Drink Like Ron Swanson: Meet the Lagavulin Offerman Edition Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Actor Nick Offerman talks about his special edition of peaty Lagavulin Single Malt Scotch Whisky, his new one-man comedy show, and woodworking.
From George Clooney to Lykke Li to Jon Bon Jovi just about every celebrity now has his or her own brand of liquor. You haven’t truly made it until you’re selling booze.
But even in this star-obsessed era, there are just a few bottles that actually feature a famous name or face, including the Pol Roger Winston Churchill Champagne Cuvée, the Frank Sinatra edition of Jack Daniel’s and John Wayne Duke Bourbon.
Joining this select group is actor and woodworker Nick Offerman. Lagavulin Single Malt Scotch Whisky is immortalizing him with a limited-edition 11-year-old bottling that is now being released across the country. The special dram even features a line drawing of him right on the label.
The so-called Lagavulin Offerman Edition ($75) grew out of a running gag on the TV series Parks and Recreation. Offerman’s character, the blustery Ron Swanson, loves the Islay whisky and he drinks it on multiple episodes. How was the brand selected for the show? “It’s some pretty hilarious serendipity,” he told me. “Lagavulin was the first Scotch anybody ever gave me. I was 29 years old at the Chicago Film Festival, and my friend the filmmaker Scott King bought me a glass of Lagavulin. I tasted it and it’s a campfire in a glass. And I said ‘holy cow, I see what all the fuss is about when it comes to delicious single malt Scotch.’ And little did I know that it was such an intense and particular flavor that it ruined me. I’m not persnickety, if there’s whiskey to be had then we’re in luck, but when given my druthers I always have asked for Lagavulin—it became my easy favorite.”
Offerman admits that he was amazed and slightly baffled when he opened his desk drawer on the set of Parks and Recreation and discovered a bottle of Lagavulin. He assumed that somehow the props department had found out that he liked the brand and the bottle was ultimately featured five or six times in the first season alone. Only a year later at a birthday party for Mike Schur, the creator of the show, did he realize it was also his favorite Scotch and that’s why it had been chosen in the first place. “We marveled because at the time it was really pretty unheard of especially for a couple of dumb American guys in their 30s,” he says.
Thanks to the success of Parks and Recreation, Offerman has gotten to work on a number of projects with Lagavulin, including a memorable yule log video for the holidays. So when this idea for a special whisky “was pitched to me I was absolutely gobsmacked,” he says. “I feel like I’m being invited to pitch a game for the Cubs or something. It just seems out of the realm of possibility.”
With Lagavulin distillery manager Colin Gordon he tasted different whiskies from the brand’s warehouses to help select the special-edition Scotch. What was Offerman looking for in the samples? “I suppose it’s interesting, it feels like it’s right in pace with my woodworking tastes. I like simple and bold things,” he says. “So I like to build a Craftsman oak table in the style of Gustav Stickley much in the same way that I like my Scotch to have signature peat and smokiness. For some reason, I tend towards the bucolic so I want to taste some leather and some soil. If there’s some actual oak sawdust stirred into the mix it won’t hurt my feelings.”
While Offerman is specific in terms of what he’s looking for in a Scotch, when it comes to drinking he just likes “it in a glass. That’s my favorite way to drink any Lagavulin.” He’s actually serious and doesn’t like to add ice or even water to his whisky, since “to my way of thinking you’re just diluting your good time.”
I wondered if his wife actresses Megan Mullally likes his eponymous whisky, especially since she drinks a river of Martinis on her show Will & Grace. Offerman lets me down gently. “She’s never had a Martini in her life,” he reveals. “It’s a testament to her chops that she can pull that off.” While they used to drink beer or wine, now “as a top-drawer singer both on the Broadway stage and touring with her band Nancy & Beth, she has pretty much foregone alcohol entirely.”
The Lagavulin Scotch is not the only project that Offerman is working on right now. He is finishing 12 ukuleles that he built from scratch and the second season of crafting show Making It that he co-hosts with Amy Poehler, is finished and will air this winter. He’s also in the middle of a tour for his new one-man comedy show, All Rise, which runs through December 14 and makes stops at New York’s Beacon Theater and D.C.’s The Kennedy Center.
While it’s probably too early to say, he’d like to do another special edition of Lagavulin. “This piece of good fortunate strikes me as utterly ridiculous. Getting the job as Ron Swanson was like winning the biggest lottery a boy could ever hope for and then from that this relationship with Lagavulin sprouted and it’s been just absolutely wonderful,” he says. “I get to go to a beautiful island in Scotland once a year and shoot dumb funny commercials for this product that’s been my favorite libation for most of my adult life and so as long as they still find me adorable, I’m happy to come to any dinner party they care to throw.”