Scotch Whisky in Art and Cinema

A Cultural and Global Celebration

 

“Scotch, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down. Down into my belly.” Does that ring a bell? Bien sûr! Of course you remember that legendary film called Anchorman starring Will Ferrell. A marvellous comedy remembered for its hilarious whisky moment, this scene has particularly lived on in memory. Every time we hear the word “Scotch”, this jingle serves as an entertaining reminder of our favourite dram.

This renowned spirit’s journey can be traced back to the 15th century when the Scots learned how to build a spirit using water, barley, and yeast from the monks, through the early Colonial era, the times of prohibition, and the booming craft-distilling. It is an art being perfected for about 600 years now.

 

Scotch and Cinema

Scotland’s national drink and enjoyed globally, Scotch whisky today has evolved to be the premium international drink of choice in over 200 countries across the world. In the past years with the growing distilleries, whisky tourism has become immensely popular, and the spirit has made a demographic shift, and gained popularity among women, and the eligible, younger lot as much.

Just as beer is to Germans and wine is to the French, Scotch whisky has been an integral part of not only the history and culture of Scotland, but of art and cinema as much. It is no surprise then that whisky has adorned some of cinema’s best scenes and been a frequent theme in films, and advertisements. Imagine the famous Hollywood star, Humphrey Bogart, best known for the iconic movie, Casablanca saying his prominent last words, “I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis”. Or the legendary Sean Connery starring in “You Only Live Twice”, with a glass of whisky in one hand, glorifying the 40 year old golden liquid.

For many, Scotch has long been seen as a way to combat the blues and resolve personal challenges. The memorable Harrison Ford pointed at the bottle and said, “I only drink it on special occasions”, in the movie, Morning Glory. His detective character in the classic movie, Blade Runner (1982), would’ve been somewhat incomplete without the whisky in hand while on the case.

 

Scotch and Art

Besides cinema, Scotch’s connection with art and alchemy is much celebrated. Many artists and art galleries are collaborating with renowned Scotch whisky brands. Together they are launching distinctive artist editions of varied gift packs and creative packaging while keeping the Scottish influence as a common theme.

 

Art in Glass and Bottle

In fact, there is a lot to a bottle and a glass-- the quintessential duet which is an overture to the flowing of the illustrious spirit. However, in the age gone by, glass was very expensive until about the 1800s and bottles were a niche item to own. The population bought whisky then by bringing their own bottles that they filled from casks, and then emptied the contents into decanters at home.

This changed when the price of glass reduced in the 19th century, and whisky blenders gravitated towards serving whisky from glass bottles.

 

Unique Bottling

As a connoisseur, enthusiast or a collector, the appearance and presentation does play an important role. The design plays an important role for branding and sales. From the simple and subtle to embossed bottles, to using unconventional components such as wood and fabric, whisky brands are exploring inventive ways to create a niche for their products. Tweaking these bottle designs helps the brand stand out in a competitive market.

From unique Japanese art on Japanese whisky bottles, to beautiful calligraphy on Scotch bottle labels, every bottle tells a story. This artsy connection also extends to photo exhibitions. Take photographer, Ernie Button for instance who found inspiration for his exhibition from the whisky remnants in his glass from the previous night.

This tipple has not only won the hearts of imbibers, but is widely celebrated in the realms of art and cinema. As the world gears up for the upcoming International Scotch Day on February 8 2017, we can’t help but think of what Mark Twain rightly said, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whisky is barely enough”.

Discovering the Roots of Early Kentucky Whiskey