Scotch: The Golden Dram – Spirited documentary goes down a treat

Review: Caledonophiles will appreciate this tale told through a glass darkly

Scotch: The Golden Dram is the film you want to watch on your first transatlantic flight to Scotland, your vague ancestral home, at three to five generations removed

Film Title: Scotch: The Golden Dram

Director: Andrew Peat

Starring: Jim McEwan, Richard Paterson, Dr Bill Lumsden, Ian MacMillan, Charles MacLean, Lynne McEwan, Brodie Nairn, Georgie Bell, Robbie Hughes

Genre: Documentary

Running Time: 89 min

Fri, Mar 8, 2019, 05:00

   

Rolling, windswept hills. Men with moustaches and blazers sniffing (or rather divining) at glasses. Cabers are tossed. Peat is collected. Nobody, but nobody, is going to question Scotch: The Golden Dram’s Scottishness. I half-expected the Loch Ness monster to wander into the frame – it’s amphibian, right? – and dance the Gay Gordons.

There are no scenes of caramel gloop being added to an industrially produced clear alcoholic substance in Andrew Peat’s affectionate portrait of the Scottish whisky industry. Working with a Taiwanese production house, the Californian director and his Indian DOP Arjun Kamath take a quasi-mystical view of uisge-beatha.

This is a documentary made with love and an official endorsement from Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland. It’s the film you want to watch on your first transatlantic flight to Scotland, your vague ancestral home, at three to five generations removed.

Industry legend

Against the easy romance, The Golden Dram can feel just a little “inside baseball” as we’re introduced to one industry legend after another, including Jim McEwan, a veteran who takes on a dilapidated distillery on his home island of Islay in the Inner Hebrides; Richard Paterson, a master blender whose nose was insured for $2.5 million; biochemist Bill Lumsden; and master distiller Ian MacMillan. A brief, late section assures the viewer that women can sometimes like whisky too.

Dozens of anecdotes are shared across seven distilleries and one bottle company: Glasstorm produces hand-crafted bottles for rare whiskies that sell for more than $10,000. It’s terrific product placement for companies like Bruichladdich and Laphroaig and a perfectly solid primer for a budding whisky novice hoping to progress to overbearing whisky bore. Fans of scenery might also appreciate a gander.