Some Scotch whisky brands make a habit — and their reputation — of releasing incredibly rare and expensive bottles on what can feel like a monthly basis, to the extent that only the wealthiest and most dedicated collectors can keep up with them all. This is not the case with the Rothes-based Glen Grant. Given that the distillery has been a going concern since 1840, there are undoubtedly some noteworthy barrels aging in their dunnage warehouses. But the Glen Grant is a whisky for drinking, not for hoarding and flipping. Hell, they didn’t even release a 21-year-old expression until this year. Their rare and extra-annuated bottlings are sparingly and judiciously issued. To name two, a limited edition blend was created for the distillery’s 170th anniversary; and in 2021 a 60-year-old bottling was released to coincide with the diamond anniversary of master distiller Dennis Malcolm, who started working at the distillery in 1961 (and was actually born on the grounds in 1946!).
Surprisingly, The Glen Grant Devotion is not the first 70 year old Glen Grant to see the light of day. That honor went to a bottling released by independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail in 2018. But this is the first one to have been aged, bottled, and released by the distillery (indie bottlers typically buy younger casks and then mature them in their own warehouses). It’s also one of the most elegant and opulent bottle designs in the history of Scotch whisky.
Devotion is dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II, who died last year shortly after celebrating her 70th anniversary on the throne. Not all of Scotland is wild about its ties to the UK, but Elizabeth loved Scotland, particularly Balmoral Castle, where she spent her summers, and was the Patron of the Royal Scottish Forestry Society. This is a cause of particular significance to the Glen Grant, whose distillery sits astride a 27-acre “Garden of Spendours,” created by James “The Major” Grant, nephew of distillery founder John Grant, in 1886.
The entire run of Devotion — a mere seven bottles’ worth — comes from a French oak Oloroso sherry cask laid down in 1953. The hallmark fruitiness of the Glen Grant’s younger expressions comes through loud and clear in this whisky, but the notes of apple, peach and apricot are more concentrated and intense, with a gentle spiciness that belies its potent 55.5% ABV. The finish is dry but surprisingly not too tannic considering it’s been in wood for seven decades.
I usually don’t give much thought to the packaging of a whisky — I’m more concerned with what’s in the bottle than the bottle itself. But Devotion raises the bar for how ultra-high-end spirits can (should?) be packaged. Each hand-blown decanter, created by Brodie Nairn of GLASSTORM, is topped with a silver capsule engraved with a different favorite flower of the Queen’s. But it’s the sculpture on which the decanter is balanced that’s truly mind-blowing. Each one was created by craftsman John Galvin from a fallen elm tree he’d found on the distillery grounds (Dutch elm disease has belatedly arrived in northern Scotland). It’s a truly striking work that makes Devotion as appealing to art collectors as it does to whisky enthusiasts.
Bottle 1 of the seven will be auctioned by Sotheby’s between September 11th and 22nd, with all the proceeds going to the Royal Scottish Forestry Society. The other six will go on sale in October and will likely not be found at your local retail outlet; “select global markets in the United States and Asia” is all the information the brand has put out as of this writing about its availability. The price is also, for now at least, a secret.
I can’t imagine any of the seven future owners of Devotion actually opening the decanters and drinking the whisky (though I hope I’m wrong), which is a shame because it really does make for quite a magnificent dram. That said, there was far more than seven bottles’ worth of whisky in the cask, which begs the question — what’s going to happen to the rest of it? I asked Robin Coupar, the Glen Grant’s global brand ambassador, that very question. “Watch this space,” was all he said. I won’t lie, I’m intrigued.