I’ve been thinking a lot about the ethics of my bourbon reviews and myself as a reviewer lately. Specifically the implied “endorsement” I give to specific brands by saying that I love or like a product released under that brand. As Americans we are conditioned from a young age to connect to brands. I remember my first Transformer toy and my first Nintendo. I argued which brand of game console was better between the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis with my friends (a lot of times it came down to whether you liked the “branding elements” that were Mario or Sonic better). And honestly, I’m still that kid on occasion. I describe myself as a "Four Roses Fanboy” in numerous posts on this very site.
With the advent of social networks, marketing and branding have gotten so personal that we feel like we know these #BRANDS as people. We know what politics and policies that brands like Apple and Google stand for. It’s as though these companies are a single person with values and not a collection of people just trying to make a living by selling you something. It gets even worse in the whiskey world (though this is not exclusive to whiskey). Brand Ambassador is an actual title that employees have. People interact with the Ambassadors and feel like they get to know the #BRAND. They feel like they should support the #BRAND because they “know” it, when in reality all they know is the company’s carefully crafted marketing presentation.
This past weekend, I came across a Facebook post by Hollis B Worth (formerly Hollis Bulleit). It was a long and hard read. In the post she made allegations of mental and physical abuse at the hands of her father due to her sexuality. Now, I am going to keep saying “allegations” because I have no idea if these allegations are true, I obviously wasn’t there. Heck, I don’t even know any of the people involved. But I do find them credible. The language she used is the language I used myself when I processed something very similar that happened to me, though nothing quite as serious or prolonged as Hollis is alleging.
I’ve always been a bit, shall we say, effeminate in how I carry my body. Not to say I can’t be as manly as the society of my Northern Wisconsin birthplace needs me to be, but I’ve always had a bit more “flourish” to my personality than your usual Northwoods boy. So much so that when I was a teenager, and long before I knew I was bisexual, my father once threatened to “cut off that little faggot pecker” if I didn’t start to “man-up.” Needless to say, the fact that I happened to fall in love with and marry a woman has made him much happier. I hate to think how he would have reacted if that girl in the KISS shirt who gave me the “come fuck me eyes” the day I fell in love with her had been a guy instead of a girl. I guess I got lucky, no one other than my wife ever needed to know about my sexuality. It literally isn’t visible from the outside. And she only knew because it came up in conversation.
So that is a very long way to say that I take LGBTQIA+ issues very seriously. I take abuse very seriously. And just for good measure let’s just say that I also take racism and xenophobia very seriously as well. One of the downsides to #BRANDS working so hard to connect with their audiences is that when the brand—or one of their spokespeople—do something wrong, it feels even more wrong than it used to. No one used to care if their preferred soda company hated gay people. But today, these aren’t companies, they are #BRANDS. And we’ve been repeatedly asked to #JoinTheConversation and conditioned to connect to them in a very different way than we used to. It’s hard on an emotional level to figure out how they could act in a way that is so unlike how you thought they would. It’s like finding out that your friendly neighbor likes to rape puppies.
In short, I do not want to be associated with homophobic, racist, or xenophobic words, thoughts or behavior. And honestly, I don’t have to. This is my site. I run it for fun, not profit. I’m beholden to no advertisers. If I don’t agree with a brand’s stance on something or the spokesperson does something I find repugnant, I’m not going to cover the brand. As such, I have updated my Statement of Ethics to include this. I’ve included the revised statement below, changes are in bold.
This is document will be kept up to date. Things will be added to as things come up. Edits will be made if circumstances change.
I will not allow a comment that disparages women, men, minority groups, or homosexuals (or anyone else for that matter). I will not allow xenophobic or racist comments on the site.
I will not review or endorse brands where I find that there are credible accusations of homophobia, xenophobia, racism, misogyny, other repugnant behavior, or ideals not in line with my own by the company, its officers, or spokespersons. If accusations come to light after reviews have been published, those reviews may be altered, amended, or removed from the site at my discretion. If alterations or amendments occur, that will be noted at the beginning of the article.
In order to avoid comment spam, I will not approve comments that include a link to a different site or email address.
I do not accept advertising or paid posts/content.
I try to purchase much of what I review, but will accept review samples.
When a review sample is accepted, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article.
Beyond the sample policy above, I do not accept trips, gifts, or other compensation in return for posts or reviews.
When I visit a distillery or whiskey event, I usually pay for my ticket and take the same tours everyone else can. In instances where this not the case, such as a Media Event or a “Sneak Peak,” I will disclose that fact at the beginning of the article. This does not mean I won't set up a private tour/visit if the distillery agrees and it will make a good article.
There are spirits industry people who I consider friends. If I ever review one of their products, I will disclose that fact at the beginning of the article.
Though I try very hard to get my facts straight, errors happen. If I make a factual error in an article, I will happily update it if notified and will make note of the change at the end of the article.
In return for the above, I ask that you respect the license that the reviews/posts/images were released under. I release all works on this site under a creative commons license unless otherwise noted. This means you are basically free to do whatever you want with them provided you do two things: use it for non-commercial purposes and give credit back to the site/leave on the watermark. Commercial uses are anything that make money such as a blog that accepts advertising or a presentation that people pay to attend, etc. If you want to use it for purposes outside the license, just send me an email and we'll work something out. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/
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