alot of tasting .Jim’s retasting brought the number to 1550 out of 3850 whiskies covered in this years bible.He has also retasted and rewritten the American and Canadian sections of this years book.
    On top of that,where else will you find not only a review of Rittenhouse very rare single barrel 21 yr. old rye but ALL 31 BARRELS !!!!
    Like any publication,there are bound to be mistakes.I dont believe Templeton has a distillery in Chicago,but I could be wrong.Also a double entry on page 162 for Old Malt Cask Laphroiag Aged 18 Years Rum Finish is probably a printer/publisher error.
    I also find his belief of “tasting” not drinking ,something we should all consider when we hold or attend tastings.I applaud Serge and the Malt Maniacs for their promotion of this as well.
    The late great Michael Jackson was unique in his observations of the world of beer and spirits.Jim Murray is also a valued personality as are you John and Serge and Jim Gillespie,the Bruichladdich Lads and Lassies,Frank and Peter and the rest of Scotland,Jim Rutledge and Four Roses,Nick Quint of Yahara Bay,Ichiro Akuto of Chichibu and the many others who share their knowledge We all bring our opinions and history to the enjoyment of the grain and I find myself coming away with more than was brought.
    Thanks all and dont let the fire go out.
    Mike Dereszynski

  12. Adam H. says:

    There’s no way that Old Parr Superior 18 was even close to the best whisky of 2007. It simply doesn’t taste that good. That’s what really, really made me start to question all of Jim’s ratings. Something’s going on.

    But I bought this year’s edition (now my 4th year in a row) because I do like the Whisky Bible. It’s helpful for certain… you just have to get a “feel” for what whiskies Jim may, uh, not be quite on-the-level with. And hey, who else could have motivated me to obsessively hunt down a bottle of mediocre blended whisky from Asia?

    I usually cross-reference the Whisky Bible with Malt Advocate (thanks John) and the Malt Maniacs Monitor, plus some random Googling of course, and make informed decisions from there.

    John, how about pinning him down for a tell-all interview? How about just a tell-something interview?

  13. John Hansell says:

    Jim and I have mutual respect for each other. (There are some whisky writers he doesn’t like, and he’s not shy about telling people.) Usually we are fairly close in our opinions of whiskies, although I think he embraces younger whiskies a little more than I do. As you guys know, every writer is different, which is why you shouldn’t rely on just one reference source.

    Adam, we have been trying to pin him down for an interview. That would be a hoot! Hopefully we will be able to make that happen soon (if we can get the guy to slow down a little).

  14. Serge (for the Malt Maniacs) says:

    Sjoerd, just to make things clear, the Malt Maniacs don’t take any kind of money (advertising or else). We rather pay a lot of money for what we do (the Malt Maniacs Awards alone cost us a lot in sample bottles, shipping and so on). It is a hobby for us. We have professional writers (Martine, Charlie, Dave) but they’re not ‘allowed’ to score whiskies under the MM banner. Some others write a few articles in local or national magazines, most of the time unpaid, but other than that, we’re ‘genuine’ consumers. To give you another example, one of our members just started a very nice small business dealing with old whiskies. We immediately and collectively decided to make him step down from our scoring system, and he perfectly understood and agreed (because he’s a cool and very clever guy!)

    I’m not suggesting at all that the ‘pros’ are biased and that we aren’t (there can be various other kinds of biasses), I just wanted to put things straight.

    We have the utmost respect for the pros, even if we like to joke about some of them from time to time.

  15. John, I know you’d like to keep this focused on Jim’s Bible…but I’d like to respond to Sjoerd’s comments about the Malt Maniacs and what he terms as a “bias”.

    First of all…none of the Maniacs work for whisky companies, and those who generate income from writing about whisky (Dave Broom, Charles MacLean, Martine Nouet, etc.) do not rate whiskies for either the Malt Maniacs Awards or the ratings on the Maniacs web site. There’s no advertising allowed on the Maniacs web site, and no entry fees are charged to distillers and bottlers to compete in the Awards (the only cost to participate is whatever they spend to send bottles for the competition).

    Sjoerd, if you have evidence of a bias, I’d challenge you to give specifics instead of just making allegations that you don’t back up. As individuals, we may have our own individual favorite whiskies, but the nature of the group dynamic in ratings tends to cancel out any individual bias among the Maniacs.

    As for Jim’s Bible…I’ve always found it useful as a resource, and as you pointed out, John…each writer and rater is different, and it makes sense to look at multiple reference sources.


  16. Going back to some points raised earlier, John, and something you and I have discussed previously, do you know of any professional and well-known whisky, or indeed, spirits writers today who do not do any work within the industry? My sense is that if you removed from consideration all the writers with potential conflicts, you’d be left with…well…no one.

  17. jazz lover says:

    John I must agree with Todd..

  18. Red Arremer says:

    The title, “Whisky Bible,” pays hommage to the traditional association between appreciation and inspiration, which the philosopher Schiller encapsulated in his statement that it takes genius to appreciate the work of genius. The implication is clear: a gulf lies between the casual drinker and the connoisseur and often between the flavor profiles that each would most appreciate as well.

    Consequently, what I take from the Whisky Bible are not recommendations aimed at my palate, but reports on the palate of a man who has made the inspired appreciation of whisky the object of his life. I take it for granted that Jim Murray’s ratings and comments must frequently disagree with my experiences. And that’s ok because I don’t need someone to tell me what I like and, as long as I can taste first, I hardly need reviews to help me decide what to buy. What I do need, and what the Whisky Bible gives me is a rich compelling example of how engaging the appreciation of whisky can be.

  19. Scott says:

    While it is good to have an frequently updated whisk(e)y review book, The Whisky Bible is just not the one I would hope for. His scores are often questionable, but you shouldn’t go by scores in the first place. So you are left with his descriptions to help you. Which are a jumble. They are not uniform in the format and even worse some times he leaves out part or even all of the tasting notes on an item and just leaves his score. Sadly there have been no other whisky books to knock this book off peoples lists. Even more sad is that even though I do not like this book, I still end up buying it for lack of options. When reading Whisky Bible I really miss the nice, organized and detailed notes of Michael Jackson’s Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch.

  20. Roadrunner says:

    I have the 2008 version and an earlier one. It certainly is comprehensive, covering every form of whisky from around the world. As for the reviews, I find that I am in total disagreement with Jim on a number of whiskies. It seems to me that he likes young, immature whiskies and anything Ardbeg. Here are a few examples. He rates Black Bottle 10y 89 and gives the no age statement 5y a 91. I was in a bar on the Royle Mile and ordered what was advertized as Black Bottle 10y (one of my favorites). When I tasted it I thought it was really harsh and asked to see the bottle. What they showed me was the 5y, so they apologized and gave me another choice, since they did not really have the 10y. To me the 10y is about as good as a blend can be and is top rated by other reviewers. The 5y is mediocre, yet Jim gives it a higher score.
    Another example is Clan McGregor, the cheap blend from Glenfiddich which is far inferior to the Standard Grants blend and not even in the same league as Bailie Nicol Jarvie (from Glenmorangie) one of the really fine blends. He gives Clan McGregor a 92 and BNJ an 89. As a standard blend, I find 100 Pipers to be far superior to Clan McGregor, but he gives 100 Pipers a 67 and calls it “..bloody awful..”.
    Then there is the Bruichladdich Waves, an immature 7 year old. He gives it a 90 whereas honest John Hansell gave it a 78, a reasonable score.
    I have an early Sullivan’s Cove from Tasmania that I haven’t tried because he gave it a 58 or 61 (not sure which version I have). That is about as low as he scores a whisky. However he gives the Sullivan’s Cove 6y bourbon maturation malt a 95, only 2 points below the highest ranking whisky in his book. Is it really that good? I would like to get back to Tasmania and find out.
    I guess if you like really young whiskies you can trust his ratings, but I find it hard to trust many of his scores on blends.

  21. JC Skinner says:

    Good writer and great servant of the whisk(e)y industry down through the years.
    He constantly provides the best macro-view of the global whisk(e)y output, bringing otherwise little known drams to the attention of the market.
    However, I haven’t taken his ratings seriously for years. I appreciate that every palate is individual, but some of his scorings (the Tassie that Roadrunner referred to above for example, or indeed his puffing of Knappogue Castle which I believe he had a hand in blending) are frankly not credible or plausible except in the context that one assumes Murray is using a headline score to drive people in the direction of particular drams.

  22. Tim McCann says:

    I find the Murray Bible an entertaining read, but it is nothing more than a single source among the many I consult. You really can’t use any ONE source on which to base an opinion. After a few years, you can tell what Jim really likes (anything from Ardbeg, or with 40 PPL for example!) and use that when weighing his opinion. If I bought solely on what Jim scores high, I’d have a bunch of nice looking 750ml paperweights.

    Others here have mentioned it’s real value – a yearly update which keeps it relevant and it’s size, which does make it handy to take along on whisky forays.

    He does need to clean it up a bit – there are too many old reviews from previous editions. And my friends and I were just discussing how the number of high ratings has seemed to increase substantially this year – saw that mentioned here as well.

    But I do like the fact that it is a fun read. And while I’m not sure I needed to know my favorite Bruichladdich (XVII) is a dram Jim assumes is dedicated to “Laddie blender Jim McEwan’s sex life” (what does one do with THAT review? – LOL), I did know exactly what he meant when in referring to batch #23 of Stranahan’s Colorado whisky he said “if you could put a voice to this whisky, it’d probably be Lee Marvin.” How can you NOT want to try that?

    Just my two cents…

  23. David S says:

    I own the 2004,2005 and 2008 WB editions but still favor his (long since outdated) The Complete Guide to Whiskey from 1997. There are no ratings just a description of each distillery and an expression or two (which was all most distilleries had then), but it clearly spells out his passion for all whisky, how it is made and what should be known to a wider audience (and some that deserve no audience at all). This book, I believe, speaks more to what he does best, which is explore and communicate his findings, both to the consumer and back to the industry.

    On a side note, I went searching for his Classic Irish Whiskey also from 1997 and was amazed that it was selling used for over US$100.

  24. Dave Broom says:

    I’ve no problem with people disagreeing with my opinions, but I’m considerably less happy when my integrity is questioned, so .. here’s a quick clarification as far as Whisky Magazine’s tasting procedure is concerned.
    It’s quite simple really.. everything is tasted blind. This means that there can be no favouritism (conscious or subconscious) or accusations of bias. Taste, write, score and wait to see what is revealed. Sometimes, as John points out, this means you end up in a interesting conversation with a distiller, but that’s part of the job.

  25. John Hansell says:

    And since Dave chimed in here, I would also like to speak on his behalf. Yes, he reviews whisky for a publication that many consider to be my competition, but I have the highest regard for Dave. He tells it like it is, blind or not.

  26. Serge says:

    Oh yes, something else that may be misinterprated regarding the fact that ‘the pros’ don’t score for Malt Maniacs: of course that’s not because they may be biased (which I can guarantee they aren’t – quite astonishingly – joking!) but just because they usually have other engagements regarding that activity (books, magazines) and also because, frankly, they may already drink way too much whisky. And gin (oops).

  27. Davin de Kergommeaux says:

    Whenever someone does something well, or starts to get a lot of attention there will always be naysayers. Some are people who wish they had thought of it themselves and others are chronic complainers. I remember how people used to imagine Michael Jackson being on the payroll of Macallan or Glenfiddich, but now that he’s gone they miss him like crazy and nobody believes that anymore. Now the Whiskey Bible has somewhat taken the place of the Malt Whisky Companion (aka Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch) and so it attracts the detractors MJ used to get.

    I must say, it took Johannes and the Malt Maniacs about two years to convince me to start scoring whisky and I used all the arguments I have read here and elsewhere to say why you can’t score whiskies. But once I put my mind to it, I discovered scoring was much less subjective and random than I had imagined and I could pretty much repeat my scores, blind, even years later. My objections it turns out, were just naiive assumptions.

    One reason I did not trust scoring is that I could not consistently get the same scores as Michael Jackson. My Macallan scores were always 5 or 6 points less than his. Once I realised this, though I began to find his scores very useful because I knew how to translate them into what I would like most among untasted malts I could purchase, especially when traveling. So I went from baffled disbeliever to prosyletising apostle.

    The same holds for Jim Murray and his Bible. Once you learn how to read Jim Murray’s scores they are just as useful as a guide as Jackson’s were or yours in Malt Advocate are. I’ll repeat that – as a GUIDE. I’d suggest people taste a few whiskies and compare their impression to those in the Bible. Learn what turns Murray on and what doesn’t then rather than follow it as scripture, interpret it to their own tastes. It’s not going to match perfectly, but just like Jackson’s scores, once you know how to interpret them Murray’s will be a whole lot more useful than nothing at all (and they fit in your pocket).

    You know Murray has told us he does not always score whiskies perfectly. I remember some years ago, just about the time he stopped appearing in Whisky Magazine he published an article saying he had just spent something like 3 months unable to distinguish one whisky from another and he thought his career was over. (I am telling you this from memory so the details may be different, but the gist is that his sense of smell and taste had changed radically.) I’d suggest if people want a guide to help them make a decision between one bottle or another the Whisky Bible is as good as any other. If however they are looking for someone to hold their hand and direct them to the best whisky in the world for their own personal palate, then they are going to be disappointed. If, on the other hand they are just looking for scores to disagree with, well, just about any source is as good as another.

  28. Michael Shoshani says:

    I have never purchased any of the Whisky Bibles, although I am considering the new one. I do have his Complete Book of Whiskey (which, as noted above, came out eleven years ago and is sorely outdated) as well as his Classic Bourbon, Tennessee and Rye Whiskey (a decade old, also outdated).

    One thing that would be nice would be to have publications such as the Whisky Bible be more or less living documents, in the sense that a the writer understands that a given expression of a certain whisky from this year will not be identical to that of last year. The book’s subject need to be continually re-tasted and the ratings updated – a formidable task, but one I’m sure any whisky writer worth his nosing glass would be up to. 🙂

    My whiskey bookshelf is primarily filled with Murray, Michael Jackson, and the engaging and informative Charles MacLean. Of that formidable lineup, it seems to me that Murray is unique in that he pulls no punches. If he thinks a whisky tastes like something dumped from a washing machine into which sewage has backed up, he’ll say it. He panned Pappy 20 ten years ago, and he ripped into Littlemill (“Perfect for the person in your life you loathe”) the year before that. I may not always agree with his assessments – frequently I don’t – but I admire him for speaking his mind.

  29. sam k says:

    Just curious: does Jim do blind tasting for the Bible ratings? The answer may have an affect on a lot of the speculation here.

  30. John Hansell says:

    Oliver, that’s a good topic for a future posting. I’ve made a note of it!

    Not sure about that one, Sam. I don’t think so.

  31. Davin de Kergommeaux says:

    Oliver, Yes, Dave Broom’s Handbook is excellent and takes a unique point of view. He has also written the best Rum book ever. A great writer who, lucky for us, just happens to have picked whisky as his subject.

  32. Ethan Prater says:

    Jim Murray is in many ways the best kind of critic: passionate, knowledgeable, and idiosyncratic. All of these traits come across in the Whisky Bibles (of which I own all but the 2009). Yes, they’re something of a mess, sort of like I think Jim must be (in a good way).

    Jim’s epic tasting at the ’07 Whiskies of the World in San Francisco was a genuine highlight of my whisky-tasting “career”. It’s a shame he and the magazine conference organizers can’t get along to get him to appear at more such events.

    And like all good critics, once you have a handle on how your tastes match to his, you can use his reviews as buying guides even if you don’t agree with them.

    The conflicts of interest (Knappogue Castle, Ardbeg/Glenmorangie, Jameson, others?) are troubling. Lack of clear disclosure there shows poor judgment.

    But as the books themselves, what else is there that attempts anything remotely as comprehensive? The Michael Jackson guide is great, but sorely incomplete and out of date. I think Murray’s book is a must-buy for the interested whisky lover.

  33. Ken Blankenship says:

    I have found Jim to be an uncompromising individual who is very opinionated on the subject…just like the rest of us. Let’s all remember that bias is within all of us; as taste is subjective. I, too have my favorites as do others. I enjoy Jim’s to-the-point writings and his colorful descriptions of whiskies. I have found myself mostly agreeing with Jim but on many occasions I am not in agreement.

    And should we all agree with each other? I think not. I have a great respect for ALL the men and women in the industry and having met many of them, I have learned so much from each and every one of them even though I am not always in agreement with all that is said or written. I find it fun and energizing to read on the subject ( e. g., Jim’s writings ) from someone who has so much knowledge on the subject.

    As we all know, people in the Scotch Whisky league are connoisseurs who are passionate about the subject and wanting to convey and instill that same passion within the rest of us. Given that, and to sketch out briefly from my readings on the subject over many years, and knowing that the experts all have unfathomnable knowledge, I find MacLean, The Historian; Jackson, The Teacher; Broom; The Traveller; McIvor; The Salesman; Paterson, The Ambassador; and, Murray, The Chemist, and the list goes on and on. Let us all remember that each something to contribute to the subject from the novice to the connoisseur. We can all learn from each other.

  34. B.J. Reed says:

    Like Jim, enjoy his book but disagree with a number of his rankings – People crave direction in purchases of whiskies when costs become significant and they cannot sample them – its one of the reasons that Jackson’s books and more recently Murray’s books have become so popular. Still, they are no substitute for building your own sense of whiskies and defining your own individual tastes. That is the downside of The Whisky Bible, people take his rankings and question their own.

    Finally, I would encourage John to collect his rankings and tasting notes that are produced in the Malt Advocate and do his own book because I greatly respect his opinion and those of his writers (even if I do not agree with them all the time either) – I also like the Scottish Field rankings because, as David Broom noted about how he tastes and ranks whisky, they are blind and they include a range of highly reputable whisky experts.

  35. Red Arremer says:

    “people take his rankings and question their own.”

    Right on BJ. People often do this and it’s too bad.

  36. I don’t score meals I eat in restaurants, movies I watch, paintings I see in museums, or women I date. I find that trying to attach “objective” criteria to such things only interferes with my appreciation of them. I just think it’s pointless (pardon!) and unnecessary. Obviously a lot of people feel otherwise. I had an edition of the Bible several years ago–it’s gathering dust somewhere. I’ve since met Murray and attended two tastings hosted by him. There’s no doubt that he’s talented, knowledgeable, and passionate, and I’ve learned things from him. But I’ve had more than enough of his insufferable ego, and have long since turned elsewhere for discussion and guidance.

  37. Gary Gillman says:

    Okay my 2 cents: I have always found Jim’s books very informative. They assist me (as do other sources, e.g., Malt Advocate) to assess the taste of a product and its price/quality ratio. For a relatively small price the pocket guide is packed full of data, information, judgments. And I don’t mind some of the older entries, sometimes you want to consult one for one reason or another. In the end, he’s giving his opinion, as a specialist to be sure, but still it’s his opinion. As noted in one of the comments above his book is a guide only (not a definitive statement of what whiskies taste like). In general though I find his work very helpful and also entertaining in style. He gets his own personality across in his writing and I like that.


  38. Josh Kolchins says:


    I love the Whisky Bible. I have several editions and use them extensively when tasting and shopping for drams. I find Murray to be funny, contemplative and extremely descriptive in his assessments. He’s fanatical about whisky and a great champion of the industry in general. Yes, he’s got an ego and yes he an be a bit overbearing, but his passion and love for the industry shines through. I will continue to use the Whisky Bible as a guide and as an entertaining read!


  39. John Hansell says:

    I just wanted to say that I was going back here and reading the comments. I realize that I didn’t establish the WDJK code of ethics until after this post, but there were two comments here that I feel were over the line and deleted them. One implied that Jim’s World Whiskey of the Year is “bought”, which it isn’t. The other I felt might have attacked his character as much as his book. In an effort to be completely transparent, I am letting you know that I deleted them. (Hopefully, this is the first and last time this will occur.)

  40. […] die Murray, gezien zijn impulsieve ontladingen, lijkt te vertonen, worden hem niet altijd in dank afgenomen. Zijn betrokkenheid bij de heropstart van de Ardbeg-distillery in combinatie met de […]

© Copyright 2017. Whisky Advocate. All rights reserved.