- Outlander -'Men In Kilts' Stars Sam Heughan & Graham McTavish Get Down & Dirty In The Name Of Whisky
Love is in the air for Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish in the first Men in Kilts episode, and no, it had nothing to do with the fact that it premiered on Valentine's Day. Instead, the Outlander actors were smitten with the amber-hued seducer known as whisky. Yet, their whisky tasting on Men in Kilts required a bit of hard work beforehand as they had to get down and dirty in a peat bog.
After hitting up Scotland's food scene, the men in pants and boots travel to the isle of Islay located off of Scotland's west coast. Heughan and McTavish are there to visit the whisky distillery Laphroaig, which has been operating since 1815. Whether you're a whisky connoisseur (no "e" for scotch whisky!) like Heughan or prefer New Zealand sauvignon blanc like McTavish (I lean toward the latter), you might have learned a thing or two about the whisky distilling process on Men in Kilts.
As explained by Heughan, malted barley is the main ingredient in malt whisky. The barley must be thoroughly dried before it can be fermented. And the distilleries on Islay do so by burning peat, thus, the distinctive smoky flavor of the isle's scotch whisky. So before Heughan and McTavish can enjoy a "wee dram" courtesy of Laphroaig distillery manager John Campbell and "malt master" Arthur Holyoke, they have to cut some peat.
Peat bogs make up a large part of Islay, which might help explain why the small isle with a population of around 3,000 has nine active distilleries — Ardbeg, Ardnahoe, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig. (On Parks and Recreation, Ron Swanson was a notable fan of Lagavulin.) The peat is made up of thousand-years-old vegetation and was used as a traditional heat source. But for Heughan and McTavish's purposes, they're hanging in this peat bog in the name of whisky.
As the actors get some manual labor in, they seem to delight in the process of cutting (driving a flat shovel with a cow horn handle downward to cut out bricks of peat). Life is good on the bog. Life is good.
Yet, once they're informed that there are 16 more rows of peat to cut, their motivation wavers. After all, they're actors! They can't be expected to expend so much energy on peat when they have art to create (err... whisky to drink)! So they skimp out on their duties early for a leisurely bike ride back to the distillery.
But before they can get their drink on, they are like kids in a candy shop when they get to a malting room. The grown men dive into malt, like Scrooge McDuck diving into gold coins. (Is it any wonder considering that McTavish provided his vocal talents for the rebooted DuckTales?) It's not quite a roll in the hay — something Jamie and Claire are fairly well-versed in — but McTavish and Heughan claim they have found their holy grail. Within the malted grain is where they live now. Life is good in the barley. Life is good.
Inevitably, they get their dram while sitting by the idyllic waters of Islay. Campbell gives them Laphroaig's 25-year-old cask strength whisky from 2019, which would only set you back $500 or so for a bottle. (The 2020 version is around $530 converted from pounds while the 30-year-old bottles will cost you more than $1,000.)
While most Outlander fans will probably stick with Heughan's more wallet-friendly scotch whisky blend of The Sassenach, there's something to be said for trying a whisky from the iconic isle of Islay. And perhaps one day, you'll unknowingly be sipping some whisky that was made of the malt that Jamie Fraser and Dougal MacKenzie once rolled in.