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Whiskey: No longer an 'Old Boys' drink.


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Whisky (or "whiskey"-we are all for equality between Scotland and Ireland) brings to mind cold evenings, roaring fireplaces, mahogany tables and leather armchairs. It is a cosy and appealing image yet in this imagined scenario everyone drinking are middle-aged or older men.

In early 2018 there was a palava after the vice president of Johnnie Walker said women were intimidated by the spirit. While this is just completely not true-a lot of women love whisky- it is also true that a lot of women don't care about it at all. More importantly, it is also true that people, of all genders and ages,  are intimidated by that which they know little about.

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The world of whisky has never seemed that youthful. If you attend a house party full of 19-year-olds there will be an abundance of cheap vodka and beer but very little whisky. If you go to a chic dinner party for a friend’s 28th birthday there will probably be some nice wines, maybe a fancy post-dinner port if your is into that kind of thing but chances are there will not be much whisky.

But while whisky sales are hugely successful globally, the spirit  has been categorised as an old man’s drink.

The reality is that whisky is a complex drink. It is scary to buy a bottle or order it on the bar if you know little about it. There is a fear of getting it wrong which is never truly felt when you are buying a bottle of sauvignon blanc or ordering a vodka cranberry. It demands more from the drinker most drinks. Drinking whisky is an experience. Its fiery essence means it cannot be downed and forgotten about like other alcohols. It demands consideration. That alone can be intimidating if you are used to drinking Strongbow in a field with your mates. But it shouldn't stop anyone from enjoying

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The whisky tradition is a contributing factor as well. The marketing of whisky for years was gender stereotyped: men retiring to drink whisky after dinner while the women clear up, a man’s drink. While ladies were expected to choose something more feminine and only give whisky as a gift. After all, the only women who drink whisky are masculine, cold-hearted and probably bad wives (Margaret Thatcher was a known whisky drinker.) While those advertisements are ancient history the concept is still ingrained in our heads. It takes time to change people’s opinions.

Whisky brands do aim their campaigns towards younger and gender equal audience no doubt. But not much as changed on a large societal scale. Perhaps there is too much loyalty from the ‘Old Boys’, them buying their favourite spirit keeps the image of old men by the fire alive. We ignore the young female whisky drinkers, of which there are many, and still choose to focus on the older, typical male ones.

The conversation is changing, old men can drink fruity cocktails as young women can drink straight whiskey. In theory, the days of forcing women to drink sherry and men to drink scotch are over. We are living in an age of alcoholic liberations. It is just going to take a bit of time to notice.

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