Saturday, December 5, 2009
It's an overcast Friday afternoon with the temperature dropping. Work is finished for another week, and so my day as an office gnome has come to a close. I head down the street to the local pub. You know the place. There is one in every city. There's a bartender, a college kid, standing behind the bar that has a line of bottles behind him, piled in pyramid fashion against a mirrored wall. Up above is a shelf lined with many different spirits, nearly all scotch. The place prides itself on its claim of 200 plus different scotches.
Elsewhere in the pub are college students adorning tables and chairs. The guys talk tough to their admiring lady friends while middle aged, disheveled suits like me collapse into one of the polished brown chairs that have more nicks and notches than David Lee Roth or Tiger Woods have in their belts.
The lone waitress spies me from a afar, nods, heads for the bar reaches for a thick black binder and brings it to me with a tall glass of ice water.
I leaf through the binder which lists the 200 plus whiskies from all over the world. What shall I have? A question I always enjoy answering.
All week I have been thinking about what I would have on Friday afternoon and post on this blog. Lately, I have been sampling a lot of single malts and bourbon. I thought, it's time to return to what attracted me to scotch and whisky in the first place. The blended scotch.
For me, it all started with Johnnie Walker Black. Hmmm . . good stuff, but need to try another blend that I read a lot about but never had. And so, that is how I arrived at Chivas Regal 18yrs old.
I really like Johnnie Walker Black, Green and Blue. No need to revist them today. Other scotch blends have not always been so great. Grant's Family Reserve and J&B are on my most hated list of scotch blends. There are others too. Will save those for future reviews. Nevertheless, I am still on a quest to find a blend that rivals some of the Johnnie Walker line, particularly Black Label, just the best blend for me. So, the brand Chivas Regal comes to mind as a possible rival worth exploring.
A long time ago I had tried Chivas Regal 12 yr old and just found it unremarkable. Not great, but not terrible. Very suitable for using as a component of a mixed drink. Now, I had heard tremendous praise for Royal Salute 21 yr old, another Chivas Regal offering. A blend that is praised by everyone. At $20 a dram, I have decided to take a pass on that today. I usually have two or three drams before formulating my tasting note. Today that was just too expensive for me. So, by default I decided to Chivas Regal 18yrs a try. So, I looked up at the waitress and uttered the magic words "Chivas Regal 18." Without a word she turned and headed to the bar. God lover her!
Easy peat, a little pepper and sea salt. New risen bread fresh out of the over. Nice nose, but no show stopper.
Sweet. Very sweet to start. Orange rind, some honey, sugar donut and classic malt flavors. Medium body and warming, without burn or bite. The scotch is a little sweet at this point. What I do not detect much of is sherry. There's a little. Not a flaw, just an observation. It is also a tad grainy.
The malt and honey flavors are crowned by peat and salt. There is a hint of peat on the finish that zings across the palate at the very end taking away the sweetness of the midpalate. I say hint of 'peat' as it is very close to becoming grainy. I am shocked by the grainy elements of the flavor profile.
A smooth, honey, malty, sugared cheerio scotch with peat and salt on the finish. Every component of the aforementioned flavor profile is in balance, but that is the problem! It's kinda boring. It's like the scotch was blended by a computer program targeting the mainstream demographic of the middle aged dad who gets a nip at holidays only and so wants something that is very, very easy drinking and takes no chances.
Value for Money?
At the high price tag attached to a bottle of this blended scotch, you expect much more complexity and pizzaaz! You also expect a total absence of grainy flavors. This is a big let down for me. For $20 to $30 dollars less you can purchase single malts that are much better than Chivas Regal 18 yrs old. Which ones? Dalwhinnie, Cragganmore, and Glenfiddich 15 yrs Solera to name but a few. But, those are single malts. How does it compare to other 18 year old blended scotch whiskies? Not well, I must advise.
Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18 yrs and Famous Grouse 18yrs are better. By better, I mean more flavor and less grainy. Matter of fact, Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 years is also superior and lower priced. Frankly, Johnnie Walker Black Label has more flavor.
Flavor is a problem with Chivas Regal 18. The smooth quality of this blended scotch comes from the use of grain whiskies. Trouble is, the more grain whisky used will reduce the impact of the flavors of single malts in the blend. Hence, I find myself taking big sips in search of flavor.
You are not getting value for money when you buy Chivas Regal 18 yrs old blended scotch.
So Why Buy It?
I would only buy Chivas Regal 18 yr old blended scotch if I had to buy a gift for someone who I understood liked scotch without knowing whether or not they liked blends, single malts, peaty, smokey or honeyed drams. Moreover, if the person was a bit of a status nut, or liked impressive or snobby aspects of scotch, Chivas Regal 18yrs would fit the bill with its fancy packaging and high price.
It has a little smoke, a little peat, some honey, a little this, a little that, a little of everything. Pretty hard for the casual drinker of scotch not to like it. A very safe bet is Chivas Regal 18yrs. Very smooth which is generally the novice's sign of quality. Mistake! Really unimpressive. Not horrible, but not great.
But, if you are like me, you require more! For that reason, I, personally, would not buy Chivas Regal 18yrs again because there is always a better single malt or blend (Johnnie Walker Black - just add a little water to take away the graininess) that is much lower priced.
P.S. I updated this review about a year later. You can read it here.
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