The art of whisky blending answered a consumer need.
When whisky was first produced and consumed, it was always singly distilled, illicitly at first but even after it became licensed and legal (taxation is the magic wand that converts the illegal into the permissible).
Single malt whisky in olden days would had been fiery bordering on raw. It needed taming if not actually “domestication”. At least watered down.
The world’s two most famous Scotch whisky brands have their origins in grocery stores.
John Walker opened his Kilmarnock store in 1820. As for James, and later John – the Chivas Brothers – were associated with a grocery outpost in Aberdeen first established in 1801. Consumers mostly preferred the smoother blends they produced.
By 1895, both brothers James and John, and James’s son Alexander, had all passed on. Chivas Brothers was purchased by Alexander Smith (said to be the right-hand man of Alexander Chivas), and Master Blender Charles Stewart Howard.
In 1909, Howard shook the whisky world.
In a tribute to founding brothers James and John Chivas, the master blender launched Chivas Regal, a 25 Year Old Whisky, in North America. There was nothing quite like it. At the time there were just a few branded whiskies and, at most, 10 years old.
Chivas Regal became the world’s first luxury whisky! New York lapped it up!!
Today owned by French drinks giant Pernod Ricard, Chivas has not stopped fascinating aficionados with new creations even as it continues its classic expressions. Scotch whisky is one of France’s favourite spirits, considerably more so than home-grown cognac.
Chivas Regal The Icon
Icon is the pinnacle of Chivas Regal, its Top Dog or Numero Uno. The complex blend is from the oldest casks (as ancient as 50 years) and of more than 20 of Scotland’s rarest distilleries, some of which are ghost distilleries meaning they no longer exist. Icon is held in a hand-blown, hand-finished decanter made by Dartington Crystal, Devon, south-west England. The glass is finished with precision crafted metal work and presented in sublime green glassware, a homage to the original green Chivas Regal bottle that enraptured the world more than a hundred years ago in 1909. Peach, pear, uber-ripe citrus, a note of honey and a whiff of hazelnuts. Magnificently bright, lifted fruit in a soft lingering sweetness. Sublime. Bottled at 43% ABV, Icon is priced between €3,000 and €3,500 on French websites. First launched at Dubai Duty-Free in May 2015 at 40% ABV, Icon has now gone on to 43% ABV .
Chivas Regal Mizunara
Mizunara comprises grain and malt whisky that is at least 12 years old. It is a tribute to the indigenous Mizunara oak used to age some Japanese whisky (including by Suntory which, apparently, had a monopoly on its supply at one time). Created by former Master Blender Colin Scott (who retired in 2020 after 47 years at Chivas), it was his tribute to the Japanese art of making whisky by marrying a part of the blend in Mizunara oak. Bottled at 40% ABV, Mizunara was launched in Japan in 2014. Particularly porous, the Mizunara oak imparts a greater influence to the whisky which I find more mellow and sweet. Mizunara reminds of Japanese barley tea or Mugicha.
STRATHISLA is the spiritual home of CHIVAS REGAL. Established in 1786 and situated in Keith, Speyside, Strathisla is the oldest, continuously operating Highland distillery. Today owned by French drinks giant Pernod Ricard, Strathisla forms the backbone of Chivas Regal which is a blended whisky produced from malt and grain. A liquid welcome awaits at Strathisla to anyone thirsty for Uisge Beath, the “Water of Life”.