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In 1801, a man named John Forrest opened a Grocer and Wine Merchant at 13 King Street in Aberdeen, specialising in luxury items like coffee, exotic spices, brandy from France, rum from the Carribean and of course, Scotch whisky.
Later, Forrest employed one James Chivas who was followed into the business by his brother John. Within a few years they had taken over and began to develop something of a reputation. In 1842, they were selected to act as supplier of goods to the Royal Family upon the occasion of Queen Victoria’s first visit to Balmoral. It led to the Queen granting the brothers her Royal Warrant the following year.
By the 1850s, James had begun to note a desire among his affluent customers for a ‘smoother’ Scotch whisky experience and began experimenting with the vast stocks held in his cellar. His first concoction was named ‘Royal Glen Dee’ and its success placed the Chivas Brothers name at the forefront of the newly growing whisky industry.
Seeking to capitalise on the stateside boom of the time, Chivas Brothers launched a premium blend at the turn of the century. Aged for 21 years, it was an attempt to appeal to wealthy Americans seeking luxury products. Their ‘Chivas Regal’ blend became an instant hit but the arrival of prohibition, closely followed by the Second World War, saw their sales grind to a halt.
When the post-war American market reopened however, Chivas Regal was reintroduced as a 12 year old which very quickly became one of the most fashionable brands in Hollywood, favoured by Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack as their backstage tipple of choice. This popularity led to the company’s acquisition in 1949 by Seagrams, who went on to purchase Strathisla distillery in its entirety the following year, securing a regular flow of the malt often found at the heart of the Chivas blend.
First launched in 1997, the Chivas Regal 18 year old is bottled at 40% alcohol by volume and retails in the UK for around £55 a bottle.
Smell: Fresh Fruits, Citrus – Orange & Lemon, Vanilla and Toffee, touch of Oak.
Taste: Lots of Toffee with Oak, Dark Chocolate, Orange and soft Spices.
Thoughts: Like so many big name blends, you sense that it has been put together to appeal to as many people as possible – and to offend no-one – but that’s OK so long as the quality is there and there’s a well put together blend here.
It’s a decent dram that will appeal to those who desire a subtler profile. For the price though, there are several other bottles that I would rather spend my money on. If you’re a regular blend drinker, it’s an example of a well-aged, traditional blended Scotch. If you normally go for single malts, you might find this a little pedestrian for your tastes.
*If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.