Whisky Review: Chivas Regal 12

I’m heading off to Scotland in a couple weeks time, so I figured it would be a good idea to study up on the more popular expressions of scotch whisky. Today we’re taking a look at Chivas Regal, one of the oldest and most well known blends.

History

As is common with many other Scottish whisky producers, the Chivas brand of whisky started as a blend of whiskies distributed by the Chivas brothers. Born between 1810 and 1814, James and John Chivas grew up on a farm but moved to nearby Aberdeen to make their fortune.

In 1828, James Chivas purchased a share of a grocery store that catered to luxury goods and, by 1850, the store was granted a royal warrant to supply goods to Queen Victoria. Seeing a demand in the market for whisky, the grocery store began selecting and distributing their own blend of local spirits in 1854 called Royal Glen Dee. John joined the company in 1857 and the company was renamed “Chivas Brothers.” The company would remain owned by the family until James’ son’s death in 1893.

When the company assessed the American market in 1890, they saw a demand for a luxury spirit and, in 1900, they launched a line of whiskey named in honor of those founding brothers. The result, first distributed in 1909, was dubbed “Chivas Regal” and was a blend of the finest 25 year old whiskies available which made it the oldest blended whisky on the market. It launched shortly thereafter in the United States and was an immediate hit.

The combined pressure of prohibition in the United States and World War I took a toll on the success of the whisky, and Morrison & Lundie purchased the company in 1936. They switched their focus to producing a 12-year aged version of the Chivas Regal, which was popular throughout World War II.

In 1949, the company was again purchased by Seagram’s — and when that spirits giant broke up around 2001, the French owned Pernod Ricard picked up the Chivas brand and produces it to this day.

Product

As a blended scotch whisky, this spirit doesn’t just come from a single barrel or even a single distillery. But thanks to the Scottish whisky laws, we know that the youngest drop of alcohol in the bottle must be at least 12 years old.

According to some sources, the majority of the spirit in the bottle is distilled in-house at the Strathisla distillery, which is owned by Pernod Ricard. As for the source of the other spirits (and the proportion of each)… that’s a secret that the blenders dare not release.

But since this is a scotch whisky, we can take a guess. We would expect that the spirit started as a fermented mash of malted barley, which is then distilled and aged in oak barrels at the distillery facility for a period of a few years (12 in this case, minimum).

Packaging

There’s not a lot going on here, as you might expect from a budget blended scotch whisky.

The bottles are fairly straightforward: rounded plump bodies with short stubby necks. The bottles are all capped off with a metal twist-off cap.

As for the decoration, it’s fairly bare bones. There’s a logo plastered on the front that describes the brand and the age of the whisky but barely anything else.

Neat

The aroma coming off the glass reminds me of a slightly bolder Glenmorangie. There’s the same floral aromas mixed in with some sweet honey and green apples, but it’s not quite as lopsided in profile as Johnny Walker Red (another famous blended scotch whisky).

Taking a sip is surprisingly pleasant. I haven’t found many blended scotch whiskies that I’ve enjoyed, but the flavor profile here is actually quite nice. There’s the honey and sweetness that I smelled coming through clear as day, and while the floral flavors may be a bit more background than I expected, they’ve been replaced with a hint of vanilla and some caramel. It’s almost like a sweet and light American bourbon, but with a malty finish that’s typical of the scotch whisky.

On Ice

With the addition of a little bit of ice, the character changes… but not necessarily for the worse.

I think at this point, the more delicate flavors have gone to the background, and what we’re left with are the bolder aspects. There’s a little bit of smoke (which I usually associate with a good scotch) but thankfully not so much that it’s overpowering. There’s also that vanilla and a bit of caramel hiding in the background to add some good flavor.

Overall Rating

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of blended scotch whisky… but in this case, I think they did a good job of capturing the best characteristics of a scotch whisky in an affordable package. Depending on how you take it, the spirit can be sweet or smoky, bold or refined. And that’s something that I find particularly interesting.

Chivas Regal
Owner: Pernod Ricard
Production: Scotland
Classification: Blended scotch
Grain bill: Malted barley
Aging: 12 Years
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $27.99/ 750ml

Overall Rating: 3/5
Johnny Walker can take a walk.

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