My Whisky Obsession celebrates the weird and wonderful ways people express their passion for whisky.
Photographer Brett Ferencz is better known by his online handle: Scotch Trooper. It’s also the title of his blog and Instagram, designed to welcome two distinct but equally nerdy subgroups: whisky drinkers and Star Wars fans. In Ferencz’s fantasy world, Stormtrooper figurines struggle to uncork outsized bottles of Balvenie, rappel down the side of a Jack Daniel’s bottle on kite string, and unsuccessfully attempt to stir cocktails with spoons twice their height. Ferencz draws upon his 100-strong collection of action figures and his skills as a photographer to create these striking compositions. What sounds like a peculiar niche has attracted ten of thousands of followers.
In fact, the Scotch Trooper enterprise gained so much traction that in June Ferencz made the leap from his job as a web developer to work full-time as a freelance photographer, mainly for whisky and spirits companies. In addition to Scotch Trooper—which remains independent—Ferencz also makes lamps from old whisky bottles. “Someone was like, so you figured out a way to purchase whisky and toys and write it off?” Ferencz says with a laugh. “Yeah, that’s living the life.”
Ferencz spoke with Whisky Advocate about his hobby, how it’s affected his relationships, and whether whisky drinkers out-geek Star Wars fans. Scroll through for the full interview.
"The force is strong with good whisky friends." – – – – – Many thanks to @whiskyfest and @highlandparkmartin for making it possible for us to attend #WhiskyFest in San Fransisco last week. With most of our plans coming together last minute they were kind enough to pull resources together to get us to the event. Please give them both a follow. We had such a great time. #WhiskyFestSF #HighlandPark #HighlandPark15 #StarWars
MY WHISKY OBSESSION: Scotch Trooper
Name: Brett Ferencz
Obsession: Mixing whisky and Star Wars at @scotch_trooper and scotchtrooper-blog.com
Time spent on it per month: 80+ hours
Amount of money spent on it per month: Several hundred dollars
Number of whiskies he owns: 300+ full-size bottles, plus “a ridiculous amount of samples”
Number of Star Wars action figures he owns:100
Favorite whisky: Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Ardbeg, Laphroaig. “It depends on my mood,” Ferencz says, adding that he’s increasingly getting into the Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottlings.
Favorite Star Wars movie:Star Wars: A New Hope
"I'm not being lazy, this is my new post, and I'm not leaving." – – – – – I'm combatting #NationalLazyDay by tasting whiskies and taking extensive notes. One of which is the @portaskaigmalt 110 proof. It's a cask strength Islay whisky made up of casks selected from an undisclosed distillery. It's a young and bright whisky, but no doubt a true Islay peated dram. I immediately want to sprinkle it on some oysters while enjoying the cool Islay ocean breeze. This dram brings back many memories from one of my favorite places in Scotland. It's a wonderful oily dram that lingers, and gives way to chocolate and sugar notes as the smoke fades away. Surely worth another dram. #portaskaig #islaywhisky #portaskaig110proof #caskstrength #StarWars #stormtrooper
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Whisky Advocate: How did you get into whisky and then decide to combine it with Star Wars?
Ferencz: I had my first taste of whisky at a Rush concert in Nashville. I have a bunch of friends that were trying to get me into it. I’d loved tea and the intricacies between the different types and they’re like, ‘If you’re into that, you really need to get into whisky.’ We were gifted these awesome Rush tickets and we’re like, ‘Well, we’re not paying for anything tonight and there’s whisky on the counter. Let’s try that.’ I fell in love from there.
I knew there was a huge whisky community through social media and I wanted to connect with people and learn from them and their tasting notes. At the same time, I didn’t want anyone thinking I knew what I was talking about. That’s why I brought in the Star Wars side, so no one would take me seriously. Once I started the Instagram, I started getting a little more geeky with my photos and some Star Wars glasses and stuff. It wasn’t until I used one of my daughter’s stormtroopers in front of a bottle of Balvenie where [the brand] re-posted it the next day and I got maybe 100 followers in a day. I was like, ‘I might be onto something here.’
"Learn the power of the Longbow Pub, the Welsh is strong with them." – – – – – A huge thank you to my friends at @longbowpub for opening my eyes to this glorious Penderyn Madeira Single Malt, such a great dram. Longbow was the very first Welsh Pub in NYC and was opened in 2009 by Michael Colbert, from Wrexham, North Wales and his wife, Jennifer. With 30+ whiskies to choose from you're guaranteed to find your favorite whisky – or try something new! #Penderyn #WelshWhisky #LongbowPub #NYC #Madeira #penderynmadeira
WA: So you were always a big Star Wars fan?
Ferencz: Totally, yeah. I remember being five years old and going to see the original Return of the Jedi when it came out in the theaters with my neighbor. It’s been Star Wars ever since. Pretty much every birthday party picture that my mother shows, there’s me either with a Star Wars shirt or getting a Star Wars toy or something like that. It’s been ingrained in my life ever since. I have raised my daughters the same way. They have their slew of Barbie dolls, but thrown in there is a bunch of Star Wars toys as well. They have a nice appreciation of it.
WA: Speaking of family, has this hobby ever caused any domestic consternation? You spend a lot of time on it, and you’ve got a lot of action figures and bottles of whisky.
Ferencz: When I was doing web development, [it was a] 40 hour week, plus two and half to three hours a day in the car, and then having to come and take photos not only for Scotch Trooper stuff, but the clients I was working with on the side as well. There was a lot of me and my wife sitting down and trying to figure out like, “Does this make sense? Can we continue doing this? Am I going to burn myself out?” And that’s where we got to the point where, “Okay, if we get a certain amount of clients, then I can finally make that jump [to freelancing full-time].” Because if I continued the path that I was on, it wouldn’t have worked for too much longer.
"And everyone says we have bad aim." – – – – – Speaking of good aim, Malt Master Brian Kinsman nailed this experimental release. As a one time beer lover, I was overly excited to finally get my hands on a bottle of this Glenfiddich which was finished in casks that once held India Pale Ale. As soon as you open the bottle you quickly get the hoppy notes. But on tasting it, it still is very much what you would expect from Glenfiddich, smooth sweet and creamy. This is a perfect dram for these upcoming summer months. Can't wait to see what's next. #glenfiddich #glenfiddichipa #StarWars #stormtrooper #ipa #indiapaleale
WA: How long does it take you to stage and shoot each photo?
Ferencz: An idea can pop in my head, and I can set it up, shoot it, and be done in 30 minutes. Or I can think of an idea, go set it up, six hours later I hate it, and throw everything away. There’s no rhyme or reason as to what’s going to work awesome and be quick and painless.
WA: Who has a geekier fan base, Star Wars or whisky?
Ferencz: That’s a tough one. I would say it’s quite equal. But I will say that the whisky fan base—and I think why I’m enjoying doing what I’m doing, with bringing the lighter side—I think the whisky geek tends to be a little bit more serious and critical, if that’s the word I’m looking for. Very much opinionated as to whiskies they love and don’t like. I’ve been seeing a lot of acceptance and a lot of fun sharing back and forth, but you’re always going to have the few that stand out in the crowd.
"There's one, set for stun. Inform Lord Vader we have a Bourye" – – – – – When it comes to Limited Releases I always love a good hunt. Especially when it's from one of my favorite distilleries. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I can't get enough of what High West is doing. This release of the Bourye is a mix of Bourbon and Rye all of which ranges from 10-14 years. A perfect dram for #WhiskeyWednesday. But again, it's a Limited Release, so if you see one, grab it. Cheers. #DrinkHighWest #bourye #HighWestBourye #StarWars #Stormtrooper #limitededition #americanwhiskey #rye
WA: If George Lucas came over to your place for a whisky, what would you serve him?
Ferencz: Balvenie 30 year old. That was the bottle that I purchased for myself when I finally made the jump [to freelancing full-time]. That was my celebratory dram. It’s the one whisky that I can just sit and nose for hours and just be happy. It doesn’t quit. It’s amazing.
WA: Is most of your following whisky people rather than Star Wars people, or do you have a pretty good proportion of both?
Ferencz: It’s pretty split down the middle, I think. One of my favorite messages that I got just recently was a lady who said that she started following me because she was strictly a Star Wars fan and couldn’t stand whisky, but she loved my photos enough to follow along and as she was following along, decided to try whisky again and now she’s completely hooked.
"This is the dram we were looking for." – – – – – Although the Balvenie 12yr DoubleWood was the whisky that turned me from a scotch drinker to a scotch lover, the 14yr Caribbean Cask is slowly becoming my "go to" Balvenie dram. I'm clearly not alone… In any whisky tasting I've taken part in or ran myself, one of the top favorited whiskies is this Rum Cask finished beauty. #TheBalvenie #Balvenie #balvenie14 #CaribbeanCask #StarWars #Stormtrooper
WA: That’s cool.
Ferencz: Being able to open people’s eyes and give them something a little bit more approachable is a blast, and being able to communicate with your followers and them telling you that they purchased a bottle because they saw it on your feed, and they absolutely love it—that’s just an awesome feeling.