Matthew McConaughey is an Academy Award-winning actor and professor at the University of Texas, Austin’s film school, but he also works in booze: He became the creative director of Wild Turkey Bourbon in 2016.
We caught up with the Texas native and Hollywood star—who plays a pot-dealing crime lord in director Guy Ritchie’s upcoming The Gentlemen—to ask about his burgeoning Bourbon job, his taste in Cabernet and how he created his very own whiskey.
How did you end up as the creative director of Wild Turkey?
They came to me, I think, six, seven years ago and were interested in partnering, somehow, for me to become at least sort of the “face” of the brand… I started sharing a lot of creative ideas about where I thought they were, and they started sharing ideas about where they wanted to go, and I started to share a bunch of ideas that they liked and I thought were good, and we agreed. And I said, “Well look, instead of me just showing up and being a daily face and body for hire, let me direct the creative of where we go.” I’ve always loved marketing and advertising and branding, and so we started to implement those ideas.
What’s your strategy in that role?
You know, “Bourbon light” had already been out, and now there was a new generation wanting the real deal, and there were thousands of bottles of Wild Turkey and a distillery in Lawrenceburg ready to distribute, so it needed to be re-introduced to the people [who] knew it, and it needed to be introduced to a new generation of millennials that maybe didn’t know it. That’s really the sweet spot that we’ve been going for, to get that messaging to both groups.
Two years ago, Wild Turkey launched Longbranch, a Bourbon filtered through both white oak and Texas mesquite charcoal that you created with master distiller Eddie Russell. How did that happen?
I always wanted to have my own Bourbon, and I had feelings about what I like and what Bourbons I didn’t like. We kept it quiet, but as I learned more about the process, Eddie and I started a dialog. For branding, we really thought about “what’s the Texas-Kentucky connection?” I had very literal connections to Kentucky, because my mom and dad met in [University of Kentucky basketball stadium] Rupp Arena. So, I wouldn’t actually physically be here if it wasn’t for Kentucky!
“I always wanted to have my own Bourbon, and I had feelings about what I like and what Bourbons I didn’t like.”
For over two years, Eddie would send me testers, and I would taste them and give notes, and I basically spoke to him in musical terms: “Ten percent less treble on the top coming in, and 10% more bass in the third act as it’s going down the palate on the tongue.” When we got close, I still wanted a tad more sweetness, and Eddie said, “Well let’s go from a six-year to an eight-year,” and those two years in the barrel mellowed it just a hair but still with enough that you know “Oh, that’s Wild Turkey.”
How do you typically take your whiskey?
It matters the time of day. First one I like with a couple rocks. The last one I like neat.
You’re clearly a Bourbon fan; are you also a wine drinker?
I like wine with meals. I’m a red guy, a Cab guy. Silver Oak has been really good to me. They always send me their latest. I love a Caymus—not the limited edition… The limited edition has higher points, but I love the original. I just had a great ’08 of Dunn the other night.
I enjoy a lot of the Napas. Darioush I really like. It’s silk. The challenge with Darioush is that it’s a really dark bottle so you can’t see through it, and the bottom of it’s really heavy, so you always think you have another full glass and you go to pour it, and it’s empty!