Kiwi acting legend Sam Neill has added a new spirit cousin on the other side of the world to his Two Paddocks wine family from Otago.
This week, Sam's cousin Johnny Neill, owner of Samuel Gelston's Irish Whiskey, announced the launch of its latest expression – a Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, matured in actor Sam Neill's pinot noir casks.
The liquid has been triple distilled and matured for 19 months in ex-bourbon casks, before spending a further 21 months maturing in Sam's French oak casks, which had previously held his prestigious Central Otago pinot noir.
The Neill family has been making quality spirits for generations. Johnny's great-great-grandfather, Harry Neill, set up the successful McCallum Neill & Co in Australia in 1851, and Percival, one of his younger brothers set up Messrs Neill & Co in Dunedin in 1882. Percival was Sam's great-grandfather.
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"Sam and I have continued this legacy in our respective sides of the world – I've been focused on the creation of artisanal spirits using local ingredients, whereas he has dedicated nigh on 30 years growing super premium pinot noir. For the first time in 150 years, we're bringing together the expertise from both sides of the family – the result being an incredibly exciting sweet, honeyed and very inviting Single Pot Still Whiskey," DublinLive quoted Johnny.
Last weekend Sam, who was born in Northern Ireland, wrapped filming on Jurassic World: Dominion after a roller-coaster shoot in Pinewood Studios in London. On Sunday he retweeted his director Colin Trevorrow's wrap photo and added; "There were days we thought we might not make it. But we have … we pulled off what seemed well, nigh impossible. Great crew. Lovely cast. Top director. Phew- and CELEBRATIONS."
The shoot was shut down in March as the global pandemic prompted shelter-in-place orders. The film resumed production in July with a new set of safety regulations, making it the first major Hollywood studio blockbuster to do so. Universal Pictures was forced to pause filming on Dominion for two weeks in October after "a small amount of positive tests for Covid-19" emerged among the crew, according to a studio statement.
In an interview with Deadline, the film-makers revealed just what it took to pull off filming of the dino movie during a pandemic: 40,000 Covid-19 tests, $8 million to $6 million spent on protocols alone, and a cast and crew sequestered in a hotel for months.
It's been a busy month. Neill and Michael Caton's Aussie sheep farmers' movie has been met with rave reviews in NZ and Australia, as a warm, funny, tender and down-to-earth rural drama. Neill told his social media followers to go and see it, because he can't as he is still working in England.
Next up, the 73-year-old is scheduled to film historical World War II action drama, The Guinea Pig Club, directed by his Sleeping Dogs' director, Roger Donaldson, alongside British actor Richard E. Grant. The movie is in pre-production.