When we hit the market with our first Irish whiskey release, J.J. Corry The Gael, I was incredibly surprised at how much the media focused on our company being all female.
Don’t get me wrong, as a new brand on the market I was obviously grateful for how much coverage we did receive. However, like I’ve always said, we might be all female right now, but it does not mean we’ll behave any differently than any other Irish Whiskey Co. I’m at peace with my place in the world and in business as a woman. I can really get behind the current movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, although I am conflicted and still working through my feelings on the directions they’ve taken recently, let’s not dwell on that.
“Let’s not drag whiskey into the gender wars, because we need whiskey to get through those very wars from time to time.”
What I can’t get behind is whiskey designed for Laydees. Like many in the industry, when we read of my ex-employer Diageo’s plans to launch a ‘Jane Walker’ I actually face-palmed. Becky Paskin from scotchwhiskey.com wrote a balanced piece triggered by that little nugget of news this week. In it she erred on the side of hopefulness that Diageo are well-intentioned and not simply slapping a lady on the iconic bottle to attract female whiskey drinkers. I’m not so sure. Women are a rapidly growing consumer of whiskey. All the high falutin’ research tells us so and it is self-evident if you are involved in the business in any way. FMCG companies like Diageo base new product development on consumer insights just like those.
Now, I’m not exactly criticising the strategy here, it’s good business practice to target subsets of consumers, particularly if those subsets are in growth. Hell, I’ll be doing exactly that myself and using my relatability as a female founder to appeal to women whiskey drinkers. What I do take issue with, and I am not alone here, is what seems to be the tone-deaf approach in the timing and execution of this. Let me put it this way; I make J.J. Corry Whiskey appeal to whiskey drinkers. I don’t make J.J. Corry for men and a different product like Bridie Corry (his daughter’s name) for women. Women don’t need whiskey that is created specifically for them. We don’t want it and I for one feel that the concept is patronising.
It’s possibly unfortunate for the Diageo communications team that this all broke at a time when gender issues are more prevalent than they have been since the 1970’s. The topic is a hot potato and right now Diageo is holding it in bare hands and trying to figure out if they should eat it or throw it away.
Can we all just agree once and for all, that Lady Whiskey is a bad idea? Can we all just accept that women approach whiskey no differently than men? Our palates are no different. Each individual human being will decide what flavour profile they like better, based not on their gender but on their personal preference. Let’s not drag whiskey into the gender wars, because we need whiskey to get through those very wars from time to time.
J.J Corry Whiskey
This article was originally published on Louise’s blog.
Read our exclusive interview with her HERE