Update 17 August 2009: Apparently, the video has been pulled due to pending legal action. Sigh...the only thing I've liked about Scotch recently and it's gone. Initial searches for alternate sites are not fruitful. If I can find another source, I'll repost it.
Hey, piper! Shut it.
~ Robert Carlyle
The Man Who Walked Around the World
Robert Carlyle is a joy to watch. Liked him in Trainspotting. Delighted with his over-the-top, man-eating performance in Ravenous. Without him, 28 Weeks Later would’ve been a snore.
And now he’s shilling Johnnie Walker whisky. I like to tease scotch drinkers about the unsuitability of their beverage of choice for human consumption less because I dislike scotch itself than I enjoy watching them defend their erudition. It turns out that I do enjoy particularly aged single malts. But I enjoy razzing orthodoxy more.
Put Carlyle, however, in a 5-plus minute short film (ok, ok, a long commercial) telling Johnnie Walker's brand story on a brisk walk through the Scottish highlands? I am all ears.
Whiskey firms—unlike, say cola, energy drink, or vodka firms—rely on history and age to convey authenticity. Think “Old Forester,” “Old Overholt,” and the rich browns, ambers, and reds in endless whiskey color palettes that suggest dark, aged woods and Autumn’s falling leaves. Or of sepia-toned photos in print ads we’ve all seen of coopers hard at work, handcrafting barrels in which whiskey will slumber for years. Yes, “age” is the unspoken (or—“Ancient Age”—not so unspoken) shibboleth of authenticity for whiskeys.
How fitting that Carlyle’s first words after emerging from the mists (of time, naturally) seemingly push aside the Scots history we think we know with his dismissive words to the traditional bagpiper. Frankly, the Scottish actor echoes my own thoughts with a brusque "Hey, piper! Shut it." But he’s not dismissing history. Just stereotypes. In fact, he launches into a monologue about Johnnie Walker that's the most compelling corporate history I've seen in years. Bravo, sir.
It’s a beauty of a little film. I heard the shot only required 40 takes.