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James Bond 007 and Bourbon Whiskey

Posted by Colonel Bourbon on

With the new James Bond film, No Time to Die in the theaters, we thought we'd take this time to discuss 007 drinking whiskey, particularly bourbon.

Famously, the movie version of Bond has the secret agent drinking martini, shaken not stirred, although more recently the films have changed that up a bit, such as this quick from 2006's Casino Royale:

Yes, Mr. Bond, you do look like you give a damn! You've been giving a damn about it, being meticulous about it. In the films, you first ordered a martini shaken in Dr. No in 1962. So why the sudden rebelliousness in the new century?

But that scene may have been written for the best since Daniel Craig said the "Do I look like I give a damn" helped convince the actor to take on the role. 

Also in Casino Royale, Bond has a Vesper martini. Here is now to make it, according to the 1953 book by Ian Fleming:

James Bond  007 and Bourbon Whiskey

(Ian Fleming's impression of James Bond, Wikipedia, Fair Use)

"Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?" (Chapter 7.)

Bond and whiskey/whisky

But the famous martini line has obscured Bond's notable taste for the brown pours, especially in the book version of 007. Several websites devote themselves to this side of James Bond. The sites generally identify the following bourbons that the agent regularly partook.  

For example, as per Fleming's Bond

  • “I.W. Harper’s
  • Jack Daniels
  • Walker’s DeLuxe
  • Old Grandad
  • Virginia Gentleman 

The site notes that JD is "not a bourbon," with a quick finality that is not so settled in the bourbon world, which is fine. The site says that bourbon is a "Kentucky-based barrel-aged whisky seems to be a Bond staple when abroad." 

If you are a bourbon lover, you probably caught the mistake, referring to the Kentucky-based pour as whisky instead of whiskey. It is a common mistake., Maker's Mark excluded.

For the record: whiskey is bourbon, rye, and Irish whiskey; whisky is used for Scotch, Japanese, and Canadian whisky. The difference has to do with the difference in the translations of the Scottish and Irish words. Suffice to say James Bond has drank his share of all of it.

“I.W. Harper’s Jack Daniels Walker’s DeLuxe Old Grandad Virginia Gentleman

(Old Granddad bourbon, which Bond drank, among other whiskeys/whiskies, Wikipedia, fair use.)

Bond in the Fleming novels

Part of the fun of the Bond novels is the prose; the language can roll around your tongue, with descriptive detail, as in this line from On Her Majesty's Secret Service: 

Bond: “I had two ham sandwiches with stacks of mustard and half a pint of Harper’s Bourbon on the rocks. The bourbon was better than the ham.”

 The Gentleman's Journal catalogs every time James Bond had whisky (yep, same mistake) in the Fleming novels. They add the nice touch of talking about the pour. 

For example, in Live and Let Die:

“The conductor arrived at the same time as the Pullman attendant. Bond ordered Old Fashioneds, and stipulated Old Grand-Dad Bourbon, chicken sandwiches, and decaffeinated Sanka coffee so that their sleep would not be spoilt.”

"What’s it like? With an exceedingly high rye content in the mash, this bourbon has a fiercely spicy kick to it. Not for the faint-hearted, there’s no wonder Bond was always after its sour, sharp tang — something that could reach his cocktail-ravaged tastebuds."

James Bond, Part Scotsman

In the second novel, You Only Live Twice, 007 is given a past: His father was Andrew Bond from Glencoe, Scotland, and his mother was Monique Delacroix from the canon of Vaud, Switzerland. For those of us in the 21 century, it may be interesting to know that Bond's birthday was given as November 1920 or 1921.

Bond drank Scotch, e.g., Black and White Blended Scotch Whisky. as The Gentleman's Journal catalogs:

In Moonraker: “He sat up at the bar and waited while the man poured two measures of Black and White and put the glass in front of him with a syphon of soda. Bond filled the glass with soda and drank.”

"What’s it like? Dean Martin also enjoyed this standard blend — a classic recipe with high proportion of quality grain whiskies. There’s a surprisingly citrus-forward taste on the palate, with dried fruit and honey masking most of the peat. You could do worse; you could do better."

Ian Fleming drank bourbon

While he gave Bond a wide preference of whisk(e)y and drink, the author was a bourbon man with a rather strange belief. In his book, Foreign Devil: Thirty Years Of Reporting In The Far East, Richard Hughes wrote that Fleming told him:

"The muscles expand under bourbon; Dikko, but they contract under scotch. ‘ He also suggested that bourbon counteracted the ill-effects of the nicotine in the many cigarettes that he smoked each day."

As far as we know this is not mentioned in any accurate description of the American whiskey.

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