Most of Jim Murray's income comes from consulting fees and other compensation he receives from distilleries, mostly for conducting tastings for them with their big customers. I'm not suggesting he colors any reviews based on who is or is not retaining his consulting services. I have no information about that one way or the other, but to say he is not "beholden" ("Owing something, such as gratitude, to another; indebted.") might not be entirely accurate.Jim Murray is especially beholden to no one.
But not to be coy, what do I really think? I think Jim likes to bite the hand that feeds him from time to time. He's that way. Might his opinion of a whiskey also reflect his opinion of the people who make it? I can't say no, since he doesn't taste blind. I know most of the whiskey writers (there aren't that many of us) and I don't think honesty is really a problem with anybody. Anybody in this business who is selling his soul is selling it cheap, because it doesn't pay that well.
So I guess, Mike, I really would only quarrel with you about the word "especially." Just because Jim has slammed a couple of products, that doesn't necessarily make him less "beholden" than other people.