Simon Wittenberg attends an exclusive dinner and whisky tasting at Tate Britain, becoming amongst the first in the world to sample the new Royal Salute 53 Year Old Forces of Nature by Kate MccGwire blended whisky.
Picture the following scene. Tate Britain on London’s Millbank – home to a collection of British art stemming from the year 1500 to the current era, has seen its last visitors of the day depart, and as the autumn darkness falls, the building lies silent.
Climbing the central steps and passing through the wooden doors standing between the imposing columns lit with a blue and pink hue, you are greeted by a refreshing Royal Salute cocktail peppered with a garnished block of ice, before a display of warriors and intricate sculptures guides the eye through the central thoroughfare as you make your way to your destination for the evening – Gallery 9.
This arched space is Tate Britain’s showcase gallery – home to large historical paintings from renowned artists, such as Gainsborough, Hogarth and Millais, which line the walls from end-to-end, and from top to bottom. A dimly lit space with red up-lighters, translucent chairs and a long table lined with Perspex printed menus and tasting notes, and an intricate, but voluptuous floral centrepiece, interspersed with glowing candles and flagons of Royal Salute 21 Year Old, is what awaits.
At the very summit is a handblown Dartington Crystal bottle – number 12 of just 21, which sits next to a curvaceous “S”-shaped and python-like sculpture. Serenading guests whilst exploring the coming together of two exceptional masterpieces, is a live string quartet offering classical interpretations of modern tracks, such as All of Me by John Legend.
Standing in the shadows of the ultra-limited edition $90,000 (£80,000) release named Royal Salute Forces of Nature by Kate MccGwire, which sees the debut of Royal Salute’s new pinnacle collection entitled The Art of Wonder – a new series of whisky expressions orientated around collaborations with critically acclaimed artists, is the British sculptor herself, Kate MccGwire. Understated and personable, she specialises in the medium of feathers, to create unique and highly-prized collectors’ pieces, and this is exactly what she has done to accompany just 21 examples of this ultra-rare Royal Salute expression.
Named “Paragon”, a sculpture which has also been put on display at Frieze London, Kate MccGwire has used specially selected and sustainably sourced pheasant feathers to create the sculpture, whilst also taking inspiration from copper whisky stills to create the spectacular piece of art. It is only when you see it in person that the splendour and intricacy of Paragon truly comes alive, and where it is possible to really appreciate the marriage of the spheres of whisky-making and design.
Expertly crafted by Royal Salute Master Blender, Sandy Hyslop, the expression that lies within each of the crystal decanters, engraved with intricate feathers and gilded in 24-carat gold leaf, is a stunning and ultra-rare 53 Year Old blended whisky. The 53 Year Old age statement is one of the highest ages ever released by Royal Salute – a nod to 1953, the very year which saw the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and the arrival of Royal Salute.
Formally unveiled on the night by Nathan Wood, Global Brand Ambassador for Royal Salute, and sitting amongst fellow journalists, influencers, members of the Royal Salute team, and opposite Kate MccGwire herself, the moment came to treat the palate to a sip of history.
Sharing the moment of sampling a truly special whisky in the company of others, and holding the Royal Salute-branded glass up to eye level, you first notice the golden hue – the result of more than half a century of maturation.
Greeting the whisky with the upmost respect, nosing the liquid reveals rich and fruity aromas, which are complemented by fresh mango, sweet peach and liquorice. This gives way to notes of strawberries, dark chocolate, candied walnuts, and sweet toasted oak, before culminating in a long, rich, and a slightly dry finish.
Sandy commented that it was a thrilling moment, and a true privilege to blend such rare and precious whiskies at the pinnacle of what was achievable with the delicate high-aged stock laid down by his predecessors.
Similarly, it was also a privilege to be amongst the few in the world, aside from Sandy and Kate, to be savouring this precious creation that will be the reserve of only 21 owners in the world. The history, the whisky, and the esteemed company, made for a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a “pinch me” moment that will be unlike no other.
Reflecting the truly special nature of this partnership between Royal Salute and Kate MccGwire, and justifying the $90,000 price tag, each of the decanters and Protean sculptures are housed in a hand-crafted wooden cabinet, accompanied by a beautiful art book detailing the collaboration between Royal Salute and the British sculptor.
“Plethora”, the second artwork that Kate MccGwire created in collaboration with Royal Salute, will be shown in public for the first time in China next month.
Royal Salute Forces of Nature by Kate MccGwire – Where and How?
For more information on the Royal Salute Forces of Nature by Kate MccGwire expression, visit www.royalsalute.com.
See videos and photos from our exclusive evening at Tate Britain on the Luxurious Magazine Instagram page.
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