Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Review - Glendronach Kingsman Edition 1991 Vintage

The Kingsman Edition 1991 Vintage is a special limited edition single malt from the east Highland distillery of Glendronach. The new whisky is a collaboration between Rachel Barrie, the Whisky Maker at Glendronach, Marv Films and 20th Century Fox to mark the release of the movie Kingsman : The Golden Circle. Glendronach was selected by director Matthew Vaughn as it is his favourite single malt. The whisky is constructed of just four ex-sherry casks, all of which were filled in 1991 (this is the year of birth of the movie’s lead character, Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin).

Glendronach distillery was founded in 1825 by James Allardice and lies within the rolling arable land of the Aberdeenshire countryside between Huntly and Aberdeen.. The present buildings date from 1850 when the distillery was rebuilt and the distillery was the last in Scotland to use stills directly fired by coal - this practice only finished in 2005. The distillery is owned by American drinks company Brown-Forman, who purchased the distillery from the Benriach Distillery Company in May 2016 and produces around 1.3 million litres of spirit annually.

The four Kingsman ex-sherry casks about to be vatted.

The Kingsman Edition 1991 Vintage bottle is housed in a bespoke box, featuring a gold Kingsman metal charm, and each features the signatures of Rachel Barrie and Matthew Vaughn. All are individually numbered and there are just 2,137 bottles. Each will cost £550. It is released at 48.2% ABV, is of natural colour and non chill-filtered. It is available in specialist whisky retailers in the UK and selected other world markets.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a deep reddish amber and the nose is complex and expressive. Immediate sweet aromas of treacle, brown sugar, rich stewed fruits (especially plums and prunes) and rock candy are then replaced by savoury bittersweet aromas - orange marmalade, old wood furniture, earthy malt and damp firewood. Hints of red apple skin and something meaty and savoury like Marmite or Oxo cubes are also present.

On the palate there is plenty of initial upfront sweetness. This comes in the form of caramel, muscovado sugar and dark dried fruits (think of raisins and prunes) in particular. As soon as it appears, then it seems to disappear. The whisky becomes very savoury and drying. Numerous notes including bitter orange peel, milk chocolate, warming baking spices (especially cinnamon powder and ground clove) and mulling spices are all present. There is a background peppery element along with subtle tropical fruit and peach characteristics. Hints of walnut, dates, beeswax polish and red apple peel give even further complexity.

The finish follows a similar path to the nose and palate - slightly sugary and then dry and savoury. There are delicious late notes of bitter dried tobacco leaf and powdered spices (imagine cinnamon, all-spice and ginger), which make the whisky feel very earthy, dry and slightly peppery.

What's the verdict?
The Glendronach Kingsman is a whisky that feels old, expensive and luxurious. It is a grown up whisky that fits the ambitions of the collaboration and takes you on a distinct journey. The flash of initial sweetness on the nose, palate and finish and then the savoury notes give a see-saw between sweet and dry,  It is decadent, complex and rich.

The Kingsman is a great example of how complex old ex-sherry cask whiskies can be and is decently priced for the high quality of the liquid.  Sadly there are just over 2000 bottles, so not many will get to taste it. However, it offers us a tantalising glimpse at what goodies may be appearing down the line on Rachel Barrie's watch.

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