Last week, Netflix debuted The Fall of the House of Usher, an eight-part miniseries that tells the horror-tinged story of the fall of a family-run pharmaceutical empire. The show — creator Mike Flanagan’s final project for Netflix before moving to Amazon — uses elements from a host of works by Edgar Allan Poe to tell the story of complex familial dynamics, moral compromises and some decidedly Gothic acts of violence.
The series is eminently watchable, and features a fantastic cast, most of whom appear to be having a blast playing memorably awful people on screen. Given that the Usher family is absurdly wealthy, it’s not a huge surprise that some very expensive bottles of alcohol make memorable appearances in the series. And as anyone reading this who’s brushed up on their Poe knows, Poe himself memorably alluded to a certain type of wine in one of his best-known stories.
What follows is a look at a few of the notable bottles that appear in the series. Mild spoilers for The Fall of the House of Usher follow…
Henri IV Dudognon Heritage Cognac Grand Champagne
The bulk of The Fall of the House of Usher is told in flashback, as two men who have known each other for decades sit opposite one another in a crumbling house. These two men are pharmaceutical CEO Roderick Usher (Bruce Greenwood) and Assistant U.S. Attorney C. Auguste Dupin (Carl Lumbly), whom Roderick has asked to hear his confession of sorts.
When Dupin arrives, Roderick produces a metallic bottle and offers him a drink. “Henri IV Dudognon Heritage Cognac Grand Champagne. Most expensive in the world. This bottle was four million euros at auction,” Roderick explains. “Produced since 1776. Aged in barrels for more than 100 years. And the bottle itself dipped in 18 karat yellow gold, inlaid with 4,100 high-quality diamonds. You know, a single pour — it probably cost twice your annual salary.”
You might think that this sounds too absurdly decadent to be real. As it turns out, the show’s writers actually downplayed a couple of elements — according to this listing, an actual bottle of this is dipped in 24 karat gold and features 6,500 diamonds. A 2008 article pointed out that a bottle had recently sold for $2 million — but it’s not hard to imagine that figure rising in the years since.
In the miniseries’s first episode, Roderick’s son Prospero (Sauriyan Sapkota) pitches his father and aunt Madeleine (Mary McDonnell ) on a business idea: an exclusive chain of nightclubs. As he does so, he pours all three glasses of Glenfiddich dating back to 1996, the year of Prospero’s birth.
“Glenfiddich is totally into this idea, by the way,” Prospero says. “We make it the official whiskey of the club and they open up the entire library of bottles to us.”
Outside of the year and the distillery, the show doesn’t provide a lot of other information on the specific whisky being poured. That said, Wine Searcher lists a few bottles of the 1996 Glenfiddich Special Old Reserve for sale for between $212 and $353. While the math isn’t entirely accurate, there’s also the Glenfiddich 26 Grande Couronne — which can be had for just over $750.
Oban and Canadian Club
In the series’s fifth episode, several of the Usher siblings gather in a bar for a meeting. (To reveal which siblings — or why they’re there — would be a bit too spoilery.) One of them reaches up to the top shelf of the bar (of course) and produces a bottle that looks an awful lot like Oban.
Credit where credit is due: the show’s art department made excellent use of various brands of whiskey to trace the Usher family’s rise. The same episode also features a flashback to the late 1970s, revealing more details of the younger life of Roderick (here played by Zach Gilford) before he became a powerful CEO. Here, the whiskey in the background of one scene is Canadian Club — probably the most modest choice of spirits on display in the entire series, and an excellent illustration of Roderick’s finances at that point in the narrative.
I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reveal that, in a series abounding with Poe references, some Amontillado makes an appearance before the show reaches its conclusion. Suffice to say, there are a few lines that allude to the fact that Amontillado is not exactly a wine that most people are familiar with.
While it’s easier on the wallet than, say, a bottle of Henri IV Dudognon Heritage Cognac Grand Champagne, buying decades-old Amontillado isn’t cheap. A bottle of 50-year-old Amontillado sold at auction at Christie’s in 2004 for the equivalent of around $400. It’s an intriguing prospect — but maybe stay away from the catacombs while you’re drinking it.
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