Real men drink Lagavulin? My wife wouldn’t see it that way. Lagavulin is the only malt whisky she likes to drink. For her the intense aromas and taste have what it takes. Other whiskies just don’t measure up. Neither she, nor the many women who share her taste, would think of it as a man’s drink. It’s simply the drink for anyone who loves peaty single malt whisky.
But perhaps, given that mighty flavour, it’s not so surprising that a whisky as authentic in origin and as deep flavoured as Lagavulin would come to be associated with real men, particularly on stage and screen. Neither should it come as any great shock that those who come to embrace it, often do so with some fervour. Not just for women like my wife, but for a great many other people, this is the great single malt; the one that defines how malt whisky should taste.
One famous devotee even found a whole new way to appreciate this mighty malt. The actor Johnny Depp has been a hell raiser down the years, but during a settled period of his life throughout which he eschewed strong drink, he still found a way to enjoy Lagavulin.
As an interview in the Observer recorded: “But enough of this Hollywood talk, because there's so much more to life than that. The smell of Lagavulin single-malt whisky, for example. 'You've got to smell it,' Depp said, flagging down a waitress. 'Can we get a snifter of Lagavulin?' he said. 'Just straight.' He continued: 'I don't drink hard liquor any more, but I sometimes order Lagavulin just for the smell.' A moment later, Depp lifted the snifter to his nose and breathed deeply. His face lit up. 'Peat,' he said, chocolate eyes swirling with appreciation. 'It's so peaty!'
And so it is. You might think real men would enjoy real whisky and Harrison Ford’s characters certainly seem to; in one 2011 film, Hollywood Homicide, Detective Joe Gavalin gets back from an arduous day's work and makes straight for his Lagavulin. His interest is more conventional; he seems to enjoy drinking it.
While we’re talking film, the zombie thriller 28 Days Later had something to say about the relative value of Lagavulin and lesser whiskies. Looting a supermarket after London has been overrun, a small group happens on the whisky shelf. Brendan Gleeson’s character puts them straight on what’s worth looting, and what isn’t – restraining a colleague from taking a generic own label, he instead takes four bottles of Lagavulin 16 year old. Sheer class, not that we condone looting, of course. But then, we haven’t experienced a zombie invasion.
Over on TV, Lagavulin made an appearance in series three of US political drama series The West Wing. The actor playing the British Ambassador with a rather odd-sounding English accent couldn’t pronounce Islay properly (Iz-lay, anyone?) but at least he could still enjoy a glass of Lagavulin. Thank goodness he didn’t try to pronounce it.
Lagavulin often features in a drink shared with your best friend – notably so in a late episode of the first series of The Affair, in which Dominic West’s lead character does just that.
But perhaps the most complete marriage of man and malt is that famously forged between Lagavulin and Nick Offerman, aka Ron Swanson in hit comedy series Parks and Recreation. Swanson is a reluctant government employee in Pawnee, Indiana, and very much a “man’s man.” In a series of clips through various series of the show and virtually an entire episode shot at Lagavulin, Swanson reveals a genuine love for Lagavulin – a malt that Offerman too will happily say he has never been able to better.
So great is his own love of Lagavulin that Offerman has even starred as himself in real-world commercials for Lagavulin in the USA, including a splendid 45 minute affair in which he simply, without conversation or comment, contemplates and enjoys his favourite malt. What you might call “walking the talk”.
And now we’re firmly in the real world, did you know that the man who shot Osama bin Laden was a Lagavulin afficionado? No, neither did we, but a Phil Bronstein interview published in Esquire magazine revealed all. On a day when he was edgily contemplating life outside of Navy Seal Team 6, the interviewer noted him drinking “a glass of his favorite single malt, Lagavulin”.
So is this the real man’s malt? Let’s just say that real malt enthusiasts everywhere find Lagavulin hard to beat...