For my first review I thought I should go for something available, affordable and recognizable. I took some time choosing between reviewing a single malt or a blend… Firstly, maybe it would be helpful to look at the differences between the two… Put simply, malt whisky is made with 100% malted barley and a ‘single’ malt is produced entirely at one distillery. Blended whisky on the other hand, is made by blending single malts with whisky made from a variety of other grains like maize, wheat and rye. Generally speaking, single malts are held in higher regard, being seen to have more character than blends which are often created with the goal of appealing to as many people as possible, meaning they lose some character along the way.
I considered launching the blog with a big name single malt like Glenfiddich or Lagavulin but in the end decided that a good starting place, both recognizable and affordable, would be a blend.
So, which blend? Johnnie Walker would be an obvious choice given it’s huge availability and popularity the world over but instead I opted for another well-known dram: the Chivas Regal 12 year old, flagship expression of Chivas Brothers.
Chivas Brothers began as a grocery store in Aberdeen in 1801 but later developed a reputation as purveyors of fine whisky. By the 1840’s they had multiple casks maturing in cellars and by the 50’s were vatting them together, creating unique blends to sell to their loyal customers.
The 12 year old, as the name would suggest, is a blend of malt and grain whiskies that have been matured for a guaranteed minimum of 12 years. Unfortunately, we are rarely told what component whiskies make up the blend. Likewise, it is seldom made clear what percentage of malt versus grain is in the blend, a premium blend can be around 60/40 in favour of grain, but an entry level expression like this is likely to contain far less malt. Of course, regardless of ingredients, what really matters is smell and taste.
Which brings me nicely onto the review, as you would expect from a blend trying not to offend anyone, the nose is pleasant if unremarkable. There’s Honey and Heather with Vanilla and some light fruit notes like Apple and Grapes. On the palate there’s more of the same with Honey, Vanilla, Apple and a slightly bitter note. I found that it improved with the addition of a few drops of water, gaining better balance and a silkier mouthfeel. The Chivas 12 has been marketed as ‘the blend for grownups’ in the past and I kind of get that, it’s not a massive dram but instead is subtle and somewhat sophisticated.
You can buy a bottle for around £25, often cheaper in supermarket sales, and while you can get some single malts for that money, there aren’t many with a 12 year age statement on.
The Scores: About the scoring system
Smell: 14/20. Pleasant without being sensational.
Taste: 15/20. Same here, not going to blow your mind but it’s not trying to. An easy sipping, every day whisky.
Value: 7/10. Not bad, especially if you can pick it up in a sale. It’s not the cheapest blend but for the age and quality it’s a decent buy.