As whisky has exploded in popularity (and price) around the world, new customers are educating themselves and are demanding more complexity and innovation from every new dram they try. They’ll spend the money but you have to knock their socks off. Distillers have huge creative opportunities and immense pressure to stand out in this robust marketplace.
Our film tells the stories of a handful of whisky masters and how each has learned to paint masterpieces using only barley, water, and yeast.
Using a process that is nearly universal, distillers learned long ago that the magic is in the details. They coax their flavors from the barrels, the fires, the stills, even the warehouses themselves.
Some turn to the past, some invent the future, but all of them create incredible spirits and the world cannot seem to get enough.
With hundreds of distilleries across Scotland (and more popping up almost weekly), it’s impossible to tell all of their stories. Instead, we will focus on a handful of distillers and craftspeople who are at the forefront of today’s global whisky explosion.
At the center of our story is the legendary Jim McEwan.
Born next door to the Bowmore Distillery, Jim has spent his life in whisky and he has never stopped breaking new ground. With his latest venture Ardnahoe set to open in a matter of weeks, Jim has completed a dream of helping build a new distillery from the ground up.
He began working at Bowmore as a cooper’s apprentice as a teenager (after some unofficial work sweeping floors as a boy). He went on to hold nearly every job that a distillery has to offer, even leaving at one point to become a master blender. He returned to Bowmore as the master distiller for 12 years.
After expressing sorrow that the Bruichladdich Distillery, visible across Loch Indaal from Bowmore, was closed, destiny came calling for Jim. He was part of the team that revitalized Bruichladdich and shook the whisky world. With award after award, they signaled a bold new era in what could be done with a drink that, by law, only has three ingredients.
Jim had managed to create truly groundbreaking expressions, hiring dozens of locals who may have otherwise had to leave Islay, and he grew a once mothballed distillery into a powerhouse in less than 15 years.
But Jim is master at something else too: storytelling. His ribald and passionate tales about whisky and life on Islay are the stuff of legend and they serve as the perfect complement to the drams he makes.
In many ways, the flip side of the same coin as Jim, is Dr. Bill Lumsden who has a PhD in Biochemistry with a focus on yeast (yes, yeast!). He has been described as “a machine built to make whisky.”
He is the current head distiller at both Glenmorangie in the Highlands and at Ardbeg on Islay, two vastly different whisky brands that share little other than Lumsden and a high standard of quality.
Dr. Bill, as he’s universally known, is a storyteller as well. His tasting sessions are as funny as they are informative.
And our stories don’t end with these two titans.
The new Glasgow Distillery, its name as inconspicuous as its location in a suburban industrial estate, is commercially releasing its first whisky as this is being written. But it’s already creating a buzz and, in fact, sold out its entire pre-production run.
Created by transplanted Irishman Liam Hughes, the small outfit has created a large following for its Makar Gin and the whisky has started winning awards at trade shows, led by their Prometheus.
We tell the story of the Benromach Distillery, which was brought back to life by the Urquhart family, and is one of only a few distilleries in Scotland that uses no automated machinery, relying on the distillers’ sense of touch, sight and sound to handcraft their whiskies.
We also visit family-owned Gordon & MacPhail, the Elgin grocer that, over more than 120 years, has grown to be the curators of the world’s oldest and rarest stock inventory, maturing casks from more than 100 distilleries.
The list goes on and on, but you’ll have to follow along to learn more.
Our Unique Approach
As this is a format that doesn’t allow the viewer to taste the drink (more on that in a moment), we must use the tools of cinema to emulate one of the most complex and nuanced sensory experiences known to humankind. With immersive shots, sounds, and stories, we hope to give viewers an experience as visceral as being there in Scotland, enjoying these spirits in person.
However, to take that experience one step further, we’re planning to create an interactive experience that will instruct the viewer, should she or he choose, to taste the right whisky at the appropriate time during the film. The viewer can then enjoy the dram right along with our master distillers (via subtitles about provenance and tasting notes).
With all these elements working in concert, we hope to deliver an endearing love letter to the Blood of Scotland, its craftsmen and women, and the country itself. We hope you’ll join us on this journey!