Nick & Ric Offerman Prepare For Father’s Day By Bonding Over Lagavulin Scotch Whisky
For Nick Offerman and his dad, Father’s Day is a tradition best served neat. We recently spoke to them about teaming up for some quality dad jokes over sips of Lagavulin Scotch.
Nick Offerman is seriously funny about Scotch. Best known as Ron Swanson in the NBC series Parks and Recreation, Offerman is a man of broad range. Consider his standout dramatic performance in The Kings of Summer, the fact that he’s also a master woodworker, and that he’s forged his own unique breed of collaboration with the iconic Islay whisky, Lagavulin.
Over the past seven years, Offerman has released his own signature edition Lagavulin whiskies, and filmed nearly 40 commercials for the brand. Collectively, this comedic oeuvre is called Lagavulin: My Tales Of Whisky, and it includes a few viral marathon-length spots in which he elevates drinking to performance art.
It’s a partnership that grew organically out of a stashed bottle in Ron Swanson’s desk drawer and a fateful glass of Lagavulin bought for Offerman as a young man. But perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this partnership is the fact that it has given him an excuse to make annual Scotch commercials with his dad, Ric Offerman, for Father’s Day.
This year, Nick and Ric returned to one-up each other in every conceivable form of manly outdoorsmanship in their just-released commercial.
I recently spoke to them about their shared love of Scotch, their on-camera competitiveness, and the joys of working together as father and son. Nick joined the call from Los Angeles, and Ric joined from Minooka, Illinois, where he’s the mayor.
When was the first time you ever drank Scotch together?
RIC: Nick’s grandfather, my dad, never thought there was a bad bottle of Scotch ever made. But I thought Scotch was something to use to remove wallpaper. I didn’t follow my dad’s love for it until much later, through Nick. We were in Minnesota on a fishing trip, and Nick went out on a kayak trip by himself after lunch. I, as an older person, took a nap.
I woke up to the kids running in saying there was a bad storm coming, so I went off in the pontoon boat to find Nick. He was two miles down the lake when I found him, got him on board, and all the sudden we’re in the worst storm I’ve ever been in. You couldn’t see, I was really afraid, and we almost hit the shore. When we came out of the storm and got back, I was freezing. I jumped in the shower, but I was still freezing afterwards, so Nick put a bottle of Scotch on the table. I had never liked Scotch before that day, but a fourth of that bottle later, I warmed up and we’ve been drinking Scotch together ever since.
Nick, your character on Parks and Recreation, Ron Swanson, loved Lagavulin. Did that come from you personally or from the writer’s room?
NICK: When I was 29, my friend bought me a glass of Lagavulin 16 at the Chicago Film Festival. It was the first glass of Scotch I ever had. My eyebrows shot up, and I was ruined in the world of Scotch from then on. Any other Scotch I had, it was like, “I thought you were bringing me Scotch, this is lemonade.”
When we started doing Parks and Rec, there was a scene where I had Scotch in my desk drawer. And when I saw that it was Lagavulin, I thought, “These people are so good that they discerned my favorite single malt.” And I suffered under that misapprehension for a year, until [Parks and Recreation creator] Mike Shure’s birthday party. I said, “That’s on the show because it’s my favorite Scotch.” And he said, “No, you ninny, it’s on the show because it’s my favorite Scotch.”
How did that lead to your character visiting the distillery?
NICK: We were in Season 6, Chris Pratt had been cast in Guardians of the Galaxy, and if we wanted to keep him on the show, we had to go to England to shoot it. So, the producers strategized a way to get the whole staff to London, and because Ron vociferously hated Europe, among other things, Leslie cooked up a treasure hunt and at the end of it was the Lagavulin Distillery. It was all cooked up by the minds of great writers, with me approaching it by boat with tears in my eyes. And then we just hit it off, the brand and me.
How many commercials have you made for Lagavulin since then?
NICK: I think we’re up to thirty-seven or thirty-eight now, and I’ve begun to wonder if we’re setting some sort of record. We’ve been back to Scotland a few times, and we keep shaking our heads that they keep letting us do it. It’s on the docket to visit Islay with mom and dad soon.
All that’s there are people, sheep, and Scotch distilleries––there’s like nine distilleries on the island. I always enjoy being walked through the actual process of how these golden elixirs are made. And the sense of history in the distilleries. The little towns are picture postcards, and the American Monument is this cool cairn constructed after a ship full of American soldiers ran aground and died. It’s a gorgeous location where they shot the scene of me crying while reading the Robert Burns poem in Parks and Rec.
In the commercials with your dad, there’s a running joke about him outdoing you in everything. Where did that come from?
NICK: Because we have the same producers as Parks and Rec, Morgan Sacket and Dean Holland, there’s a sense of humor of Ron Swanson in these commercials. The idea is that the dad of the Ron Swanson actor is ten times the man that this superhuman example of masculinity is, and that he’s emasculated by his dad.
Is there any of that competitiveness between you in real life?
NICK: It started with dad being a local sports luminary. He was very good at baseball and basketball, but if he was an A+ I was a B+, sometimes. It was always, “Well Nick tries his best. It’s something he can’t help.” There’s no fanfare about it. I do a pretty good job and then he steps in.
RIC: All four of my kids were national honors society and I wasn’t. So, we know who’s carrying the brains around here and they take after their mother.
NICK: You see? Even in modesty, he unmans me. He taught eighth-grade social studies at a neighboring Junior High. The older I got, the more I came to learn that my dad was a very beloved teacher. And in hindsight, he did a great job of not guilting me about my mid-level interest in social studies and really school in general. I just didn’t have a passion for it.
What is it like to get to work together now?
NICK: Like many things in my association with great brains and talent behind Parks and Rec, dad and I are the lucky beneficiaries. We’re the lucky laborers that get to be in these Scotch commercials. My mom and dad now get to have a taste of my work. Instead of just being feted as my parents, they get to be on the call sheet, they get a trailer, and get to experience the fun perks of the business.
RIC: It’s a lot of fun. For my wife and I, our favorite thing is getting to see him. It’s a great crew, always the same people, and I look forward to it every year.
NICK: We never dreamed we’d be doing this. If you told us years ago that we’d be together on a Disney Ranch shooting a Scotch commercial, we would have laughed.