A Source of Scottish Pride…and Beyond: The Top 5 Documentaries About Whisk(e)y and Bourbon for Enthusiasts

Todays we take a break from tasting notes, and look at whisky from another point of view: movie documentaries.  This guest post was written by Maria Ramos, Maria is a writer interested in comic books, cycling, and horror films. Her hobbies include cooking, doodling, and finding local shops around the city. She currently lives in Chicago with her two pet turtles, Franklin and Roy. You can follow her on Twitter @MariaRamos1889.

Basic RGBTo say that hard drinks are “acquired tastes” is something of a gross understatement. One either has the palate for liquor with the kind of distinct taste and overtones exuded by whiskey and bourbon or not; unlike most wines or mixed cocktails that are generally widely accepted by a cross-range of demographics, the “hard stuff” is often cherished by a smaller, more defined crowd.

Outside of the U.S., whiskey and bourbon have come to mean more than just hard-charging liquor. Case in point: Today, whiskey is a source of Scottish pride and is one of the United Kingdom’s few growth industries, interestingly enough. The drink has become so popular in many areas of the British Isles that documentaries have been made in the wake of the whiskey boom, many of which reveal how whiskey was born and shaped in opposition to the British tax system and how that history forged the character of Scotland’s national drink. These documentaries also touch on the unfortunate happenings during the 19th century, when addiction became a massive social problem with Scots, who consumed around six million gallons of whiskey every year to escape the often unbearable conditions of their urban lives. Indeed, many say the Scots’ reputation for hard drinking was born of this era, with the nation continuing to struggle with this image to this day.

If you’re an aficionado of whiskey and bourbon, here are some interesting documentaries to enlighten your historical perspective of the classic liquors.

1. Great Scotch Whisky (2006)

This has been called a “great documentary for someone just starting to drink single malt scotch,” and goes into detail about the history and process of distilling. From taking the viewer on a tour of the better-known distilleries to explaining how it all works, Great Scotch Whisky dives deep into the people of Scotland’s love for transforming the making of whiskey into a veritable art form. Further, the documentary helps viewers truly appreciate the subtleties of this fascinating and traditional tipple.

2. Addicted to Pleasure: Whisky (2012)

In this BBC Worldwide documentary, actor Brian Cox reveals how whiskey was born and shaped in opposition to the British tax system – and how that history forged the character of Scotland’s national drink. But as he discovers – and as we covered earlier – addiction became a huge problem in the 19th century as Scots consumed nearly six million gallons every year to escape the conditions of their lives. This is where, many say, Scotland’s reputation for being a community of hard drinkers was born…though the nation still struggles with it to this day.

3. Bourbontucky (2015)

Bourbontucky: The Bourbon Craze debuted in style this year at an exclusive gathering on January 20 at a secret speakeasy in downtown Los Angeles. Created by DirecTV’s AUDIENCE channel as an original documentary, the program was filmed on lush HD and showcases Kentucky’s unique place in bourbon history. In Bourbontucky, “colorful inhabitants” come together to create a world-class product: Kentucky Bourbon. The documentary follows historians and master distillers as they share stories about the past, present and future of this world.

4. Made and Bottled in Kentucky (2003)

This one-of-a-kind, hour-long documentary about Kentucky bourbon whiskey uncorks the drink’s rich history from its 18th-century origins right up to the way it’s enjoyed today. Viewers will see how bourbon is made while touring many of Kentucky’s distilleries from the present day and the past, including several picturesque ruins. Made and Bottled in Kentucky also features interviews with historians, bourbon distillers and other industry leaders and remains the most complete and authoritative program ever produced – amongst many critics – about bourbon whiskey and the people who make it.

5. Rumrunners, Moonshiners and Bootleggers (2002)

The History Channel’s Rumrunners, Moonshiners and Bootleggers returns to the high-toned clubs, hidden speakeasies and backwood shacks of the early twentieth century, as the laws of Prohibition did what they could to stop America’s consumption of liquor – which was to say, not much. The polished documentary, in typical high-class History Channel style, revisits the rough-and-tumble days of Prohibition from a candid, insider-esque perspective of this tumultuous time.

There is an almost unquenchable thirst for alcoholic beverages that spans a myriad of demographics, age groups and cultures. For some, it’s all about escapism, while for others it has more to do with appreciating the various overtones whiskeys and bourbons place on the tongue. In between is a historical legacy that is as ripe with violence as it is with pleasure. These documentaries are eye-opening looks into both worlds, replete with top-notch narration and insightful perspective.

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