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Archive for the ‘Chivas Regal’ Category

Introduction

I got an email a couple of weeks ago from Stephanie Jerzy of NOVA Marketing asking if I’d like to participate in a Chivas Regal tasting event taking place in NYC on October 5th. Leading the tasting would be Chivas Brothers Ambassador Alex Robertson. The 2,500 miles between myself and the event were not to be a problem, as they would send me a set of samples and hook me up to the event live via chat room. The price was right, too ($0.00). Sold!

The samples they sent included four 50ml bottles of non-commercial whiskies: “Islay 18″, “Grain 18″, Longmorn 18, and Strathisla 18. These are described as being some of the “key components” that make up the Chivas Regal 18 blend, which I previously reviewed here. They also included 200ml bottles of Chivas Regal 18 and Johnnie Walker Blue. I don’t find the Chivas/JW comparison particularly meaningful, as they’re very different taste profiles, but I’m not going to turn down a free 200ml bottle of JW BLue. I do love having the ability to break down a blend into its components. This is what Johnnie Walker did last year with their Art of Blending webcast. I think this is by far the most intriguing and satisfying way to hold a blended whisk(e)y tasting.

 

The components of Chivas Regal 18

 

The Event

There were about 20 bloggers participating in the event remotely. We were able to chat with each other, and Stephanie tuned us into the live action via webcam right there in the chat room. It was nice to be able to compare notes with the other bloggers and ask each other questions. As we went through the tasting, Stephanie served as our proxy, reading some of our questions out loud at the event, and making sure we heard the answer. Prior to starting the actual tasting, the participants in NYC were given a cocktail named “The Crooner Fizz”. I haven’t tried making it yet, but here is the recipe:

“Crooner Fizz” ingredients

  • 2 oz Chivas Regal 12
  • .5 oz Chairman’s Reserve Rum
  • .5 oz lemon juice
  • .5 oz raisin syrup
    • [Raisin syrup recipe: 1 cup muddled raisins boiled in 2 cups water]
  • Topped with Perrier Jouet Champagne

The Whiskies

A couple of interesting facts came out from the Q&A.

  • The Islay and Grain 18 samples are blends from different distilleries.
  • Chivas Brothers sources the spirit, but then takes control of the maturation process themselves.

We worked through the samples in the following order:

  • Strathisla 18 - I was really excited about being able to try this, as the only standard Strathisla distillery bottling is a 12 year (which I haven’t tried either). It seemed like more of a treat than the Longmorn 18 vs. the standard 16 year. :-) The Strathisla is very nice, with an apparent sherry cask influence providing pleasing red grape and dried fruit notes. There’s also a clean maltiness that carries through to the finish. In fact, everything about it is very clean. It’s not very spicy, but has a nice full body. Maybe a hint of smoke at the end? If they bottled this, preferably at 43% to 48%, and sold it for a reasonable price (closer to The Glenlivet 18 than Glenmorangie 18), I’d keep a bottle on the shelf. Many of the participants seemed to feel the same way.
  • “Grain 18″ – Pretty much all I got out of this one was toffee sweetness and fresh oak. It’s ridiculously easy to drink, but doesn’t offer any real satisfaction unless your goal is just to get drunk. However, what really impressed me was the lack of aftertaste. This is a very clean base for the blend, allowing the single malts to shine through.
  • “Islay 18″ - On the nose, I was hit immediately with a combination of sherry and iodine. Then I noticed a toffee sweetness and some smoke. It’s actually kind of easy going and fruity on the early palate, then headed into the finish I get big sweet smoke in the nostrils and another medicinal kick. The finish lasts a while and is quite drying on the tongue. I’d put money on there being a fair amount of Lagavulin in this based on the particular smoke/iodine combination presented. At first, I thought this would make a great “beginner” Islay whisky, but now I’m thinking the medicinal properties are a little over the top. Still, I enjoyed it very much.
  • Longmorn 18 – Hmm…not excited about this one. I much prefer my 2009 bottle of Longmorn 16. The 18 year provides similar fruity notes (more on the apple side than dried/red fruits) to the 16 year, but the 18 year has kind of a stale maltiness that i don’t care for. It seems a little “dirty” compared to the lovely Strathisla 18.
  • Chivas Regal 18 – I commented on Twitter that I thought another name for this could be “Strathisla 18 and friends.” The nose especially really brings out the same kind of fruits and clean malt that the Strathisla provides. The oak/vanilla/spices and sweetness from the Grain 18 is there, and a little extra apple kick from the Longmorn. Islay 18? I tried to find it in here somewhere, but at best, I’m getting a hint of peat smoke on the finish. I don’t think there’s much Islay 18 at all in the mix. The finish is medium in length and overall good, with maybe a hint of that “stale” malt from the Longmorn 18. In the end, it’s a very nice whisky that manages to keep most of the best traits of the Strathisla and Longmorn, adding some additional spices. It’s not going to blow your mind, but I found it quite enjoyable. The $55-$60 price tag seems very reasonable. Well done!
  • Johnnie Walker Blue - I won’t really get into the JW Blue here. I posted my thoughts on it recently. It’s a very good blend and fits right into some of my malt profile preferences. Especially with the increased Island/Islay influence relative to the Chivas 18. Granted, it costs upwards of $200.

Conclusion

We closed out with a return to Chivas Regal 18 and a toast. As for the “challenge” part of The Chivas Challenge Live…a few people voiced opinions favoring Chivas or Johnnie Walker, but I think the overriding opinion was that they’re both good in different ways. The Chivas folks didn’t really need anybody to come out and say Chivas 18 was better. Just presenting them as “equals” and getting people to debate the merits of each is a victory for Chivas Brothers, given the 3x price premium for JW Blue.

For me, this event was all about gaining insight into the components involved in creating the Chivas Regal 18 blend. It was interesting to see how smooth the individual components were. This probably has something to do with the manner in which they matured the whiskies. I had figured the smoothness of the blend was purely based on the recipe, but clearly their control over the maturation of the malts and grains plays into the final outcome. I was most impressed with the Strathisla 18 single malt and the Islay 18 blended malt. You can’t buy either, but if you try Chivas Regal 18, you’ll get a pretty good insight into the profile of the Strathisla 18.

Many thanks to Stephanie, Alex Robertson and the rest of the Chivas/NOVA teams for putting together this enlightening and entertaining event.

Cheers,
Jeff

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Introduction

Chivas Regal 18 (200ml)

I’m sitting at my laptop, trying not to allow my rose-colored glasses to impact the content of this post. You may have noticed the plethora of Chivas 18 blog posts hitting the net over the past couple of weeks. Well, now it’s my turn to pile on.

A PR firm working with Pernod Ricard has been sending out samples of Chivas Regal 18 and Johnnie Walker Blue to bloggers as part of a campaign to raise awareness for Chivas as a premium, gift-worthy blend. I don’t know how I got onto their radar, but don’t you dare clue them in that I’m a second-rate hack. Getting free samples is freaking awesome!

Tasting Notes

Chivas Regal 18 “Gold Signature”; 40% ABV; $50 – $60

This is a Speyside-based blend, with the Strathisla distillery (bought by Chivas Bros. in 1950) reportedly playing a key role. According to World Whiskey (by Charles Maclean), Strathisla 18 is not available commercially, so Chivas 18 is the dram to have if you want some of this rarity.

Nose: Have you ever had Apple & Cinnamon Quaker Instant Oatmeal for breakfast? That’s the combination of scents that hits me with Chivas 18. There is also some honey, bordering on toffee, sweetness. Towards the end of a long whiff, I get additional fresh fruits like apricots and cherries.
Palate: The medium body is sweet and lightly fruity. The subtle spices are so light that you’ll likely miss them completely if comparing directly with other whiskies.
Finish: Subtle fruit and maltiness, along with a little vanilla. There is a delayed drying on the tongue, and no real alcohol burn to speak of.

Comments: Having previously referred to the Chivas 12 as “enjoyable but forgettable”, I was pleasantly surprised by the Chivas 18 year. The nose actually has quite a bit going on. The palate is a bit richer than the 12 year, and the finish lasts longer, but it’s still a blend that favors politeness over impact. I definitely enjoy this more than entry-level Speyside malts such as Glenfiddich 12 and Glenlivet 12, and feel it’s worth a jump in price based on taste alone. I’ll continue to evaluate this, but I’d give it a preliminary rating of B (83-87 points). Right in line with a single malt like Bunnahabhain 12. [Hmm...maybe a head-2-head between these two is in order]

Comparisons

Johnnie Walker Blue; 40% ABV;  $175 – $225

I would call JW Blue more of an “Island” blend vs. the Speyside focus of the Chivas 18. I’ve decided that there is little to gain by doing a full side-by-side analysis of tasting notes because of the different profiles. However, there are certain traits that are worth comparing. Both of these blends offer interesting noses, then yield to a more polite, accessible palate and finish. The JW Blue is especially impressive in its ability to melt away in the mouth and leave faint wisps of smoke in a way that won’t scare off the casual whisky drinker.

The Balvenie Founder’s Reserve 10 Year; 43% ABV;  $40 – $50

The Balvenie FR 10 is vatted from a mix of bourbon and sherry casks, and offers a profile that is VERY similar to the Chivas 18. The nose is very close to the Apples & Cinnamon oatmeal that I described above. I don’t get the additional cherries/apricots with the FR 10, though. Perhaps not quite as much sherry influence? On the palate and finish, I think there is a little more impact and last with the Balvenie, with more spices on the tongue. I was surprised at how close these are, though.

Longmorn 16 (2009); 48% ABV;  $80 – $100

Longmorn 16

Here’s a Chivas-owned single malt from Speyside that comes in very nice packaging and seems to disappear off of the shelves more quickly during the holiday season. It’s also a key component [the primary one?] in Chivas 18. Aged strictly in bourbon casks, the profile is different than the Chivas 18 and Balvenie FR 10. However, there are some common apple and cereal notes. What I wanted to draw out is the fact that there is much more impact on the palate, and a more aggressive drying on the finish, along with some bitter/sweet interplay. Having been focused primarily on single malts during the past year, I really appreciate these stronger traits in the mouth. However, I don’t think it’s quite as safe as Chivas 18 when it comes to gifting.

Conclusion/Value

Q: Is Chivas Regal 18 worth $55, and would it make a good gift?

A: Yes. I think it fits nicely between some of the entry level Speyside single malts and something like the Longmorn 16. It offers an interesting nose while remaining very accessible to the occasional whisky drinker, and it comes in nice packaging (locally, anyway, it comes in a fancy gift box similar in quality to the Longmorn 16 box). I don’t think it provides much of an improvement over Balvenie 10 FR, which costs less. However, there’s often more to perceived whisky value than taste. You’re paying for the age statement, knowing that you can’t get 18 year Strathisla anyplace else, and 18 year Longmorn is also a treat.

Q: Is Chivas Regal 18 a valid gift substitute for Johnnie Walker Blue?

A: No. If you were planning to impress somebody with a generous gift of Johnnie Walker Blue, do NOT expect to substitute Chivas 18 and get the same results. I’m not saying this is right, or that there is a quantifiable difference in the whisky itself that makes JW Blue worth 3-4 times the price. However, there is a certain mystique associated with JW Blue that a $55 blend cannot match. I’ll touch on that in a separate post.

Mystique aside, I’ll probably be scoring JW Blue a few points higher than Chivas 18 when I cover it in a separate review. There are also plenty of reasonably priced single malts that I have scored higher than either of these very pleasant blends. That doesn’t really have anything to do with the perceived value of the Chivas, though. If somebody gave me a bottle of Chivas Regal 18 for Christmas, I’d be very appreciative, and it would likely be a part of some good times with good friends in the coming months.

Other Opinions

Here are a bunch of links to other blog posts resulting from this Chivas vs. Johnnie Walker campaign. Happy reading!

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Introduction

I recently purchased miniature (50ml) bottles of Chivas Regal 12, The Glenlivet 12, and Glenfiddich 12 so that I could compare the three and see if any one of them stands out as an entry level value for a “light” whisky. When I call them “entry level” whiskies, I mean that in two ways. First is price. I can get Chivas for $20 and the ‘livet for $26. The ‘fiddich 12 has gone up recently in Phoenix, and now goes for $35, but it used to be closer to the Glenlivet. The other way you might consider these to be entry level whiskies is in the approachability of the flavor. All three are very light drinks, and are significantly less imposing on scotch newbies than, say, something from Islay. For this comparison, I was especially curious about the Chivas Regal 12 given the lower price (at least locally), and wondered if it could stand up to the single malts.

Three miniatures

Three miniatures

Tasting notes

On the nose, all three start out at with a common base of apples and pairs, with the Chivas perhaps offering up some peaches as well. All three are also sweet, but they diverge here, with Glenfiddich reminding me of brown sugar, Chivas Regal being more caramel/butterscotch, and the Glenlivet having a lighter honey sweetness. The Glenlivet also stands out as being more floral (and a bit more lively) than the other two. The Glenfiddich seems to have a maltiness, and perhaps a little bit of mixed nuts that I didn’t notice in the others.

The palate is pretty tame for all three. The Glens retained their fruit flavor, and the malty flavor from the Glenfiddich nose is evident in the mouth for both. The Chivas Regal seems to be more on the sweet side in the mouth, with the caramel/butterscotch continuing. I’m also getting what I perceive to be a walnut-like bitterness with both the Glenfiddich and the Chivas. Once again, I feel like The Glenlivet is just a touch more lively, with the Chivas being the weakest.

On the finish, there’s nothing to write home about for any of these. The finish just isn’t where it’s at for these whiskies. Once again, the Chivas is the weakest. It just goes away as soon as you swallow it. The malt flavor on the two Glens comes up through the nostrils a bit, as does the floral element on the Glenlivet.

Conclusion

As you might have guessed from my notes, I didn’t find any of these to be “remarkable.” However, that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. I thought all three were very pleasant on the nose, and they were extremely easy to drink. All three have a very light profile that makes them suitable for any time of day. Being into whisky as a hobby, I’ve got a pretty good stock at home, and I don’t plan to rush out and buy any of these. However, if I find myself killing time in an airport lounge some afternoon, I won’t hesitate to order any of these three easy drinkers.

I don’t intend to fill out full “Quick Take” report cards for these three. Especially since I only have miniatures, so I can’t do extensive, multi-day analysis. However, these fit perfectly into the C+/B- range in my rating system. They’re enjoyable drinks, but somewhat forgettable. Based on palate/finish, the Chivas is the most quickly forgotten. For my tastes, the Glenlivet stood out slightly above the others just because it seemed a little more lively and interesting. I’ll go ahead and throw out some rating numbers and notes on value:

  • Chivas Regal 12 – 79/100 (Value: Seems like a good deal at $20, but I’d shell out the extra $7 for the Glenlivet)
  • Glenfiddich 12 – 80/100 (Value: Not sure what the deal is with the current local price. For $5 more, I’d definitely purchase the 15 year over this)
  • The Glenlivet 12 – 81/100 (Value: Hard to go wrong with this at $27)

Other opinions

Rather than posting a bunch of links for all three whiskies, I’ll just point you to a YouTube video review for each one. You won’t have any problem finding other opinions with a Google search.

  • The Glenlivet 12 [IslayScotchWhisky]
  • Glenfiddich 12 [ralfystuff] – Ralfy also reviewed The Glenlivet 12 here.
  • Chivas Regal 12 [peatluvr]

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