Editors Note: For Bourbon Heritage Month 2023, we asked Greg Swartz, the Director of The Water of Life: A Whisky Film, to provide reflections on bourbon. Enjoy!
Making a film about whisky is hard. It’s a huge drink, produced and consumed all over the world. To do it right, you’d need to make a Ken Burns length 12-hour series. So we chose to focus exclusively on single malt scotch whisky. And even that was tough to fit in 90 minutes. But we did it, and we made The Water of Life.
We filmed in plenty of distilleries that are barely mentioned in the movie (but they are featured in our new extended cut). We had to skip out altogether on a number of the biggest and best in the industry as well.
As the director of the film, I am very often asked why Scotland only. There are a number of reasons, but the main one is that has been our intention from the very start to make a series of movies, each telling different stories about different whisk(e)y in different parts of the world. And we decided to start at the beginning. It was never Scotland only. It was Scotland first. Make no mistake, Kentucky and bourbon have been a huge part of our next steps. In fact, we are already laying the groundwork to feature them and other whisk(e)y producing countries. Recently, we have been on scouting trips to Ireland and to Kentucky. We’re fascinated with the new category of American Single Malt. And we’ve been in touch with a number of producers in Australia.
Last summer, I was lucky enough to spend an amazing week in Kentucky, meeting with some incredible and inspirational bourbon distillers from across the spectrum. Some of them large, old and well-known, some of them new, some of them tiny… All of them are creative and committed to crafting the best possible drams. But as filmmakers, one of the things we look for is compelling stories, not simply compelling whiskey. And I’m happy to say that we have already found an embarrassment of riches.
Right now, we are looking for the right financing partners for those chapters of The Water of Life, but as many readers may know, we are in post production on a companion film about the unique world of independent bottlers in Scotland and their role in creating modern whisky there. They have long been experimental taste-makers in the scotch whisky industry. We also just completed production on a film about the ancient history and culture of beer in Bavaria’s Upper Franconia. And I can assure you that that is just the start.
Bourbon country, we are coming for you soon!
We have at least five other projects on our development board, but we’re not quite ready to go public with those just yet. So grab a dram and watch this space!