Walton Goggins remembers his first sip of alcohol. He was 14, living in Georgia, and working on a roofing crew during the summer. The other guys had taken him under their wing and on a trip together, they offered him some moonshine. “It was white lightning,” he recalls. “My eyes did roll into the back of my head and they looked and laughed and supported me, and I got sick and all the rest.” But Goggins recalls the experience fondly, and today he speaks of whiskey with a deep reverence.
He has come a long way from sipping ‘shine in the Georgia sun, and that’s due in part to the role he’s most associated with. For five years he played Boyd Crowder on FX Networks’ “Justified,” earning himself an Emmy nomination in 2011. Crowder was a slick-talking Kentucky criminal with a serious yen for whiskey. What he drank, when, and with whom would often reflect his mood or the status of his ever-changing enterprise.
“It was over the course of this whole show, through the consumption of whiskey, that [Crowder] came to terms with exactly who he was,” Goggins says. “His style changes. He morphs every single year, and he brings whiskey along with him.” For example, in an early season, when he’s more humbly mining coal, Boyd drinks Wild Turkey. When he becomes a bar owner, and achieves more personal stability, he drinks Elmer T. Lee. An evolution and refinement are conveyed through his whiskey choices and Boyd demonstrates a clear and consistent regard for his regional spirit. Naturally, that impacted Goggins’s own feelings toward whiskey.
“I think my appreciation grew much deeper over the course of making ‘Justified’ because I’m so fond of that experience and it was so gratifying on so many levels, that sometimes when I drink [whiskey] now I still feel like Boyd Crowder for the first sip,” he says. As for Elmer T., it left an impression all its own. “That’s what I drank whenever we were working and what I have in my house to this day.”
Goggins estimates his home bar has about 40 bottles of various spirits, some of which he puts to use making cocktails on Instagram. “I drink vodka at business gatherings, I drink gin at social gatherings, and I drink whiskey with my friends,” he says.
In 2016, he took things a step further, getting into the spirits business with a friend. That friend, former cameraman Matthew Alper, left Hollywood to pursue whiskey making. Six months later, he and Goggins sat down with a sample of what would become Mulholland American whiskey. Goggins says that he had previous discussions about representing a brand, but when Alper approached him, he was compelled to get involved. “It was very organic and born out of the love of this drink and the love of drinking and the love of our city, Los Angeles,” he says. In addition to the whiskey, Mulholland Distilling produces vodka and gin.
While Goggins demonstrates keen versatility with his spirits, it’s possible that his initial encounter with moonshine was formative. He feels that drinking is as much about the company he keeps—a lifelong friend, a band of elder colleagues—as the contents of his glass. “Drinking, for me, has never been about the consumption of one alcohol, it’s about the conversations that come from participating in it.” Still, for Goggins as for Crowder, whiskey reigns supreme. “I like whiskey in a very specific space with a very specific person in my life. It’s almost that special.”
Who: Walton Goggins, actor
Favorite Style: Bourbon or rye
Seen in: “Justified,” “Vice Principals,” “The Unicorn,” “The Hateful Eight,” “Django Unchained”
Favorite whiskeys: High West, Templeton, Sazerac, Elmer T. Lee
How he drinks: Two-finger pour on the rocks