It’s about time I showcased a brand that has been a part of the culture for over 200 years, Chivas Regal. With brands like Monkey Shoulder paving the way for the introductory whisky, there are still some of the faithful who are after the more established brands like Chivas Regal or Johnnie Walker, and they have stood the test of time meaning only one thing – they’re actually rather good!
To give you an idea of how Chivas Regal has come through with flying colours, it makes sense to start at the beginning.
James and John Chivas, aka the Chivas Brothers, traces its roots to the opening of a grocery store at 13 King St, Aberdeen in 1801. The store sold luxury items such as coffee, exotic spices, French brandies, and Caribbean rums to a wealthy clientele. In 1842, Chivas Brothers were retained to supply provisions to the royal family at Balmoral Castle upon Queen Victoria’s first visit to Scotland. With this royal connection, 1843 saw the Chivas Brothers granted a Royal Warrant to supply goods to Queen Victoria.
During the 1850’s, James Chivas decided to respond to his affluent customers’ demands for a smoother whisky, by beginning to blend whiskies to create a proprietary blend to Chivas Brothers. Their first blended Scotch whisky named ‘Royal Glen Dee’ was launched, followed in the 1860’s by their second blended Scotch whisky, ‘Royal Strathythan’.
In the early 1900’s, Chivas Brothers decided to create their most aged blended Scotch whisky to export to the U.S, where the booming economy after the turn of the century was fueling demand for luxury goods. Chivas Regal was born. Its success with the Chivas Regal 25 yr, launched in 1909, heralded the company as the leading brand in the US right up to Prohibition in the 1920’s. Expansion came in 1949 in the form of Seagrams purchasing the company, which provided a much wider distribution.
Following the end of Prohibition and World War 2, Chivas Regal relaunched itself in the USA with Chivas Regal 12 yr and became associated with the big names from the Rat Pack era. 1950 also saw the purchase of Strathisla distillery in Keith, Moray. Built in 1786 on the banks of the river Isla, it is today the oldest distillery in the highlands of Scotland.
The late 1990’s saw the Chivas Regal range expanded to include the 18 yr (launched 1997) and 25 yr (launched 2007), as well as now being marketed under the banner of Pernod Ricard.
Over the years, Chivas Regal select their whisky from casks that have been matured for at least twelve years. It is the skill of the Master Blender Colin Scott to select the casks of malt and grain whiskies to create the range that also includes a Brother’s Blend for Duty Free.
2014 saw Chivas Regal expand their awareness too, launching The Chivas Masters to the bartender world. Competitors are asked to create four cocktails, representing the four cocktail eras – Classic Age (1880-1920) which saw the birth of Chivas Regal; the Post War Boom (1945-1965) during which time, Chivas 12 was introduced; the Disco Years (1975-1990) which saw the brand become a global icon, and the present modern Age of Revivalism. With heats around the UK, with the overall winner off to the global final has made this competition one of the one’s not to miss. Brand Ambassador for Chivas Regal Phil Huckle says that “the competition is set to stand out, to challenge bartenders to think about the history of the brand, instead of just the flavour profile from the expressions”. Most of all though, Phil says that he wanted it to be fun. A tall order creating four cocktails each in one heat, but with a craft of bartenders willing to stretch that extra mile, elements of fun will no doubt be a part to stand apart.
Consumers though will not miss out on these creations, with Chivas Regal looking to promote the winning cocktails within Chivas Regal events around the country. One such event has been the Chivas Regal ‘Art of Blending’, where you can learn the tips, tricks and conjure up your very own deluxe whisky blend using several of Chivas Regal’s malt and grain whiskies.
In 2016, Chivas Regal launched the Chivas 18 Ultimate Cask Collection, a limited edition series that reinterprets the brand’s celebrated Chivas 18 expression. The Chivas 18 Ultimate Cask Collection First Fill American Oak Finish will introduce the series, and is available exclusively in travel retail.
Chivas Regal 18yr Ultimate Casck Collection, 1st Release – 48%
Gently rested for a period of time in first fill American Oak casks. Subtle peach and vanilla notes on the nose, with honey and citrus rind softly following. A sharp start on the palate of citrus, followed closely by pear, subtle stoned cherry and prune. A long, fresh finish.
So back to the range, how do they fare? Well I’ve been lucky enough to try three expressions under the Chivas Regal banner, which my tasting notes can be found below –
Chivas Regal 12yr – 40%
A blend of many different malt and grain Scotch whiskies, matured for at least 12 years.
Punch of fruit and honey on the nose with lots of fresh notes. Well rounded fruit and nut flavours on the palate, with a slight spice lingering near the end. A very long finish that warms.
Chivas Regal 18yr – 40%
Includes over twenty of Scotland’s rarest single malt Scotch whiskies.
Orange and vanilla notes combine on the nose and palate, with hints of wood lingering. Spice flavours revealed near the long finish.
Chivas Regal 25yr – 40%
The world’s first luxury whisky launched in 1909. 15 whiskies blended within, all aged for a minimum of 25 years.
Light wood notes on the nose with a slight orange and peach blend coming through. Very smooth on the palate with lots of aromatic, light peach flavour with slight grapefruit notes. A dry, lingering finish.
Three great expressions, worthy also to add a couple of ingredients to them –
50 ml Chivas Regal 12yr
35 ml Fresh pineapple juice
15 ml Fresh lemon juice
15 ml Simple syrup
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
50 ml Soda water
Fill a highball glass with ice cubes. Shake all the ingredients and strain into the glass. Garnish with an orange wheel and a piece of candied pineapple.
or to be a bit more adventurous,
50 ml Chivas 18
25 ml 12 year-old Oloroso sherry
1 whole egg
6 ml Honeyed spice syrup
1 drop Fee Brothers’ Aztec Chocolate Bitters
2 tsp black cherry jam
To make your own honeyed spice syrup, bring 200 ml white sugar, 200 ml water, 3 tsp honey, 0.5 tsp ground cinnamon, three whole star anise and half a vanilla pod to the boil. Simmer for five minutes. Strain and leave to chill in the fridge.
Add all the ingredients into a dry cocktail shaker (no ice) and shake for 30 seconds. Fill the shaker with ice and shake for a further minute. Finally strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
So even though it has stood the test of time for 200 years, it’s still managed to come into the 21st Century and win the cocktail enthusiast over with simple and extravagant serves. Easily found too, it’s a brand that should be the staple to any drinks cabinet or bar.
Thanks to Phil Huckle for his time and to chat all things Chivas Regal with him.
© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.