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.
GlenDronach Kingsman Edition 1989 Vintage – Review
Colour: old oak.
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).
It really is a very stylish whisky. Fans of the distillery, if you have deep pockets, should go for it. It’s heady, moreish, never overpowering, plenty to keep bringing the glass back to your nose. Not quite fully harmonious, but close.
Taking in what this would cost, and you’d have to deduct a point naturally. That said, now hear me out, this is nearly three decades old and they could have charged way more for this. You’d pay a grand more for a Dalmore 30-Year-Old, two grand more for a The Macallan 30-year-old; but 500 notes less for a Glenfiddich or Glenfarclas 30-year-old. So really, in that realm, it isn’t too outlandish, especially given the collectability factor. And for that, I am being rather pragmatic about the whole thing.
This is made for those with deep pockets, sure. But it’s a delightful whisky. It’s only a shame that those who buy this might not be the type who would open it – which is a topic for another day. In short, excellent stuff.
Any free rooms at Malt Tower? Looking to leave behind this shit show of a government. Looking forward to watching the new Kingsman and new Bond films too.
Any guesses as to what casks this one was aged in? Sounds like it spent time in PX and Olorosso casks.
You’ll have to fight a toddler for the spare room. Yes, looking forward to Bond – went to see Tenet yesterday.
It was matured in “oloroso Sherry casks followed by a final maturation in Pedro Ximénez casks from Spain” – silly of me not to mention it above, so I’ll edit.
a whisky for the deepest pockets, is it? Well I do not want to be overmuch bussysistic e.g. obsessively overinterpreting… but how many of those people with the deep pockets do you think read your blog?
I am not one of them so what does this review do for me… or should I have just skimmed on in the first place? Nice to know if not nice to have or to afford? So not a memeber of the target group…
Mouthwatering but out of reach. So many questions.
I wouldn’t consider myself to have “deep pockets” making about $32,000 per year, and yet I personally find reviews of this sort to be helpful to me. If I was looking to buy a special bottle for myself or others to celebrate milestone occasions the likes of which only come about a few times in one’s life (wedding, 50 years birthday, retirement, etc.), then I would look for reviews like this one to find out if any of the higher-priced stuff from distilleries I (or my friends / family) love would be worth getting. Perhaps there are indeed others who read Malt reviews who would agree.
Even besides special occasions, I know plenty of “middle-class” single guys like myself who will spend at least $50 per week at bars / restaurants on the weekends, and this fits fine in their budgets. I personally don’t go out much to drink or eat, but rather prefer a quiet evening once a week to enjoy about an ounce of a very good whisky. Now over the course of the year, those people I mentioned who go out every weekend will spend about $2,500. If I have the same budget, but just different drinking preferences (quality over quantity) without the bar markup, then I can buy two $1,250 bottles per year, which would give me enough for my weekly 1-ounce dram. Sure, it seems like a lot because it’s a large chunk of money being put down all at once every six months rather than spread out from week to week, but it’s the same amount per year, and just requires more disciplined saving.
That being said, even though I *could* buy bottles at such a price, I rarely do because it seems most of them are only marginally better (or even marginally worse) than what can be purchased for less. And reviews like this scoring a $1,300 bottle at 7/10 help me to confirm when that is the case without having to spend the money to find out for myself. Now, I am a big fan of GlenDronach and am willing to put down money for a great bottle, and I can see that the same reviewer (Mark) has also reviewed here on Malt a GlenDronach Grandeur costing $600 and given it a 10/10. This is very helpful to me, since now I know how I can spend less than half on something significantly better, and then I have extra money in my whisky budget that I can save for future purchases for milestone celebrations of family / friends.
To conclude, I guess I would say that as with anything, it’s hard (i.e. impossible) to make everyone happy all of the time, and applying that to Malt, to have every review be of interest to everyone. I, for instance, pass by all the cider reviews here, as well as a lot of the bourbon ones; my interest lies in the best scotch whisky can offer, and yes, this often means pricier bottles. But I’m happy to just “wait my turn” and enjoy the one or two reviews each week that fall into my own “wheelhouse”, knowing that there are likely other Malt readers out there who feel the same sense of excitement / usefulness about the postings of reviews of bottles that I personally am not interested in.
Thanks for the very in-depth response, Walfred. Yes, I guess sometimes it is hard to really contextualise where these sorts of whiskies, in this price range, will end up. Whisky drinkers have different ideas of what is good value, from $15 through to $1500, no matter what the income.
I must admit, I wouldn’t ordinarily spend that much on whisky and I would, in a heartbeat, opt for the GlenDronach Grandeur as you had spotted. I do wonder if people’s lockdown habits have made many more people like yourself, less willing to spend so much on nights out and saving up for a more elaborate drinks cabinet.
Given that Granduer Batch 10 got a 10/10 from Malt and is still readily available for half the price. I might get a second bottle of that over this. As far as value goes, some 20+ olds from the 1992 and 1993 vintage single casks provide an even greater bang for buck at a quarter of the price! And some of those might rival the grandeur series quite well.
Interesting to note there are still some of that Batch 10 still on the shelves. Weird to think that, in comparison, it is good ‘value’.