Campbell Brown & Jackie Zykan On How Old Forester Bourbon Wound Up In Hit Film ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’

A brand of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey produced by the Louisville-based Brown-Forman Corporation, Old Forester is the longest running bourbon brand on the market today. Old Forester’s bourbon was also the first bourbon sold exclusively in a sealed bottle. In turn, as one of only 10 brands of bourbon authorized for lawful production during Prohibition — for medicinal purposes, of course — Old Forester is the only Kentucky bourbon to have been produced before, during, and after Prohibition by the same family.

Further interesting about Old Forester is that the brand partnered with the team behind the new 20th Century Fox hit, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, which hit theaters on September 22. As — spoiler alert — some of Kingsman takes place in Kentucky, filmmaker Matthew Vaughn wanted a bourbon that was actually around in the era referenced by the film. Thus, Old Forester found its way into the script in an unprecedented way. Keeping the collaboration going forward, the company unveiled an Old Forester Statesman blend, which will remain on shelves long after Kingsman: The Golden Circle movie has left theaters.

To learn more about this working relationship, I spoke with Campbell Brown, President and Managing Director of Old Forester, and master taster Jackie Zykan. Read more about the Statesman on the Old Forester website.

How did the idea for the collaboration between Kingsman and Brown-Forman come about? Was there a mutual contact?

Campbell Brown: Like many good ideas, the collaboration between Matthew Vaughn and Old Forester was conceived at a cocktail party in London. My cousin was chatting with Matthew about his latest Kingsman project, and Matthew mentioned that he was looking for an American whiskey-maker to integrate into the plotline where the Kingsman travel to the U.S. to find their American counterpart, the Statesman, who are bourbon distillers in Kentucky. My cousin connected my brother Garvin and me with Matthew, and we learned very early in our conversations that this would be a perfect fit for Old Forester, especially being the longest, continuously distilled bourbon produced before, during and after prohibition by the same family. We knew we could authentically be part of the storyline, which was important to us since this brand has never been about gimmicks.

How long did this collaboration go on for? Was it on-going up through the film’s post-production?

Campbell Brown: We started the conversations in earnest nearly two years ago. Working closely with MARV Films and 20th Century Fox throughout the production and ideation of this bourbon has enlightened us on the process of filmmaking. It was important to us to celebrate Old Forester’s great legacy in bourbon-making as part of this journey and that was one motivation for the difference in the retail bottle versus the flask-shaped bottle you see in the film.

Did the film come out exactly as you had hoped for?

Campbell Brown: We are extremely pleased with our partnership with director Matthew Vaughn and the producers of the movie. We are proud that we were able to provide the bourbon expertise and context for this movie, and are happy with the attention that has been generated for the Old Forester Statesman expression. We are thrilled with the seamless integration of Statesman into the film’s narrative, which goes far beyond product placement. The bourbon fits into the world of the Statesman, and deepens the viewer’s experience by creating a lifestyle surrounding the characters — from the spirits they drink to the tailored suits they wear.

Do you have a favorite part of Kingsman: The Golden Circle?

Jackie Zykan: I was such a fan of the first film, and I really love Matthew’s ability to orchestrate complex and tenacious fight scenes. The closing fight scene is amazing, and throwing Elton John into the mix makes it that much more fun.

Campbell Brown: I’m with Jackie. Sir Elton was an inspired casting choice and was such a great surprise in the film. The Berry Bros. and Rudd scene and the discovery of the Statesman bourbon bottle warmed my heart!

Is there something you wish more people knew about The Statesman? Or something you feel that the movie could have focused more on?

Campbell Brown: Again, Matthew Vaughn is the master storyteller here. He is the expert on telling complicated stories in two hours, and I think he accomplished that deftly and I am very happy with how he brought this all to life!

Are there plans for the collaboration to go on past the movie coming out? Will there be any product tie-ins?

Campbell Brown: Statesman bourbon will be on shelves indefinitely as the newest member of the Whiskey Row roster. As long as people are buying Statesman, we will keep producing it. There are no plans quite yet for another collaboration but we hope to see the Statesman brand live as a consumer experience.

Movie aside, what is coming up for Brown-Forman?

Campbell Brown: We are excited to open our new distillery on Whiskey Row in the heart of Downtown Louisville in late Spring of 2018. The $45 million dollar state-of-the art facility harkens back to the heritage and authenticity of America’s first bottled bourbon. Our current facilities aren’t open to the public, and the new distillery will be the first-time guests can see each step of the bourbon making process, from barrel-making and bottling to the fermentation and distillation process. There will also be a mixology lab where our Master Taster Jackie Zykan will create unique cocktails as well as lead private barrel selections. The distillery will produce 100,000 cases of Old Forester annually.

When not busy with Brown-Forman, how do you to spend your free time?

Jackie Zykan: I need to spend time outside, and with family. I crave it, it keeps me balanced.

Campbell Brown: You can usually find me at home with my wife, two girls and my dog Forester.

Finally, any last words for the kids?

Jackie Zykan: The Old Forester Statesman expression is a fantastic one, but keep in mind there are multiple members in the Old Forester family. Each has a unique profile, and we take pride in the quality of every single one of them. Explore them responsibly, and be of legal drinking age when you do it (laughs).

Campbell Brown: Come visit us this spring and summer at our Distillery on Main Street!

[Featured Image by Old Forester]

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