Dominic Roskrow on Ken Loach's new film
If, like me, you are a fan of British director Ken Loach then his new film The Angels’ Share which has just opened is particularly special.
Balblair Distillery and I share something through it – we’re both featured in it, though, to be fair, I’m no Charlie MacLean and my contribution to it is the presence of my World’s Best Whiskies book. That’ll do me, though – it’s a Ken Loach film, for heaven’s sake!
We shouldn’t underestimate how important it is for whisky that Loach has featured it as the central theme of his new film. Loach’s films are often dark and realistic, social snapshots of some of the aspects of society that most people don’t want to dwell on. But in most of his films his characters identify a seam of potential redemption that they succeed, to a greater or lesser extent, in mining. So it is with malt whisky in The Angels’ Share.
But there are three particular reasons why we should welcome malt whisky as a Ken Loach movie theme and why the film marks excellent news not just for the likes of Balblair but for all of us who love whisky.
Firstly, while we get a glimpse of the serious side of whisky and whisky tasting (and the gentle ribbing by Loach of the rituals and ceremony of malt whisky analysis suggest that he is amused by it), it’s all done in great taste. And what comes through much more strongly is the idea that whisky is not an elitist hobby that, like wine, is confined to a select few. Through our lead character and his friends we are shown that anyone can appreciate whisky and with the help of a few good books – mine, maybe, or perhaps more appropriately Dave Broom's (as mine gets sidetracked by Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, the All Blacks and Leicester City) – become pretty darn good at it.
Secondly, the film travels off the standard and well-trodden malt whisky path and takes us to Balblair on the 'forgotten' whisky coast which runs from Inverness to Wick and which demands exploration by anyone attracted to the delights of Scotland. Some papers have even linked the film with competitions to visit Balblair and the other two distilleries featured in the film.
And, finally, because The Angels’ Share takes it all back to the bridge, back to Scotch whisky’s true heartlands. Scotch is thriving worldwide and in demand just about everywhere, and blends – with more than 90 per cent of sales – are setting the agenda. But while the big names of Johnnie Walker, Chivas, Famous Grouse and Grant’s are all over the television – and it’s not even Christmas – Loach has shown that you can still hike to a wee distillery, knock on the door, call on their hospitality and then rob them blind.
The last bit’s a joke. They're too canny for that sort of thing in Scotland. Loach is a great film-maker and recorder of social history but he's not above a little story telling. Don’t believe everything you see.