It is difficult when making drinks-based TV shows to get the right balance between ‘broad appeal’ and entertaining ‘those in the know’. Critics of The Wine Show complained about it not going deep enough, while those behind the show defended its entertainment-first approach. Amazon Prime has just started airing The Three Drinkers Do Scotch – a three-part series that aims to cover the entire world of Scottish whisky in just three 30 minute episodes. Mike Turner, who is a close friend of the three presenters, reckons they’ve got it just about right.
With LVMH one of the companies behind the funding for a new Amazon Prime series exploring the world of Scotch, it was fitting that their London HQ was the setting for the launch of The Three Drinkers’ first series.
On Monday the 26th November friends, family, and press descended on Moet Hennessy’s (LVMH) London office in Victoria to witness the launch of The Three Drinkers Do Scotch.
Airing now on Amazon Prime, you can watch Helena Nicklin, Aidy Smith, and Colin Hampden-White ‘dramming’ their way across the distilleries, bars, and tourist hotspots of Scotland preaching the joys of Scotland’s biggest export to (hopefully) the masses. But this is much more than a “Scotch 101” and definitely worth a watch.
It’s not easy to avoid comparisons with other drinks programmes that have hit the screens. You just have to appreciate that shows like Food & Drink and The Wine Show have a different ethos and look about them. They’ve gone for a different angle and been successful in doing just that and more power to them.
This show, however, in keeping with one of Amazon Prime’s newest high profile acquisitions, is much more a ‘Top Gear (sorry, Grand Tour!!) meets whisky’. It’s three mates having fun with all kinds of different frivolities in and around the world of Scotch – where it’s from, how it’s made, where it’s set, and who makes it. Along with delightful drams of Scotch whisky’s equivalent of Ferraris and Lambourghinis. Why not, eh?
It’s also as much a tourist map of Scotland as a show about the whisky itself. The VisitScotland people couldn’t have done a better job if they tried. Helena and Aidy have day jobs working for The Winerist, which has a heavy slant into wine and spirits tourism. You can follow the links on the site and book yourself on the same trip round. It’s a simple step, but adds so much to the possible engagement and follow-through for the brands as well as bars and restaurants featured.
I managed to grab five minutes with Julian Quintero, LVMH’s senior brand manager for both Glenmorangie and Ardbeg. He’s stoked. LVMH helped fund the show and the reaction when he took the pre-edits back to HQ in France was glowing. The return on investment far outshone what they’d expected, especially given the new potential reach. Amazon had told them to expect distribution in four core countries – UK, USA, Japan, and Germany – but it’s now over 20 countries and growing.
This is the culmination of a rapid process that six months ago was barely in the pipeline. For full disclosure, these three are good friends of mine and I’ve been privy to some of the (mostly) ups, and (sometimes) downs of a lot of the process. One of the biggest issues was who the target audience was; make it too highbrow and niche and you’re cutting off most of the potential punters out there. Make it too dumbed down and the spirits lovers won’t even watch it. It’s not an easy balancing act.
Being a friend means that I can be completely honest with them. I’ve now watched all three episodes of 30 minutes each and I’m really very proud of what they’ve achieved. OK if I’m being super critical, it can be a bit skittish in parts, and purists will say it doesn’t go into enough detail, but bloody hell, they’ve got three lots of 30 minutes to ‘do’ Scotch whisky. You need a good flow (no pun intended) and the way I see it, that’s precisely what they’ve achieved.
They bravely went for a mostly unscripted format, but that only enhances the feel of being there with a group of mates. The fact that Colin is a whisky nut (a Keeper of the Quaich no less!) travelling with two keen whisky paduans keen to learn from their whisky Yoda makes for great dialogue.
There are loads of things I like about it: from finding out the names of bars that are genuinely worth visiting if you’re in the (otherwise) tourist trap areas around Loch Ness, all the way to the understated but obvious messages of designated drivers if you’re on a booze trip. It’s the little things that if you’re on a jolly with your mates you have to have in your heads.
The Three Drinkers Do Scotch is just the start. A film and production crew that spends most of their time doing the X Factor quite clearly loved shooting it. There are options in the pipeline for Series 2 and 3 already, and everyone from Series 1 is enthusiastically on board.
As I said earlier, these are friends of mine, and I rate what they’ve achieved. But if you’re worried about any bias, then there’s only one way to find out: get onto your Amazon account and find out for yourselves.
And yes…it’s genuinely called a “big spade”. You’ll find out.