Chivas Regal is one of the most famous and best selling whisky brands in the world. The premium whiskies that appear under the Chivas Regal name are blends and the core range consists of a 12, 18 and 25 years old. The age statement refers to the age of the youngest whisky that is included in the blend - this is true of any blended whisky that carries an age statement. The range is multi award winning and has approximately 5% of the total world market share for blended whisky, which comfortable puts it in the top five* - this equates to the fact that for every 20 bottles of blended whisky purchased in the world, then one is Chivas Regal. That's a lot of whisky! Most is exported from the UK, with the main markets being Europe, south east Asia and the USA.
The Chivas Brothers company was set up in the early 1800s by James and John Chivas. They owned a luxury grocery store in Aberdeen that imported highly desirable products such as brandy, rum, port, spices, tea and coffee, which they sold to wealthy customers. They began blending their own whiskies, as was the trend at the time. Chivas Brothers' whiskies became so popular in late Victorian times that Queen Victoria issued them with a Royal Warrant and they supplied the royal household for a period of time, hence the name of Chivas Regal was born. Chivas Brothers and the Chivas Regal brand is currently owned by drinks company Pernod Ricard, who purchased it in 2001, and they have helped to grow the stature and sales of the whisky around the world.
The single malt at the heart of the Chivas Regal blends is produced at Strathisla in the Speyside region of Scotland. As part of our recent visit to Strathisla, we were treated to a tutored tasting of the range by Alex Robertson - the International Ambassador for Chivas Brothers. Interestingly, the tasting included not only the three Chivas Regal blends, but also some of the constituent parts of these blends to begin with. This included a sample of the new make spirit from Strathisla, the Strathisla 12 years old single malt and an aged grain whisky from Chivas' Strathclyde grain distillery in Glasgow (these are the first three glasses respectively from left to right, pictured above).
The Strathisla new make spirit was presented to us at 63.5% ABV and was rich and oily in the mouth, with some distinct cereal grains and fresh green fruit (think of pears and apples). There were also hints of vanilla and white pepper. The Strathisla 12 years old (pictured, left) is the only single malt regularly released from the distillery. This has a lovely mix of notes - toffee, wood spices (cinnamon and nutmeg), cereal grains, dried fruits (raisins, currants and candied orange peel) and dark chocolate. It is rich and full bodied with a slight oily feeling on the palate. To read our previous full review and tasting notes of Strathisla 12 years old - click here. The Strathclyde grain whisky was robust and creamy with plenty of vanilla, gristy oat-like cereals, nuts (especially almonds and coconut) and bittersweet wood spice.
Chivas Regal 12 years old
This is the cornerstone of the Chivas Regal range and is one of the best selling whiskies of any kind in the world. It was first launched in the early 1900s. The nose exhibits many of the characteristics of the Strathisla 12 years old - especially toffee, cereals, candied peel, raisins and dark chocolate - and it is evident that the two whiskies are related. There is also a distinct peachy, possibly apricot, note which adds further depth. The palate is sweet to begin with, although this fades to reveal other characteristics. The whisky feels oily, with the notes mentioned for the nose present. These mix with vanilla, nuts (think of a creamy style of nut like almond or hazelnut) and a pinch of wood spice (like cinnamon). The finish is sweet with the toffee note prominent and is very pleasant, but maybe slightly short.
Chivas Regal 18 years old
This whisky was launched in 1997 and contains a complex mix of over 20 different old single malts and grain whiskies. The nose is fragrant and welcoming with aromas of vanilla, oat cakes, dried fruit (sultanas, apricots, prunes and candied orange peel) and woody spices (cinnamon and nutmeg). On the palate, this is soft, velvety and very smooth. The vanilla and grain notes are present from the nose, as are the sultanas and candied orange. However, the fruitiness is now more reminiscent of stewed/cooked fruits (especially pears and apples) and this combines well with the wood spices notes. There is also an element of toffee adding to the richness. The finish is long, warming and rich with stewed fruit,woody oak and vanilla notes.
Chivas Regal 25 years old
This is the rarest and newest edition to the range, having been introduced in 2007. It has a deep amber colour and the nose is expressive - there are aromas of toasted almond, bittersweet cereal grains, dark dried fruits (raisins, prunes, figs), rich caramel and candied orange peel. On the palate, this is creamy and rich with a lovely combo of vanilla, toffee and caramel to begin with. These notes are joined by the bittersweet grains, dried fruit and peel from the nose plus a pinch of baking spices (think of all spice, cinnamon and nutmeg). It is soft and sweet with a slightly bitter/spicy edge that carries through to the long, pleasant finish. The dried fruit is particularly prominent here. A delicious dram that reveals more and more depth and subtly with time.
All of the Chivas Regal range are bottled at 40% ABV with the 12 years old retailing for around £25 a bottle, the 18 years old for £45 and the 25 years old for approximately £165.
* Source - Euromonitor International report 2009