Actor Matthew McConaughey Talks Bourbon

The Academy Award winner is the new creative director for Wild Turkey—and maybe one day he’ll be making whiskey, too.
Photo courtesy Wild Turkey

It’s not uncommon for actors to step behind the camera to try their hand at directing. But for actor Matthew McConaughey, best known for roles in ‘90s stoner flick Dazed and Confused and 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club (the latter for which he won an Academy Award), his directorial debut has involved making ads for Kentucky’s Wild Turkey Bourbon.

The partnership was announced in August, with McConaughey stepping into the role of creative director. Although initially approached by Wild Turkey’s parent company, Campari, to be the face of the brand, he instead asked to write, direct and star in the campaign himself.

“I wanted to get my hands in the clay,” McConaughey said in a recent meeting with journalists, appearing alongside Jimmy Russell and Eddie Russell, the father-and-son distilling team from Wild Turkey. “I’d like to be of import more than being the face of the campaign.”

Unveiled Wednesday, September 7 at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn, NY, the push includes a six-minute mini-documentary that shows McConaughey strolling the distillery grounds and tasting whiskey with the Russells. A shorter 30-second ad, featuring New Orleans’ The Hot 8 Brass Band, also will run on national TV starting in September, as part of a global campaign. This will be the first of three films, McConaughey said, who views it as a story in “three acts.” He will also appear in a print ad.

Tonight: Matthew McConaughey. Jimmy Russell. Eddie Russell. @wildturkey #bourbon #brushwithcelebrity

A photo posted by Kara Newman (@newman_kara) on

The decision to bring in McConaughey and unleash him in a storytelling role, said Eddie Russell, was to help the brand’s story reach “a younger generation.”

“They see the shiny nickel instead of what’s true and authentic,” Russell said. “He’s seen what’s authentic.”

Might a Wild Turkey bottling featuring whiskies picked by McConaughey be in the works? Eddie Russell says they’re talking about it. While the actor readily admits to not having “a huge whiskey background,” he does say he enjoys whiskey, as well as red wine.

Thanks to his new role, McConaughey has had quite the whiskey education, too. In the six-minute campaign spot, he is shown sampling rare pre-Prohibition bourbons with Jimmy Russell. As noted by Jimmy, “He didn’t go for anything but the really good stuff, so we’re trying to hide some barrels.”

Published on September 12, 2016
Topics: Whiskey
About the Author
Kara Newman 
Spirits Editor

Kara Newman reviews spirits and writes about spirits and cocktail trends for Wine Enthusiast. She's the author of Shake.Stir.Sip.: 40 Effortless Cocktails Made In Equal Parts (Chronicle Books, 2016) as well as ROAD SODA: Recipes and techniques for making great cocktails, anywhere (Dovetail Press, 2017). Email: spirits@wineenthusiast.net



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