Written and Produced by John Paul Chapple
Directed and Produced by Laurel Parker
Prohibition in the USA lasted from 1919 to 1931. As well as criminalising the majority of the American population and handing organised crime a gift of almost unimaginable richness, it also had a profound effect on Scotland. The Scotch whisky industry was decimated, with its single largest overseas market removed. By 1925, the industry was desperate, with distilleries closing and sales failing to show any sign of recovery. Something had to be done.
Whisky Wars tells the fictonalised story of one man’s attempt to re-establish s
Scotch whisky in America. Euan McCullen, the young, slightly naïve son of a Scotch whisky baron, Roddie McCullen sets off to meet the people who deal in the sale of alcoholic beverages in the US. Being pragmatic, the Scots know that this will involve, at the very least, a slight level of operating outside of the law. But it is such a stupid law and so similar to what their ancestors endured when the English imposed excise duties in the eighteenth century, that they decide they have no choice. So Euan goes to Chicago.
At first, things appear to go well. The Italian gentlemen he meets are well- mannered, affluent, organised and obviously good at what they do. Just as in Scotland, the organisation is family-based. It has a respect for the product that creates such wealth for them. They don’t really see why any of that should change. But change it does, when they sample Euan’s product, which is a dramatic improvement on the rye-based gut-rot they have been importing from Canada. They start to take notice of him and that lays the seeds of conflict. As well as the Italians, there are other gangs who want this stuff, principally the Irish but also factions within the Italian syndicate and even some disenchanted Scots who thought they had the niche quality whisky market sewn up.
Euan rapidy, though unintentionally, finds himself at the centre of an existing power struggle that his presence only intensifies. After he inadvertently saves the life of Frank Nitti, Al Capone’s second-in-command, during an ambush by the Irish gang leader, Bugs Moran, Euan is in deep. Nitti, believing he owes Euan a debt of gratitude, comes to Scotland. When he sees what’s there, he decides he does not want to work with the Scottish whisky men. He’d rather take over the business for himself.
WHISKY WARS tells the story of the ensuing struggle, as vested interests balance commercial greed with deep-rooted family and national loyalties. No-one is ever quite who, or what, they seem as the pure liquor of Scotland – distilled over decades and imbued with almost mystical powers – exerts its influence over the men and women who deal in it.