There’s nothing quite like a fancy freebie to hurry me to the keyboard. Indeed, there’s double – no, triple – the reason I’m excited about this whisky.
Let’s put aside the rather lovely gift set, which landed on the doormat of Malt Towers recently. This is a new GlenDronach, which is always rather lovely – a potent spirit in a punchy puncheon, to somewhat stretch the alliteration. Thirdly, and perhaps most splendidly, it is a tie-in to perhaps my most eagerly anticipated film of this year (well, it runs a close second to the new Bond), The King’s Man, the third in the Kingsman franchise, directed by Matthew Vaughn, and which is out… sometime soon. I forget when, this far into a pandemic. But soon. Ish.
The first two films, Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kingsman: The Golden Circle were marvellous. And indeed, the tie-ins were rather stylish. Swan across to the Mr Porter website and you can still see the tie-in clothing by ridiculously high profile craft manufacturers – Turnbull & Asser shirts, George Cleverley shoes, Drake’s accessories. This isn’t some cheap knock-off stuff, as you might imagine with tie-in goods; it’s all incredibly well put together.
But the eagle-eyed drinks geek would have noticed that a chunk of the second film, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, was filmed in the amazing Napoleon Cellar in the bowels of the world-famous wine merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd. There Eggsy and Merlin drink, of all things, some Bourbon, which sees them whisked away to hijinks in the US, where there are plenty more whisky – and whiskey – references, notably at the Statesman Distillery headquarters. Berry Bros. & Rudd now have a dedicated Kingsman Room, which I have seen with my own eyes and is most splendid (as is all of the insides of Berry Bros.).
GlenDronach, one of my top Scotch distilleries, has managed to score bragging rights – and film rights – for the whisky. In a funny sort of way, you don’t get to see whisky on the big screen quite like you used to. Whisky was used to represent status, a little elitism, that perhaps someone has obtained a certain level of gravitas in their life. Suntory time.
I mean sure, in Bond the villain shot some (probably fake anyway) Macallan off the head of a young lady – whose sole existence in the film seemed to be to reveal how out of touch the scriptwriters could be with a modern on-screen representation of women in film – but aside from that? I’ve not seen a great deal. I can’t say I’ve watched a great deal of Netflix shows to know whether or not the same ideal of whisky is presented there. (And yes I know that Bond reference is old but I have a child and haven’t been to the cinema in ages.)
Or perhaps whisky has been democratised – it is a more egalitarian drink, and no longer useful as a shorthand character summary on the big screen? Whisky on a table no longer says slick-wise-old-businessman, but rather it can mean mother, father, young man, young woman, rich or not all that rich. Whisky can be marketed to suggest you want to slum it with Proper Twelve to stash expensive bottles for a pension fund. Is whisky no longer useful, in that respect, to filmmakers? Utter speculation based on nothing more than hunches, but that’ll do for the pages of Malt.
In fact, back to the Kingsman series: GlenDronach was meant to have something to do with the last film, though I can’t actually remember seeing the brand in the film, just what I think was a GlenDronach bottle from a distance though had a “Kingsman” label on it. (I tried to screenshot it but Apple TV is clever and won’t let me, but suffice to say that I’d be very pissed off if I forked out tens of thousands for a movie tie-in bottle and the bloody name never even appeared on screen.)
Anyway, back to this particular GlenDronach whisky, which is a 1989 vintage (in whisky, of course, the vintage doesn’t have anything to do with the vintage of the raw material – barley – bur rather distillation year), and 29 years old at that. The PR gumpf suggests it was inspired by a 29-year-old whisky at GlenDronach that was bottled in 1913, a year before the First World War; useful, given the film – The King’s Man – was set during the First World War.
The expression is meant to pay “homage to fallen friends who bravely fought during WW1” (though, split infinitive aside, I have not seen if the distillery will be making any donations to any military-related charities with this release). There are 3,052 bottles of this, which was matured in oloroso Sherry casks “followed by a final maturation” (finished or double matured?) in Pedro Ximénez casks. It’s bottled at 50.1% ABV, and each will cost… US$1,299. I’ll get to that, but first some notes.
On the nose: very GlenDronach. The style is there even after 29 years in wood. But it’s right at the heady end of things: sticky figs, hoisin sauce, damson chutney. Both intense sweetness yet balanced by umami, a slightly meaty note: pan-fried grouse in some gooey autumnal sauce. Drifts into sandalwood perfume, wood polish, Mince Pies. I must admit this has one of the more impressive GlenDronach noses.
In the mouth: not at all too tannic or bitter; the wood has been gentle in its old age. Very silky. There’s a good amount of those dark, dried fruits: figs, raisins sure, but very rich. Damson chutney again – muscovado sugar, bitter 80% dark chocolate, a touch of coffee perhaps with morello cherries. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly spicey. Mince pies. Drifts into cola on the mid pallet somewhat; I never know if that’s a good thing or not – certainly speaks of intensity. Yet the wood never becomes too much, the age never overwhelming as it can be for these old sherry monsters (though I tend to think GlenDronach hits the sweet spot around 20 years).