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July 24, 2012

WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey Breaks Bad

WhistlepigBBWho knew that a high-end whiskey crafted in Addison County was the drink of choice for DEA agents? It happened on last Sunday's episode of AMC's "Breaking Bad."

Alerted by this screenshot tweeted by Tom Fratamico of Stowe (@ElGuaposGhost), one obsessive local "Breaking Bad" fan (yours truly) decided to get to the bottom of WhistlePig's cameo on the kitchen-sink-noir drama.

Mild spoilers for the episode "Madrigal" (5.2) follow:

George Merkert, Asst. Special Agent in Charge at the Albuquerque office of the DEA, pours WhistlePig for Agents Hank Schrader and Steven Gomez as they discuss his taking the fall for the DEA's failure to bring down meth kingpin Gus Fring. They sip the rye (which lists at $79.99 a bottle) from coffee mugs as Merkert reminisces about socializing with Fring, who seemed like such a nice, mild-mannered fellow. The camera pushes significantly in on Hank.

But first, it offers a distinct shot of the WhistlePig label (pictured).

WhistlePig owner Raj Peter Bhakta set up his distillery on a Shoreham farm following stints in politics and show business (he was on "The Apprentice"). Read more of his colorful story here. Bhakta's whiskey, which went on sale in 2010, has garnered numerous accolades from connoisseurs.

Is "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan among them? (See update below.) Sivan Cotel, WhistlePig's head of operations and finance, says, "The production crew are fans of the product, and they chose to feature it in the show."

While "Breaking Bad" has had its share of paid product placements — such as a certain ill-fated Dodge Charger — other brand names have popped up simply because they served the story. Gilligan has confirmed that Denny's, for instance, didn't pony up to have its restaurants depicted on "BB" as a place for meth cooks to recover from scenes of cold-blooded carnage over a wholesome breakfast.

The WhistlePig appearance seems to be of that ilk, but without any seedy associations. "We got a ton of interest yesterday on the back of the episode," says Cotel, noting phone calls and increased web traffic.

So, it appears the pricey Vermont rye was just there to set the scene. The episode did have a porcine theme going: In another scene, Mike the Cleaner outwits a would-be assassin using his granddaughter's toy pig.

Will Walter White ever flaunt his meth earnings by breaking out a bottle of WhistlePig? Will Junior pour it on his Raisin Bran Crunch? Will it be used as a ricin delivery method? Stay tuned.


On the "Breaking Bad" Insider Podcast, streamable here and free on iTunes, Gilligan describes WhistlePig as "my favorite whiskey" and confirms that this wasn't a product placement. He proceeds to joke about drinking several bottles a day, and then director Michelle MacLaren discusses the logistics of shooting a brand name so it doesn't look like an ad (apparently it's all in the angle and hand position). Check it out at the 30-minute mark.

So perhaps I'm not off base in hoping for future WhistlePig appearances.

Screenshot courtesy of @ElGuaposGhost.




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