Blended whiskey often gets a bad rap. In the case of Canadian Whiskey this bad rap is often quite well earned with whiskey mixed with grain spirit and flavorings that it rarely resembles whiskey at all. However this bad rap shouldn’t be carried over to blended Scotch Whisky. When it comes to Scotch Whisky, there are some fantastic options with high quality ingredients that are absolutely worth your consideration.
We recently had the opportunity to participate in a deconstruction tasting of the elements that go into Chivas Regal 18. It was an interesting breakdown of the elements, aromas and tastes which are brought together to make the popular blended scotch.
Here’s a break down of the spirits which are blended together to make Chivas Regal 18:
Strathisla 18 – comprising the largest share of the Chivas Regal 18 blend the Strathisla is responsible for a good amount of the flavor and character of Chivas 18. Light gold in color, the nose on the Strathisla 18 is bright and salty with strong notes of oak polish with sweet honey underneath. The entry is very salty and slightly sweet with distinct smokey peat notes. There’s a sweet undertone that has just the hint of a more gamey peat note. The finish is medium, soft and sweet with just a hint of smoke. On its own the Strathisla 18 is a nice pleasing whisky that invites exploration.
Grain 18 - Responsible for the majority of buttery creamy notes in the Chivas Regal 18 (and the overly dry finish) this light amber spirit has distinctly buttery carmel notes on the nose with an undercurrent of almonds. The taste is very close to the nose with a very creamy salted carmel taste. The finish is medium and it leaves a notable buttercream note on the palate with a hint of idoine. The big downside of the Grain 18 is that it leaves the palate a little too dry. The Grain 18 isn’t something we’d consume on its own and is clearly a blending tool.
Islay 18 - This light golden amber whisky is the peat and smoke kick to the Chivas Regal 18 mix. While we don’t know how much of this is in the final blend, it’s probably not much more ‘just a dash’, especially when compared to the Strathisla 18. The nose on the Islay 18 very smokey with an undertone of salt. There’s a small bit of iodine on the nose but the smoke really dominates. The taste is very deeply smokey with a very strong salty peat reek underneath. The peat reek is salty and funky and very pleasing. The finish is the longest of the bunch and it has some notable heat that sticks around quite a while with that peat reek funk combined with salty sweet and some nice iodine. It’s a nice Islay but isn’t as pleasing as Ardbeg which delivers a simular level of peat in a much more enjoyable way.
Longmorn 18 – Light golden amber color with a distinctly fruity nose. There are clear cherry and blackberry notes on an otherwise quiet nose. The entry is deeply fruity backed with some smoke and salt underneath. Like the Grain 18 the nose and taste of the Longmorn are very close. The finish is long with slat, and distinct iodine on the finish. It’s a nice whisky but not necessarily one we’d select to drink on its own.
These four spirits come together to make Chivas Regal 18 and after tasting them we could really see how each contributed to the mix.
Chivas Regal 18 (80 proof, $60) – is an exceptionally pleasing blended scotch. Light amber in color the nose of the Chivas 18 has distinct oak polish notes (from the Strathisla 18) and fruity notes (from the Longmorn 18). There’s a creamy salted carmel (which comes from the Grain 18) that rounds out the nose along with a hint of chocolate. The entry is a nice balance of sweet, fruity, salty and smokey with a creamy mid note. The whisky unfolds with nice smoke and slight peat with a clear salty undertone and a hint of iodine. Chivas Regal claims to have 85 flavors in Chivas Regal 18, and while we can’t pick out all 85 there’s clearly a lot going on in this whisky. The finish is long with some nice space and salt and the slightest hint of chocolate. The only downside of the finish is that it leaves your mouth pretty dry, in very much the same way that the Grain 18 did.
In the deconstruction tasting, Chivas Regal 18 was pitted against Johnnie Walker Blue Label in a sort of ‘which is best?!’. I don’t think that’s the real challenge. These two blended whiskies are fine in their own right and in their own space. It’s a lot like comparing Coca Cola with Dr. Pepper. Some will gravitate to one over the other for a variety of different reasons.
The real question – is Chivas Regal 18 a sum that is greater than its parts? For the most part the answer is yes. Chivas Regal 18 is clearly more complex than the Islay 18 and the Grain 18 and slightly more drinkable that Longmorn 18. But we quite enjoyed the Strathila 18, while there was less going on, it’s focused and balanced. With less noise the undercurrent of the peat is more delightful on the palate and the finish left us wanting to drink more. After getting a deconstruction of what goes into Chivas Regal we’ll probably seek out a bottle of Strathisla 12 (the 18 isn’t sold on the market).
This isn’t to say that Chivas Regal 18 is bad, quite the contrary. Chivas is an excellent blended scotch whisky that has a wide range of flavors to offer. For someone who isn’t deeply attached to one particular style of single malt whisky it provides a great opportunity to taste the full range all at once and it does this in a fairly sweet and easy to drink manor. Chivas Regal 18 is an excellent point to introduce people to scotch whisky and a very pleasing blend. Highly RecommendedDeconstructing Chivas Regal 18 by Geoff Kleinman