stats: blended scotch, 80 proof, $33
By the mid 1800’s there were two types of whisky being made in Scotland, Malt Whisky (made from 100% malted barely) and Grain Whisky (made primarily from corn and/or wheat with a small percentage of malted barley). The Malt came from small farms in the Highlands and was produced in pot stills in small quantities. The Grain came from the Lowlands and was produced in column stills in bulk. The more expensive Malt Whisky was of higher quality, but the cheaper Grain Whisky was needed to satisfy the demand of the growing cities. Grocers who purchased both types by the cask soon realized that they could blend them together for the best compromise of cost and quality, and Blended Scotch was born. Some of those early names, such as Johnnie Walker and Chivas Brothers, live on today.
Of all of the Blended Scotches I’ve tried so far, Chivas Regal tops my list of preference. It is malty with floral undertones on the nose, and fairly light bodied. While it seems mild right up front (almost like there is going to be nothing to it), there is a sudden blast of flavor on the palate as you swallow. It has a nice balance of malt and oak, with a hint of smokiness. The flavor attacks in waves which gradually subside through a pleasantly long, tapering finish. It warms the soul, and strikes a perfect balance between drinkability and depth of character. While I usually prefer single malts over blended Scotch, if I am going to drink a blend, this is my first choice.
It’s been about four years since I tasted 12yr Chivas and 18yr Chivas head to head. As I recall, the difference between the two was quite subtle, much to my surprise. The 18 was just a bit more oaky, with slightly subdued smoke notes relative to the 12. I like them both, but for the minimal difference in flavor I wouldn’t be able to justify the extra expense of the 18yr.