Why women are angry about Johnnie Walker putting a woman on the label

Brad Cohen

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We’re only two months into 2018, and it’s already being dubbed the “year of the woman” ­– and for good reason. The #MeToo campaign has brought about the beginning of a seismic shift in gender politics, and already more women in the U.S. are running for office, Iceland has become the first country to make it illegal to pay men more than women, and Saudi Arabia has finally allowed women to drive.


Meanwhile, Johnnie Walker is now trying to get in on the women's movement, putting a woman on its liquor bottles for the first time in the brand’s history, with a special edition Jane Walker bottle.

"As a brand that has stood for progress for nearly 200 years, Johnnie Walker is proud to take this next step forward by introducing Jane Walker as another symbol of the brand's commitment to progress," the company said in a statement.

But not everyone has bought into the idea that the scotch whisky giant’s motive is based on progress for women. In a story titled “Thanks to Jane Walker, ladies can finally drink scotch,” Maura Judkis wrote a hilariously scathing response for the Washington Post, which, in part, said:

“What do I know about scotch? Very little, alas. As I am sure you know, women only consume wine spritzers and vodka-based drinks, like Cosmopolitans. I love a good cosmo with my girls! (I have watched every episode of “Sex and the City” three times. I am a Charlotte.) How could I possibly know anything about scotch and bourbon and whiskey, drinks that are exclusively for men? I have no idea how they are made or what theyre made of, but I suspect the ingredients include testosterone and beard oil. “

A cursory search of #JaneWalker on Twitter shows an abundance of other women taking issue with what they consider to be little more than a marketing ploy.

Not helping matters, Stephanie Jacoby, Vice President of Johnnie Walker told Bloomberg, “Scotch as a category is seen as particularly intimidating by women. It’s a really exciting opportunity to invite women into the brand.”

It should be noted that for every bottle of Jane Walker Edition the brand produces, it will donate $1 (up to $250,000) to organizations that champion women's causes.

If anything, this should bring to light the huge disparity of women to men in high-level positions not only the scotch industry, but the whiskey industry in general.

Consider this: Heather Nelson just became the first woman to open a scotch distillery since Helen Cumming opened up Cardhu with her husband – in 1824. To put things in perspective, there are around 120 distilleries in Scotland.

In the U.S., women have started moving their way up in the industry, but it's been a slow road and there's still a long way to go. Marianne Barnes recently became the first female master distiller in Kentucky, America’s bourbon mecca, and there's been a slowly increasing number of women taking high-level positions (mostly) at craft whiskey brands throughout the country.

Here’s to hoping that in 2018 more women will have a say in what goes in the bottle, and not just appear on the label.


Brad Cohen

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