Matching a whisky to every James Bond film

Whisky has been paired with food for decades, although in more recent years we’ve seen whiskies paired and matched to cigars, watches, albums, bands, and even movies!   If you’re going to sit down in your comfy sofa and pass away a few hours being entertained by 007, then having a good dram in your hand goes a long way to enhancing the experience.

Of course, Jimmy’s drink of choice may be a vodka martini, but we can shake and stir things up for the whisky drinkers out there who are James Bond fans: Here is our attempt to pair and match the perfect whisky to every (official) James Bond film.

Dr No (1962)

Noting the year that this came out and what a defining moment it was, it’s hard not to go past the Dalmore 1962 for this. However, we’d like this list to feature whiskies that all of us can actually access and afford!  (Besides which, the ’62 Dalmore was given due reverence in Kingsman.)   No, with so much of this movie set in the Caribbean, it follows that this movie should be watched whilst quietly sipping away at The Balvenie 14yo Caribbean Cask.

 

From Russia with love (1963)

It says something about this film that it is remembered so fondly and ranks highly in any online poll – and yet it is relatively devoid of the big-budget action, stunts and sets that would come to define later movies. From Russia with love benefits from the depth of its characters, whilst painting a deep and defining picture of SPECTRE – its operations and its agents.  And, whilst we never see Blofeld’s face, we’re left under no illusion as to his villainy.   This is “old school” Bond and it screams for an old school whisky: Glenfarclas 15yo is the perfect accompaniment.

 

Goldfinger (1964)

Opinion is divided over which is the worst James Bond film (there are several contenders!) but there is near universal agreement about which one is the best:  Goldfinger.   It strikes the perfect balance of action and humour; it has excellent gadgets, villains, henchmen, Bond girls, dialogue, and an evil plot.  It’s a brilliant, all-rounder of a movie that demands an excellent, all-rounder of a whisky.  So pour yourself a Highland Park 12yo and settle back.

 

(Although, as an alternative, with much of the action taking place at Goldfinger’s horse stud and racing farm, as well as being set in Kentucky, then a bottle of Blantons wouldn’t go astray either!)

 

Thunderball (1965)

James Bond films are defined by many things: The actor playing Bond, the villain, the gadgets, the love interest, and so on.  One of the other tangible aspects on which each film is judged is the opening credits sequence and the theme song.   With Thunderball being absolutely belted out by a young and exuberant Tom Jones, this movie calls for a Welsh whisky. Penderyn it is.

 

You only live twice (1967)

With a lot of the action set in Japan, it would be easy and lazy to reach for a Japanese whisky here. But the early Bond films are more cerebral than that.   Blofeld’s lair and the movie’s climatic battle take place in a volcano, and the volcano was one of the first “big sets” built and featured in a Bond film.  And what whisky do you think of when you think of volcanos? The Cuillin ranges of Skye are hard to go past, and Talisker 10yo works beautifully with this film.

The Cuillins on Skye

 

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Is OHMSS a good or bad film? Or will it forever be judged simply because it didn’t feature Sean Connery?   Australia’s George Lazenby certainly brought something to the role and captured a side of Fleming’s Bond that one or two future actors failed to grasp.   But in a nod to Lazenby’s Bond, you should watch this film armed with a big glass of Australian whisky.  We won’t start an argument by nominating just one (particularly since availability is limited in different markets around the world), but Whisky & Wisdom recently watched OHMSS with a dram of Heartwood.  Top work, Moneypenny.

 

Diamonds are forever (1971)

Sean Connery returned for this romp through Las Vegas and the film is predominantly set in the US. So an American whisk(e)y wouldn’t go astray here – or at least something featuring American oak.  Since the movie blends Connery’s Scottishness with America so seamlessly, we need a whisky that also combines Scotland and America.  With its rich and sublime use of American oak, Glenmorangie Astar fits the bill beautifully, but if you can’t find Astar, then Glenmorangie “The Original” will do just fine.

 

Live and let die (1973)

Roger Moore’s first outing sees Bond return to the Caribbean, with a plot that revolves around voodoo and drug trafficking. Glenfiddich’s 21yo expression has gone by several different names over the last 15 years (Havana Reserve, Gran Reserva, and now Reserva Rum Finish), but it has always remained an enjoyable malt that sees well-aged Glenfiddich finished in Caribbean rum casks.  Regardless of the name on the label, it’s a great whisky that carries what is otherwise one of the weaker films in the Bond canon.

 

The man with the golden gun (1974)

This movie was a missed opportunity, with Christopher Lee’s excellent Scaramanga having so much potential to be an incredible Bond villain.   Instead, it was a weak and confused film that fell short whilst trying to cash in on the Kung Fu film craze of the time.  Nonetheless, a movie about a golden gun that fires golden bullets surely needs a golden whisky.  The old Johnnie Walker Gold Label (the Centenary Blend) would be a good choice, but if you’d prefer a single malt, then Macallan Gold or Dalwhinnie’s Winter’s Gold might distract you for two hours.

 

The spy who loved me (1977)

After two duds, Roger Moore finally delivers with the film that many believe to be the best of his Bond outings. Jaws was a genuinely terrifying henchman; Stromberg was a suitably ruthless villain, and Barbara Bach was…well, stunning.   The film is notable for so many memorable moments (including the Lotus Esprit submarine), but one of its most stunning was the ski chase at the start and the iconic stunt as Bond flew off the snow-capped mountain and released his Union Jack parachute.   Glenfiddich’s Snow Phoenix would thus be a great match for the movie, but if you can’t get your hands on this, then a good maritime malt pairs nicely with the rest of the film’s maritime themes. Q would hand you a standard issue Old Pulteney 12yo.

 

 

 

Moonraker (1979)

For your eyes only was supposed to be the next film in the series, but with Star Wars mania everywhere, Moonraker was fast-tracked through production instead.  Jaws made a welcome return (and delivered some comic relief) as Hugo Drax played out his deadly scheme to rid the world of mankind and to start a new master race of humans.  With the climatic battle played out in space, Ardbeg Galileo is a great whisky to cheer Bond through his usual array of girls, gadgets, and guns.

 

For your eyes only (1981)

After the spectacle of Moonraker, For your eyes only saw a return to a more grounded storyline of espionage as MI6 and the KGB raced to be first to recover the missing ATAC device from a sunken British ship.  The film makes good use of outdoor scenes; glamourous locations; and some memorable action and stunts.   Glenlivet 12yo is equally well-grounded yet delivers glamourous moments, and you can’t help but feel a wee bit more sophisticated and Bond-like yourself as you sip this special Speysider whilst watching the film.

 

Octopussy (1983)

A consistently high performer on the “Worst Bond films of all time” lists, Octopussy almost fell into parody. Much of the action takes place in India, and so an Indian whisky is definitely called for. Paul John “Bold” matches the colour and vibrancy of the film, and has suitable depth and seriousness to offset the fluff of the final circus scene.

 

A view to a kill (1985)

Roger Moore was 57 when he filmed his last outing as Bond, and – well, let’s just say it shows.   Watching his love scene with Grace Jones is about as comfortable as drinking Chivas Regal at a Diageo Convention.  Whisky matches can be like-with-like or they can work via contrast, and Moore’s geriatric performance in this film needs to be offset and contrasted with a young whisky.   The Glen Moray Elgin Classic range has five NAS expressions, although Distillery Manager Graham Coull happily shares that they’re all roughly around six years old.   The youthful but very flavoursome Glen Moray Elgin Classic Port Cask helps to carry the movie.  It also pairs well with Duran Duran’s excellent title song.

 

The living daylights (1987)

Timothy Dalton brought a harder edge to Bond (which wasn’t too difficult after Moore’s efforts) and Dalton’s interpretation was praised for being more like the Bond that Fleming described in the books. It’s a no-nonsense film that pairs with a no-nonsense whisky, and the dry, iodine-like Lagavulin 16yo is the perfect clinical match.

 

Licence to kill (1989)

This was a dark and violent film with a plot that revolved around revenge as Bond ruthlessly sets out to avenge the attempt on Felix Leiter’s life and the murder of Leiter’s wife.   Dalton succeeds brilliantly at showcasing Bond’s darker, more brutal side, but it was a side that audiences didn’t want to see.   It’s definitely a “love it or hate it” film with many opinions – and thus it begs to be matched with Laphroaig 10yo.  For bonus points, make it a Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength Batch 007.

 

Goldeneye (1995)

Six long years passed before the series re-booted with Pierce Brosnan gaining his licence to kill.   Much had changed in the international arena since the last film, and the fall of the Berlin wall and communism across eastern Europe meant that the writers had to find a new “bad guy”.   Goldeneye was fast and slick; it had its moments; and it represented a renaissance of sorts – all of which are traits shared with a vibrant Benriach.  Try this with Benriach 10yo, or perhaps Benriach Curiositas 10yo if you’d prefer a bit of peat with your spy stories.

 

Tomorrow never dies (1997)

Whilst a number of fans cite this as a disappointing instalment, Whisky & Wisdom believes this is the best Bond film to star Pierce Brosnan. It’s a fantastic Bond outing that mixes brilliant excitement and action with some wonderful humour.  Sheryl Crowe’s title track was also a winner.   The “baddies” are genuinely bad in this flick, and Herr Stamper is one of the series’ more memorable henchmen. But it’s hard to get past Crowe’s signature vocals in the opening credits – her raspy drawl just screams bourbon at you, and the film is that much richer as you watch whilst knocking back a Woodford Reserve.

 

The world is not enough (1999)

Mixed reviews at the time leave this film somewhat in no-man’s land.   It has the requisite Bond girls (including the scrummy Sophie Marceau) although the decision to cast Denise Richards as Dr Christmas Jones drew appropriate ire.  Robbie Coltrane injects some humour (as does John Cleese), and Robert Carlyle’s “Renard” ticks the box for maniacal villain. However, the plot is convoluted and the film is weighed down as a result.  This calls for a light yet full-flavoured whisky to keep your palate entertained – Clynelish 14yo has just the right amount of depth without being too serious a dram.

 

Die another day (2002)

Pierce Brosnan’s final outing as Bond had a promising and entertaining beginning, although it rapidly descended into a farce of outlandish stunts (parasurfing), outlandish gadgets (the invisible car), outlandish sets (ice palace, anyone?) and outlandish – and very cringeworthy – CGI production. The film was also criticised for its excessive product placement, and keen Scotch drinkers will spot a bottle of Talisker on M’s desk during one scene in the film.  But that’s no reason to pair this film with Talisker.

Just as pre-production on the film was underway in 2001, a particular distillery on Islay was brought back to life – one that would also go on to achieve some outlandish things.   Bruichladdich forged new ground with undertakings such as its quadruple-distilled spirit; its steadfast belief in terroir; and the multitude of new releases that came out every second week as they dealt with their cask inventory.  But some of Bruichladdich’s outlandish pursuits became a great success, and Die another day is actually half-enjoyable if you’ve got a big glass of Octomore in your hand.

 

Casino Royale (2006)

Daniel Craig was a revelation as Bond, and Casino Royale was a tremendous re-boot for the series, not to mention an exceptionally sophisticated and action-packed film – even allowing for the action that took place around a card table! Bond’s scenes with Vesper Lynd (particularly their introduction aboard the train) were suave, sexy, clever, and wonderfully understated.  Just like Caol Ila 18yo.   It’s also a whisky that will call your bluff.

 

Quantum of solace (2008)

The follow-up to Casino Royale was the first Bond film to officially be a “sequel” and continue the story of the previous film. But the film disappointed on several fronts, and was ultimately a confused affair.  It would pair beautifully with Ardbeg Serendipity, which was also the most confused whisky ever to be bottled, but that’s obviously a difficult bottle to find these days. Even the film’s villain, Dominic Greene, is a weedy, pitiful chap, and it takes a big whisky to inject some fire and “oomph” into this particular viewing.   Aberlour a’Bunadh does the trick quite nicely.

 

Skyfall (2012)

One of the best Bond films ever, this movie works on so many levels. It was a joy also for whisky spotters, noting that there are four scenes that feature a bottle of Macallan!  The 1962 Macallan 50yo features in one particularly memorable scene, but I daresay that bottle’s beyond the reach of most of us.  Macallan has changed its tune and its badging as much as Bond has changed its actors over the years, so whether you choose to pair this with a Fine Oak, or a Double Oak, or a Sherry Oak, or something from the 1824 Series, we’ll leave that up to you.

 

Spectre (2015)

After the success and excitement of Skyfall, you find yourself watching Spectre with an almost unhealthy air of expectation.   At two hours and forty minutes, it’s a long film and you’ll need a whisky that can sustain the interest of your tastebuds for its duration.  Too much sherry or peat would simply fatigue your palate over this movie’s set pieces, so we’ll play this one straight: Oban 14yo

So there’s our list and a sensible selection of whiskies to accompany you as you enjoy 007’s exploits. And for those wondering about Never say never again…. a Macallan Replica bottling seems most appropriate.

 

Cheers,
AD

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Author: AD

I'm a whisky host, writer, presenter, educator, taster, critic & all-round malt tragic! Also Director & Cellarmaster of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Australia. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @whiskyandwisdom and also on Twitter @SMWS_Australia

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