Famous Movies With Memorable Whiskey Scenes
Hollywood and booze have been linked for decades, ever since “Dewars Scotch Whiskey”, an 1897 film often described as the first filmed advertisement of alcoholic beverage, by showing a disorderly dance routine by giddy, possibly drunk men, in front of a sign advertising the product of the title. As such, it’s no surprise that many iconic whiskeys gained prominence in top shelves and bars thanks to the silver screen.
Over the years, whiskey in movies has illustrated everything from people having a boozy, good or bad time, to the high society’s affectations, even to the ravages of alcoholism. For whiskey enthusiasts, there is a certain geeky thrill in spotting that glass or decanter of whiskey in a movie and being able to decipher its brand, malt, and age. While also offering a lucrative publicity shot for its makers, the prominence of whiskey in films is an endorsement of its popularity.
From blockbuster films to some of the most-watched TV series in recent times, we explore some of the most iconic whiskey moments – as well as a number of ‘brands’ created specially for the silver screen:
Kingsman The Golden Circle (2017) – Old Forester Bourbon
In this action-packed sequel to “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” the Statesman are the “American cousins” of the Kingsman and are headquartered in Kentucky. So it’s only natural that the whiskey of choice is Bourbon; in this case a special selection batch of Old Forester’s typical premium bourbon. Statesman Bourbon as it’s being called, Old Forester released it as a tie-in with the film and it comes from hand-selected barrels that were pulled from the highest elevations in the Old Forester warehouses. This means the barrels were located in the warmest spots, which influences the maturation and profile in the whiskey, even though it uses the same mash bill.
Given that it’s less than five years old, this particular liquor is not exactly what you would call an old bourbon, but it delivers beautifully on the palate – smooth, with a hint of spice and a lingering finish. The American oak barrel gives it more flavor, making it richer, bolder, and slightly more intense.
John Wick (2014) – Blanton’s Bourbon
Following a bloody fight, retired assassin, John Wick staggers back to the Continental Hotel where the hotel manager suggests bourbon as a salve for Wick’s wounded spirit. Wick agrees saying “that sounds perfect.” He then nurses a bottle of Blanton’s Bourbon and pours a drink while the Continental’s doctor tends to his many wounds. With an ABV of 46.5%, it’s safe to say it did its job.
Named after Colonel Albert B. Blanton, Blanton’s Bourbon is believed to be the first single-barrel bourbon on the market. The bottle is unique and comes with the signature horse and jockey stoppers. Back in the day, it was designated for ambassadors, dignitaries, and the Colonel’s family and friends. Today, everyone has access to this fine liquor with its sweet flavor profile and notes of citrus and oak. The nose starts with creamy vanilla with hints of caramel and butterscotch, and then underscored by baking spices such as clove, nutmeg, or cinnamon. In 1984, Blanton’s Original set the standard for single barrel bourbons.
Star Trek Beyond (2016) – Glenfiddich 30 Year Old
Dr. McCoy chides Captain Kirk for drinking some “illegal stuff” on his earthling birthday and instead brings out a stolen bottle of 30 Year Old Glenfiddich whiskey from Chekhov’s locker. They are both surprised since Chekhov is russian and naturally assumed he would be a “vodka guy.” Kirk and McCoy then toast, serving a third glass in honour to the captain’s late father and take a sip of their premium whiskey, which ends with sighs of satisfaction, as expected.
This incomparable single malt Scotch whiskey is aged in casks that have been personally nosed and tasted by an expert Malt Master, ensuring a spirit that is rich in character and seductive in its complexity. With a rich bronze color, it boasts a finely balanced nose with luscious sherry notes and a woody, floral sweetness on the palate, and then finished with a long and warm honeyed sweetness.
The Day After Tomorrow (2004) – Balvenie 12 Year Old
Stuck in the worst ice storm the world has ever seen and knowing their fate is sealed, three men at a Scottish research station contemplate their dying power generator. One of the men pulls out a Balvenie from a bookshelf and suggests to use it as fuel while the most senior member of the team, apparently taken aback with the suggestion, responds with “Are you mad?, “That’s a 12 year-old Scotch!”. He then proceeds to get some lowball glasses and everyone pours a drink, one toasting to England, the other to mankind, while the third raises his glass to Manchester United.
Given their circumstance, they couldn’t have asked for a finer last drink than the Balvenie 12 Year Old DoubleWood Single Malt Scotch Whiskey. Matured in two distinct casks, this premium liquor delivers a cohesive, flavoursome expression packed with orchard fruit, custard cream and cinnamon spice. The nose is tingled with chocolate and raspberry aroma, which also features on the palate along with cherries and spicy cinnamon, and then finished with a warming spicy sweetness.
Skyfall (2012) – Macallan 1962
Raoul Silva, played by actor, Javier Bardem, pours two shots of 50-year old Macallan while acknowledging it as one of Bond’s favorites. He then hands one of the glasses to Bond and places the other atop Bond girl, Severine’s head, who is chained to a rock. And then challenges him to see who could shoot off the glass first. Our dashing 007 deliberately misses the shot, resulting in Silva shooting her. When asked what he thought of that, Bond exhales “it’s a waste of good scotch.”
A bottle of The Macallan 1962 signed by Skyfall cast members, including Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, and Bérénice Marlohe, was sold at auction in 2013 for a whopping £9,635, all of which went to charity. Aged in sherry-seasoned oak casks from Spain, The Macallan 1962 is described as being exceptionally smooth, with sweet oak vanilla and blackcurrant aromas, and a finish that is both gentle and lingering.
Parks and Recreation (Season 6, Episode 2) – Lagavulin 16
The tie-in between the Series and the classic brand became so popular that the folks behind Lagavulin have since placed Nick Offerman, the actor playing Ron Swanson in the show, at the centre of their latest marketing efforts: remember the Whisky Yule Log stunt? In the series and in real life, his preferred scotch whiskey is the Lagavulin 16, even referring to it in an interview as “mother’s milk.” In the show’s finale, Ron is urged to diversify his personal portfolio of assets and does so by purchasing a 51% share in the distillery.
Aged in oak casks for at least sixteen years, Lagavulin 16 Year Old is a much sought-after single malt with a deep amber gold appearance and a 43% ABV. On the nose, massive peat-smoke that’s typical of southern Islay registers, along with a rich, deep sweetness. Expect the full, rich bodied flavors of malt and Sherry with good fruity sweetness, and a massively peaty, smoky profile. The finish is long and elegant with sea and salt with touches of wood.
Lost In Translation (2003) — Suntory Whisky
Bob, a melancholic and sophisticated has-been, played by actor Bill Murray, stars in a commercial for Japanese whiskey Suntory, and is forced to decipher the cryptic messages of the director and his translator. It’s an amusing scene that ends with him saying the famous line: “for relaxing times, make it Suntory time!” The brand is reported to be paying Murray a check of $2 million in royalties.
There are four prominent products under the Suntory Whisky brand – Yamazaki®, Hakushu®, Hibiki®, and Suntory Whisky Toki™. Suntory Whisky symbolizes the harmony that exists between Japanese nature and Japanese people — the fusion of the magnificence of nature itself combined with the passion and precision of the best Japanese artisans, establishing it as an art form. Since 1923, Suntory has pioneered the Art of Japanese Whisky, one that is revered among whisky lovers worldwide today. Kanpai!
The Shining (1980) — Jack Daniels
In the movie, Jack Torrance (played by actor Jack Nicholson) twice orders a bourbon on the rocks from Lloyd, the hotel bartender. The scary part in this scene, obviously, is that he gets served what is clearly a Jack Daniel’s, which is in fact, a Tennessee Whiskey. In another scene, a waiter crashes into Jack with a tray of Advocaat, which spills into his drink. As a result, several The Shining fans have since invented a mix called “Jack Torrance cocktail,” which consists of both bourbon and Advocaat.
The Bottom Line
For all its appearances on the big screen, whiskey may as well warrant its own IMDb page. While there have been changes along the years, one thing that hasn’t changed is that most scenes seem to begin with a close-up of a glass with whiskey being poured into it, and then the camera zooms out to a wider shot revealing the background, setting, and actors. Whether through obvious sightings or those that require further investigation, whiskeys in movies are a welcome tip of the hat to the greatness of this special spirit. So pour yourself a glass and tune in as these moments call for a toast.