Nick Offerman Has a Caribbean Adventure with Lagavulin

a man holding a glass of beer
Nick Offerman Goes on an Adventure with LagavulinLagavulin Distillery

He’s been a meat-loving Parks officer, a lovelorn survivor in a dystopian apocalypse, and even the president of the United States. Nick Offerman is a man of many facets, but none are more delicious than the work he’s done with Lagavulin Distillery. Offerman found his love of Lagavulin while filming Parks and Recreation, on which his character, Ron Swanson, took a journey to the Islay in Scotland, where the distillery resides. His collaboration with the brand has flourished, Offerman says, ever since they “shook hands and said, ‘Let’s be friends.’ ”

Offerman’s face may be most recognized for his beloved TV and film characters: Beyond Ron Swanson, he recently played Bill—one half of a surviving couple during a deadly pandemic—on HBO’s The Last of Us (he won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor for the role) and the authoritarian U.S. president in Alex Garland’s dystopian film Civil War (now in theaters). But Offerman’s work on the Lagavulin Offerman Edition Whisky has highlighted his many other talents outside the entertainment industry. He brings, as he says, his “own personal flavor profile” as well as his colorful memories to the new Caribbean Rum Cask Finish Scotch Whisky.

Although he was born in a small Illinois town, Offerman has set sail for much farther shores. “I own part of a beef herd in the lake in Cumbria in North West England. I’ve had all of these adventures in Scotland and hiked the Island of Madeira,” he tells Esquire. This time, his creative fusion with Lagavulin Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky takes him to the fair-weathered caress of the Caribbean. But don’t be fooled: Even though he’s written four books, built boats, explored national parks, and collaborated on three previous Lagavulin Offerman Editions, he pours 100 percent of himself into each endeavor. This rum cask finish whisky is no different. Offerman discusses following a first love to the Virgin Islands, his love of rum, and the only condition that might get him to run for president.

ESQUIRE: I love that your Zoom name is Mr. Megan Mullally.

NICK OFFERMAN: Well, for many years, Megan only used my email. We get along very well. When Zoom started, she had the first few Zooms, so she had to set it up. Then I just piggybacked on her. So it says Megan Mullally. But at the beginning of every Zoom, I go in and add Mr. so that people don’t get confused.

I’m really excited about this Caribbean Rum Cask Finish Scotch Whisky. How did you get involved with Lagavulin?

I’m so grateful to be riding in the crow’s nest in the sailing vessel of this Offerman and Lagavulin collaboration, which started ten years ago. We shot Parks and Recreation at the distillery, and we all just kind of shook hands and said, “Let’s be friends. Let’s continue collaborating.” So for ten years, we’ve been making this Tales of Whisky video series, which went well enough that they started making these Offerman Editions. It’s as though Michael Jordan started by making an unknown shoe with Nike, and they were like, Hey, what if we put your name on a shoe and see how that goes? I just can’t believe it, because it was already my favorite Scotch, and now they keep me on the payroll to say that I like my favorite drink.

a man holding a stack of paper
“If you’re gonna bring my personality on board, then please allow me to cover this in my particular stank,” Nick Offerman says. Lagavulin Distillery

How was the process of developing this new Rum Cask Edition?

Each of the four collaborations has been like being a kid in a candy store, and I’ve learned so much. Stuart Morrison is our wizard blender. We have done three different Offerman Editions, and it’s so much fun. I’ve seen other celebrities who partner with beverages, and they’re like, I like to have a good time—here’s some bourbon, or here’s some tequila. I also like having a good time, but Lagavulin spoils me, because we make these collaborations around things that I personally love. They take aspects of my own flavor profile.

This time I happened to be in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic shooting a show called The Resort, and we were talking about what the next collaboration was going to be. I was in a Spanish fort in Old San Juan, and I had a Cuba Libre that was really good. And then I finished off the night with a Lagavulin. That was the incendiary seed. And I said, What do you guys think about Caribbean flavors? We’ve already got the perfect Scotch to go with a steak; now we’ve created the perfect Scotch to go with a dessert course. And so it just kind of fell right in line.

What’s your personal connection with the Caribbean?

I’ve been to the Virgin Islands. I chased a girlfriend there when I was a teenager. I think it comes just short of stalking. We had been together for a few years and just started college. She wasn’t sure if she wanted us to stay together. Then she won a trip with her mom to go to the Virgin Islands. I was trying to keep her from breaking up with me, so I flew on the same flight as them in this fake mustache and, like, a hat and a newspaper. This was the late eighties. In hindsight, I felt like I was in a John Hughes movie, but maybe it was a little creepy. But it ended romantically. I approached her on the beach, and she was absolutely flabbergasted and did yell at me for a minute, but we ended up getting back together. It did have a romantic making-love-in-the-sunset ending. So between that and my love of maritime fiction, the novels of Patrick O’Brian, the Horatio Hornblower series, and my love of building wooden boats—all of these things combined make this a no-brainer.

I had no idea you were such a Caribbean and maritime lover!

It’s funny—until I get asked questions like this, it doesn’t occur to me that I am, because I grew up such a flatlander, a small-town Illinois kid. But now I’ve traveled so much of the world; and I’ve written books about the woods and hiking in the mountains, building wooden boats; and I own part of a beef herd. I’ve had all of these adventures in Scotland and hiked the Island of Madeira. When I look back at it, I realize I’ve actually quietly become a bit of an adventurer. I’m thrilled to have a couple of Caribbean feathers in my many-feathered cap.

a bottle of wine on a barrel
The Lagavulin Offerman Edition: Caribbean Rum Cask Finish Aged 11 Years has notes of lemon, cinnamon, and vanilla with the Lagavulin signature smokiness.Lagavulin Distillery

Are you a rum drinker outside of this new Lagavulin edition?

To me, that question is like: Do you like chocolate? Do you appreciate oxygen? Absolutely. The thing I love about rum is not only the obvious things—that it’s delicious and effective and it mixes so well with so many things, which makes it a very festive alcohol. But I love the way the flavors, the tropical fruit, and the flavor profile lend themselves so effectively that by just finishing our Scotch for eight months in these rum casks, you can take all of the attributes of rum and create a patina on this Scotch. When Stuart, our master blender, says that he can achieve these things, I’m always a little dubious because he’s the chemist and I’m the consumer. But he always blows me away. So I do love rum. It’s also very charismatic, because it’s traditionally the bottle you break over the bow of your vessel before setting it afloat for the first time.

What is your ideal setting for enjoying a glass of this new rum cask finish?

Ideally, I think that it goes great with dessert. If I could create an experience for someone to sign up for, I would put you near the sea in an enjoyable climate.

I’ll close my eyes and let you take me there.

You’re comfortably seated. Your favorite sea birds are calling in the distance. A squadron of pelicans are pinwheeling, synchronized swimming in the scattered clouds, as the sun is setting. You have a slice of lemon meringue pie. It’s a perfect pairing. You take a bite of your pie with lemon meringue and then follow it up with a sip of this whisky. This has me drooling now. If you like a boat, then let’s do it on the poop deck of a three-masted sailing vessel. Somebody’s going to show up with a little squeezebox and perform a couple of sea shanties before sending us off to our bunks.

I’m going to take a sniff and a sip while we chat. It does smell sweet and tropical, like you said.

It would be a shame if I didn’t share this experience with you. Something I love unexpectedly is that there is an element of experimentation. You never know exactly what alchemy is going to occur in those casks. We do check it every month or two, which is a very fun part of the job—checking the samples and saying it’s done, or let’s leave it to cook for another couple months. But the thing that I love about the result is that it adds a fruitiness, a lightness. It still has that Lagavulin smoky, briny, and peaty foundation, but it has these fruits on top of it. There’s citrus, honey, and vanilla. To me, if you’re trying to turn somebody on to an Islay Scotch, this seems like a great introduction. I don’t want to use the term “gateway Scotch,” but this is really a first handshake.

a person holding a cup of coffee
Offerman describes the new Caribbean Rum Cask Finish Lagavulin as still having the “smoky, briny, and peaty foundation, but it has these fruits on top of it.” Lagavulin Distillery

I love the inscription on the Lagavulin bottle, the quote from you. It is very poetic. I know you’ve written four books already, but have you ever thought about writing a book of poetry?

I have thought about it. Something like that will probably come to pass. I’m very grateful that you noticed, because when we got into this relationship I began having input on what they call the romance language on the back of the carton. I couldn’t live with myself if I just let it be traditional. If you’re gonna bring my personality on board, then please allow me to cover this in my particular stank. I love that even all of the little illustrations have a sense of humor to them. In fact, my favorite is on the flap of the package—that’s me looking through the bottle as though it’s a telescope, and it says, “Warning, this beverage may cause you to break out in boat purchases.” There’s also a whole treasure map on it that I came up with on how this journey came together from my midwestern beginnings to the Caribbean and then up to Islay with all of these little Easter-egg stops.

I also wanted to say congratulations for winning an Emmy earlier this year. How was it to get recognized after having had such a long television career?

Thank you. That was incredibly gratifying. And I never dreamed that I would do an interview with Esquire for my Scotch and be congratulated on winning an Emmy. You can pinch me now, because that’s pretty...pretty dreamy.

And your new film Civil War: I saw that it was number one at the box office for the first two weekends of its release.

I’m so grateful to work with artists like Alex Garland and Craig Mazin, who did The Last of Us, for which I won that Emmy. But Alex is such an exquisite artist, so I’m so glad for him. I’m really grateful to be in his stable. Any actor would understand that I’m just very grateful to have a job. And when they turn out well and people notice, well, that’s the meringue on the pie, as it were.

a man sitting on a rock holding a bottle of alcohol
“When people ask me about Lagavulin, if they want to try it out, I say that it’s kind of like a campfire in a glass,” Offerman says. Lagavulin Distillery

Were there were any fictional presidential portrayals that you were thinking of when preparing for Civil War?

Just like with these Scotch collaborations, I bring my personality, for better or worse. I bring my particular flavor profile. So when I get sent a script, whether it’s theater or film or TV, I’m inspired by this original creation. In this case, Alex, he started as a novelist, and I read his script, and I can immediately envision how I’m going to do this and that, so I’m never derivative on purpose. Part of it is because of my toolbox. I just have a different set of tools. Other actors are usually attractive or nimble or they have complexities that I don’t. I’m more clumsy and slow talking, and sometimes I’ve learned that really serves me well. So I just depend on my own flavor profile rather than thinking of others.

Not that the character you played in Civil War was super admirable, but I feel like seeing you as president is definitely going to spark a lot of people’s desires to have you actually run for president.

The trick is, if anybody would ever be so foolhardy as to want that, then they’d have to sell Megan Mullally on getting to redecorate the White House. Until that happens, I don’t see running for office in my future.

What is Megan’s favorite Offerman Edition?

She doesn’t drink much. We met doing theater together, and we’ve enjoyed a great many beverages over the years. But she is a high-end Broadway singer and also has this great band called Nancy and Beth. So some years ago, she sort of tapered off. She went down to red. Just wine, then just white wine, and then she was like, You know what? I have a great time without drinking alcohol. So she doesn’t drink. But I will ask her. I do think she should have to pick a favorite, so maybe I’ll ask her to just smell the four collaborations. I’m guessing it’s going to be this one, because I’m guessing that the fruit notes are going to be what attract her, that she’s more aligned with those lighter ephemera than, you know, a jerk like me who loves my smoke and my meat and my charred cask. She’ll tell me to take that out to the garage.

Maybe you could make her a rum cake or something with the Rum Cask Finish Lagavulin.

That’s a great idea. I’m going to figure out how to formulate that and then plan a date night to follow directly.

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