Drinking whiskey is a sort of shared vocabulary. It’s the common denominator between loudmouths and gentlemen, liars and storytellers. Occasionally, some of those whiskey drinkers happen to be Americans of note and renown. We’d like to take a moment to salute some of our favorite whiskey aficionados.
With our second round of Great American Whiskey Drinkers, we’ve had to dig a little deeper. Sure, we could always fall back on Mark Twain or Abraham Lincoln, but Angel’s Envy has always tried to do things a little differently. It’s why we finish our bourbon in ruby port wine barrels when other bourbons usually just bottle theirs. So in the spirit of independence and whiskey, please enjoy our second collection of Great American Whiskey Drinkers.
In today’s current, crowded field of late night television, it can be easy to forget just how massively influential Johnny Carson used to be. To call him a star-maker is an understatement. While hosting his Tonight Show in 1973, Carson joked about a toilet paper shortage. Panic actually ensued. Viewers went into a frenzy, buying and hoarding every roll of toilet paper they could get their hands on. This created a very real shortage that was only remedied when stores and manufacturers began rationing toilet paper supplies.
But whether it was introducing America to its newest favorite comic or ordering a drink, Johnny Carson always had impeccable taste. He was a known lover of whiskey and once joked, “Happiness is having a rare steak, a bottle of whiskey, and a dog to eat the rare steak.”
Perhaps one of America’s most highly regarded dropouts (both high school and college), William Faulkner was a Nobel Prize laureate and a writer of novels, short stories, poems, essays and screenplays. His work often demonstrated a dark sense of humor, and was populated by deep thinkers hiding behind the mask of the southern good-old-boy. He was also widely known as a fan of whiskey, though he rarely drank while writing. He knew how to separate his work from his pleasure.
His once described his formula for success: “My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food and a little whiskey.” This was a sentiment that would be widely shared by a generation of young American writers. Of course it helped to have Faulkner’s rich cultural experience and gift of language, but there are some problems that even whiskey can’t fix.
Sam Raimi is another truly independent spirit. He attended Michigan State University where he studied English for exactly three semesters. And then he and a handful of friends raised enough money to shoot The Evil Dead, a campy (now) horror classic written and directed by Raimi. Usually college sophomores have enough trouble raising pizza money, but Raimi and his friends spent months in occasionally freezing conditions to shoot and edit their movie. Based on the positive response to his first film, he would go on to earn critical and commercial success as a writer and director in both film and television. You have to admire a man who decides he wants to make movies, and then somehow manages to actually go do it.
It’s worth mentioning that Sam Raimi loves strange cameos. For example, he’s managed to sneak his 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 into every film he’s ever made—even if it’s not recognizable as a car, he just likes knowing that it’s there. He treats his old friend Bruce Campbell in much the same fashion, frequently giving him tiny, yet pivotal, roles. He’s also a big fan of bourbon, and tries to work a bottle of his favorite brand into films. Spoilers: it’s not Angel’s Envy, but we didn’t exist as a brand during most of Raimi’s career. Maybe we should send him a case…