As a teenager, Kevin McKidd swept floors and collected trash at The Macallan distillery in Craigellachie, Scotland. The star of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, 39, never imagined that 21 years later he’d be featured on bottles of The Macallan single-malt Scotch. He also never thought that he’d be the subject of famed photographer Annie Leibovitz for the company’s third installment of The Macallan Masters of Photography series. The 1,000 limited-edition bottles feature four portraits of McKidd in and around New York City, visually distilling the essence of the new cask-strength whiskies.
Wine Enthusiast sat down with McKidd to talk about his preferred sips, the spirits project and his singing career.
Wine Enthusiast: Tell me how you got involved with The Macallan distillery for this project.
Kevin McKidd: It started actually years ago, before I became an actor, but recently, I got an e-mail from a friend of mine from London who said ‘I’m having a beer with a guy who works for The Macallan distillery and they want to know if you really worked at Macallan years ago.’ Next thing I know, I get a chance to do this thing with Annie Leibovitz. When you get the chance to work with Annie Leibovitz and to represent The Macallan—a place I actually worked years and years ago—it’s a no-brainer.
W.E.: How was it to work with Annie Leibovitz?
KM: Amazing. I was nervous about it because it’s Annie Leibovitz and you worry that she’s going to dislike you. I came off the red-eye flight from LAX [Los Angeles International Airport] exhausted, and I fell out of the car at five in the morning at this location that we had in upstate New York, and Annie said, ‘He looks perfect. Nobody touch him. He looks great.’ That’s what she wanted—that sort of authenticity, and we really hit it off. Watching the way she works and gets her crews to create this environment, what felt very much like a movie set, is what I was really struck by. I realized I just needed to bring to it myself. I needed to be as much me as I could be, because all these people created this shoot, and my job was just to be present.
W.E.: Which of the four portraits is your favorite?
KM: That’s a hard one. The one on the Chrysler Building because, after the final shot, Annie invited my wife and my kids up there and we did a family portrait, so for sentimental reasons, that’s my favorite shot.
W.E.: What do you typically drink while you’re at home on any given night?
KM: I drink The Macallan, and I’m not just saying that. It’s usually The Macallan 12 Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky. I won’t go for the expensive ones. And sometimes I’ll have some red wine.
W.E.: What is your favorite spirits-and-food pairing?
KM: Haggis. It’s got to be haggis. That’s the only thing you should eat with Scotch—haggis [sheep’s organs cooked with minced onion, oatmeal and various spices, and served in sausage casing], with neeps [rutabaga] and tatties [potatoes]. An authentic Scottish dish.
W.E.: You’ve just released an album, The Speyside Sessions, on iTunes. Tell us about the album.
KM: Speyside is the area nearby where all the whisky distilleries are located, including Macallan. They’re called Speyside malt whisky because they’re beside the River Spey. We rented a house on the River Spey last Christmas to record this album of old Scottish folk tunes. All the proceeds go to Save the Children Fund, and it’s done fantastically well. It was number one on the iTunes World Music Charts. It’s very grassroots, there’s no record label involved, and it’s a very Scottish project. It feels like this is the year of being Scottish to me.
W.E.: What are you listening to on your iPod these days?
KM: The new Mumford & Sons album, Babel, which is fantastic. I actually saw Peter Gabriel at the Hollywood Bowl recently—I’m a huge PG fan—and that kind of blew me away. It was one of my life ambitions—to see Peter Gabriel live, and the other one was to work with Annie Leibovitz.
W.E.: What’s Dr. Owen Hunt’s status on Grey’s Anatomy these days, and what’s up next?
KM: Owen Hunt is going to have a tough season. It’s going to be really hard for him. He’s going to be challenged professionally and emotionally in his relationship with Cristina. He wants to fight for her, but things transpire that make everything even more difficult in their marriage. And professionally, things get really hard for him. He gets to a spot that makes it difficult for him as the chief [of surgery].
W.E.: What can we look forward to seeing you in on the big screen?
K.M.: There’s a movie I did last summer called Comes a Bright Day—a heist movie set in a Bond Street jewelry shop in London, which I’m very proud of. It was a low-budget, independent film that comes out [on DVD] on November 13, 2012.