It was a very ambitious schedule to say the least. Eight days, nine flights, 3 countries, 13 interviews, and countless drams…but we’re professionals. Don’t try this at home, please.
Often unsure which day of the week it was, we began our return trip to Scotland with a day in Ireland first. To meet with possibly the most driven man in the whisky industry, Mark Reynier, at the Waterford Distillery along the country’s Southeast shore. It is there, that Mark’s historical journey from Scotland’s whisky Bruichladdich, and his Grenadanrum Renegade, marry the weather-battled barley, yeast, water and time to create a yet-to-be-released spirit in an old Diageo Guinness brewery. If ever you needed more details in an answer about the craft of ANY spirit, Mark’s got a master-levelversion for you at the ready.
Being three to ten years too early, there wasn’t any Waterford whisky to drink, just some 70% maturing spirit, so we’ll count that as tonight’s team taste. Last night’s team bottle was brought to us by old friends from County Cork, a rosey, bog oaked-charred cask West Cork single malt Irish whiskey. Cheers mates!
Sadly, there wasn’t one free moment to shop for any crystal in Waterford before loading up the gear and winging it back to Britain, and central London specifically, to meet with Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison, of BBC’s GoodFood the next morning. Crossing back through the city once again, from our flat in Camberwell to Soho, we pushed though the back-shop bookcase at Milroys and into the Vault. Deep beneath this neighborhood bottle shop is a hidden bothy, loaded with numerous nooks a crannies for hiding away from the city above. But we had no time for that… as one interview lead into another, the second, with Becky Paskin from ScotchWhisky.com
Conversations ran the gamut, from the fairy dust we call marketing, to the ethos of independent bottling and how it compares to bootleg copies of your favorite band… you’ll have to wait for the film’s release to know more than that however.
The witand wisdom of these two blokes, plus Becky’s encyclopedic knowledge of the craft, added much of the color we sought after in returning to the UK this year. Despite shooting for nearly 5 weeks last fall, in early stages of ouredit, we quickly noticed a few gaps in the footage… some foreseen, others unseen. This week’s attack of the Isles was more than necessary. As was catching up with an award-winning Director friend of ours across the street at the Union. The biscuits a must (aka cookies), the blind tasting contest was an unforeseen challenge. Our friend–though not unfamiliar to our favored spirit as well, but less so involved—and in disbelief of our abilities to name a whisky by nosing it, put 100 quid on the line to name 5 blind drams from the social club’s bar. Mistakes were made. Eyes were opened, and then we parted… as our next interview was only hours away.
Back across London for the night and yet again from Vauxhall to Luton Airport at 5 am, this time to fly to Glasgow. And then a race to Chinaski’s in Charing X, to meet with IainCroucher from North Star spirits. His energy and enthusiasm was matched only by his blends. As one of the newest independentbottlers on the scene, his philosophy takes bold-yet-calculated steps to making great whiskies.
Last night’s team bottle(s): Brittany’s ante up Glenfiddich and an in-bound duty-free Glenglassaugh.
With our “easily” rented passenger van, and my Uber-like ability to navigate the city, it was then a short half-mile pop around the corner from lunch to the Douglas Laing & Company headquarters. There, we hauled our team’s eight suitcases, roller bags, warn-out bodies and gear up three vertical walls they call stairs to the Samples Room. It was there that we met with CEO Chris Leggat for the interview, shedding the brightest light on scotch-blending processes and their own take on independentbottling. A few hourslater we had a few more stories to tell about the history of scotch as well… but not before just a tiny nip of the XOP Port Ellen 1982 34-year-old. Honored.
From on high above Lynedoch Crescent, the sun was setting as we loaded out. It was time to find our night’s lodging, near Renfrew and the Glasgow distillery.
Meanwhile, we also check into tomorrow’s flight to Islay in the process of checking into our AirBnB, talk about tight schedule! Tomorrow—don’t ask me what day it is—3/4ths the team will fly to the Hebridean island of Islay to interview Allan Logan, Production Director at Bruichladdich, but not after a two-hour yellow-ice warning and delays on their Logan Air flight aka the “bone rattler”.
Tonight’s Team Bottle(s): Timorous Beastie, North Star Spica.
I, myself, stayed in Glasgow, met with our Associate Producer, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer to shoot some local distillery footage, catch up on media archival and emails before a deep bowl of ramen on Ashton Lane. This particularly dramless day has me passed out on the couch by 10pm while the rest of the team was swimming in Black Art and enjoying the night’s sky in hopes of seeing a spat of the recent borealis dazzling the west coast.
Awake again by 3am, I’m ready to pick up the team at 11am, just a touch too early. From there, its back on the ground running to our next interview, with the inimitableGemma Paterson from The Balvenie at the west end’s finest whisky bar, Oran Mór. But not after a regroup meeting and lunch at the University Cafe down the street. This Hillhead throwback is in-flight-tight on seating, but chock full of flavor and character. A diner made known to us by the one and only Anthony Bourdain, we’re proud to walk in his footsteps, if even for only a few.
Gemma’s youthful enthusiasm for the spirit comes though in her delivery, but don’t mistake her for protege Kelsey McKechnie. Each a powerhouse in their own right, Gemma shares with us the stories of Balvenie new and old, plus a few we can’t even tell you about until later this summer. Then she left us with a bottle of their core expression DoubleWood to use as a prop in tomorrow’s studio shoot. Our restraint from adding it to tonight’s team bottle roster is only saved by the bottle of Big Peat still waiting to meet our tongues.
Now, beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we get through two bottles before sleep, thanks to a few extra quests in the flat. But tomorrow we rise again, to meet with Shug to watch him risea barrel on stage. Our favorite cooper, and Rangers’fan, from the Glasgow Distillery was put to task today, in slow motion. Firing 240 frames per second at his hammer and hoops… even we drop a jaw in awe at some of the takes. We think you’ll like them too.
With the dust now settled on the cyc, and a few of Gregg’s steak bakes settling in our bellies, we settle into the most passion work of the week, shooting high speed pours of whisky against a backdrop of classical music, racing both the rhythms and the clock as our stage day–and shoot—comes to an end.
Tonight’s team bottle(s) include the Balvenie DoubleWood and just one dram of the Bruichladdich Black Art 4… to ease the pain before getting in a cab bound for the train station… but not before a few drams with Liam Hughes at the Bon Accord. L-I-V-I-N!
In the morning, those of us left in Glasgow, drop off a barrel, and hit the road for Edinburgh for one last interview, a second sit with author Blair Bowman. Meanwhile, our producer and I head back to LA via the Caledonian Sleeper from Glasgow to London, hop two more trains and then a plane but not before a few more mistakes… and drams in the duty-free shop. The two blokes in Gatwick’s shop were MORE than helpful in choosing which bottles to bring home… thank you guys!
And then all the good times end with a sad, mind-cloudy bang, as at the very same moment I reach for the plastic tray in London Gatwick’s security line, I rememberer the nearly-empty bottle of DoubleWood in my carryon bag. Well over the 100ml limit unfortunately, I promptly realize the sad mistake and hand it to the securityagent… she wasn’t nearly an impressed as she should have been. Beneath it in the same bag, an empty bottle of Black Art 4 to ease the loss, memories on the shelf to soothe the pain. The drams in duty free helped as well… for the mistake, I picked up a travel exclusive from The Balvenie to make up for my mistake: a peated 14 year old Triple Cask. >From here on out, its back to home, and Australia in just a week’s time for more wonderful filmmaking experiences.
Tonight’s “team” bottle will be a solo nip at home, but it’s hard to predict which it’ll be as I’m still at 30,000 feet and 10 hours from home.
Which do you think I drank?