I’ve written before about the odd gender issue in the drinks industry. When I wrote this post about my awkward harassed kind of experiences the #MeToo movement had not really hit its stride. As we all know and are possibly exhausted from, it well and truly has now. When we hit the market with our first Irish Whiskey Release J.J. Corry The Gael, I was incredibly surprised at how much focus the media coverage had around our company being all female. Don’t get me wrong as a new brand on the market I was also incredibly grateful at how much coverage we received. 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, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are something I can really get behind although like many I am conflicted and still working through my feelings on the direction its taken recently, lets not dwell on that.
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 set in Whiskey. All the high falutin’ research tells us so and its 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 that.
Now I’m not exactly criticising that strategy here, its good business practice to target sub-sets of consumers, particularly if those sub-sets are in growth. Hell, I’ll be doing exactly that myself and using my relate-ability 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 to appeal to Whiskey Drinkers. I don’t make J.J. Corry for Men and a different product Bridie Corry (his daughters name) for Women. Women don’t need whiskey that is created specifically for them, we just don’t need it, we don’t want it and I for one feel the very concept is patronising.
I think its unfortunate possibly for the Diageo Comms. 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 are holding it in bare hands and trying to figure out if they should eat it or throw it in the distance.
Can we all just agree now once and for all, that Lady Whiskey is a bad idea? Can we all just accept that women approach whiskey No Differently that 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.