Scotch Whisky on the Big Screen

Old fashioned clapper board

As the winter chill starts to settle in and the nights turn in early, it’s about this time of year that we settle down and watch a good film or TV series. We all have our favourite movies like we have our choice of single malts and Cuban cigars. But do you know which media productions feature Scotch whisky?

From Blockbuster films to some of the most popular television series of the 21st-century, the appearance of Scotch whisky could almost warrant itself its own IMDb page for its multiple appearances on the big screen.

Below we take a look and highlight some of Scotch whisky’s most iconic moments in cinema, as well as a few surprise ‘brands’ created just for the occasion.

“Fifty-year-old Macmallan, a particular favourite of yours, I understand,” said Javier Bardem’s baddie, as he offers the whisky to Daniel Craig’s James Bond in the 2012 Skyfall movie, moments before killing Bond’s girl.

As well as seeing a dram of Macmallan in James Bond, Glenfiddich’s 30-year-old appears in Star Trek Beyond when Captain Kirk and Dr McCoy share a drink. We also see Johnnie Walker Black Label make an appearance in the 2015 remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mark Hamil is given a 1962 Dalmore which Samuel L Jackson ultimately knocks back while surrounded by bodies.

In the hit comedy, Anchorman, Ron Burgundy is seen ordering three fingers of The Glenlivet right before he rips into that memorable flute solo, and of course, the Scotch Ditty during the credits.

The story continues onto television with one of America’s most prestigious gentlemen in both TV and stand-up comedy, Nick Offerman, who cannot get enough of Lagavulin both in real life and as his character from Parks and Recreation, Ron Swanson. Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D shows a variety of whisky brands; whilst the Glenlivet makes a special appearance in the third season of America’s hit show Silicon Valley.

Over time there has been a minimal effort in hiding the whisky’s brand in TV and cinema. Directors used to protect the label with an actor’s hand, or the bottle would simply be spun a different way so that the label was not apparent to the audience.

One thing that hasn’t changed is how a whisky scene tends to be shot; in the majority of cases, the shot starts with a close-up of the glass of Scotch being poured, and then the camera zooms out to a wide-angle shot, revealing the actor and background.

Another way filmmakers cover up a whisky brand and prevent disputes is to make up their own brands.

The term “Greek” is used when a fake product is utilised in the filming industry. This allows the film to avoid any royalty disputes or give off the impression they are promoting a particular product in the scene.

Two major prop studios are responsible for the fake products. HPR Graphics are behind Balmoor and Clyburn whisky and many other fakes, while Independent Studio Services in Los Angeles, specialising in tens of thousands of props, created the very popular Glencallan, Gardner and Clermont whisky.

The fake distillery of Clyburn features in Rock of Ages and is also a form of assassination in The Dark Knight. Whilst, interestingly, Balmoor often features in shows that get cancelled such as The Grinder, The Defenders and Lipstick Jungle.

However, we must give the prize to the most featured fictional on-screen whisky, Glencallan. The Mindy Project, Sons of Anarchy, Burn Notice, Nip/Tuck, Breakout Kings, Grey’s Anatomy and Community are just a handful of shows where this fake whisky places a role, sadly it isn’t obtainable to the public.

As for those real whisky appearances, The Glenlivet takes the top prize as the single malt of choice, with Johnnie Walker Black label in second as the most displayed blended whisky.

As whisky grows in popularity on the big screen and as more celebrities become associated with whisky (Nick Offerman, David Beckham, Matthew McConaughey and Mila Kunis, to name but a few) – you may have a challenge to spot your favourites, real and otherwise, on the big screen.

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