For a span of several months last year, Jim Murray, a whisky writer and reviewer, was unable to walk, stand, and even sit comfortably because of a simple and very telling mistake: for upward of twenty years, he’d spent full days spitting whisky out of his mouth into a spittoon that sat on his right-hand side. His whisky-spitting motion had become so one-sided that he’d shriveled a muscle in his back and thrown his spine out of alignment.
Murray is a principled whisky taster. He achieved some notoriety a few years ago for admitting during an interview that he does not kiss anyone during the writing of his annual whiskey tome, Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible. He says the germs run the risk of making him sick, which would trash his tasting schedule of up to 30 whiskeys a day. When I watched him give a tasting on Texas bourbons recently, he nearly inspired an uprising among a cadre of Southerners by barring any swallowing at all for nearly two hours, and also stringently enforcing a “no talking” rule. “Listen to the whiskey,” he said. Eventually, most of the Texans came to heel, and later began self-policing in so zealous a manner that it was obvious they’d become disciples.