Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chivas Regal 18 yr old

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!

Nose (undiluted)
Easy peat, a little pepper and sea salt. New risen bread fresh out of the over. Nice nose, but no show stopper.

Palate (undiluted)
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. 

Finish (undiluted)
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.

General Impressions
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.


Jason Debly

P.S.  I updated this review about a year later.  You can read it here.

© Jason Debly, 2009-2016. All rights reserved.


  1. I guess I must be one of those middle age dads.
    I am 58 and drank many different scotches both blends and single malts for about fifteen years. I drank them neat with water back from a brandy snifter and usually enjoyed a cigar at the same time.

    About ten years ago I switched to drinking
    bourbons and went through most of the single
    barrels. I stopped the cigars but really
    enjoyed the bourbons.

    I received a bottle of Chivas 18 as an early
    Christmas gift last week and have enjoyed
    a dram for the last several nights. After
    drinking the Chivas 18 I wondered why I ever
    stopped drinking scotch in the first place.

    To me it seems first rate, Incredible
    layers of flavors without the alchohol
    burn of the some of th aggressive single malts. I look forward to cold Indiana nights
    my fireplace and a glass of this golden nectar.

    thanks for letting me ramble.

    Bill B

  2. Bill thank you for taking time to post your thoughts on Chivas Regal 18. Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with this blended scotch, it is just when you consider the price. On that point it fails.

    Nevertheless, the people of Chivas Regal 18 would be very happy to know your thoughts because you are the very customer demographic they are targeting. Someone who is unconcerned with price, but puts a premium on smoothness of flavors. Judging by the fact that Chivas Regal 18 sells very well worldwide, I would say more people share your opinion than mine!



  3. I bought the bottle, and my thoughts match yours, I agree this is meant to go down smooth, however the notes that you have outlined indicate your pallet is much more sensitive than mine. I got very little of any thing that stood out. I plan on serving this to people who will be more impressed by the package, and who are not looking for a taste experience, this will not offend any one, and is very refined

  4. Nice to hear you agree. Validation is important to hear once in awhile. Sometimes I think I am in left field.

    Anyway, I reviewed Chivas 18ys about a year later. See my review at which appears in the August 2010 reviews on this blog. Basically, I really decided after repeated tastings that this is just a real boring bottle. There is obviously a big market for that sort of product, but you are not getting any value for your money buying this in terms of taste.

    Thanks for commenting!

  5. Hi Jason, Would like to share my thoughts on this one with you. We're basically aligned on the Chivas 18

    Nose: Light Peat , Smoke and Leather. Sweet Sherry and Dried Fruits (Prunes). Malt (like fresh Bread Dough).
    Taste: The delivery is smooth, warm and spicy. Some vanilla, and maybe chocolate .
    Finish: Medium long but uneventful. Sweet and Salt are well balanced. Still, a bit boring.
    Conclusion: It’s a nice but not great blend and it is really expensive. I bought a miniature bottle and I would advise you to do the same thus being able to experiment this whisky before buying a full bottle.

  6. Jason,
    This sounds just as boring as the Chivas Regal 12. I believe that this 18 y.o. is roughly US$70 in my state. I think I will go with a Compass Box blend instead for a few dollars less and a much better crafted whisky.

    1. what do you think of the royal salute 21 then?

    2. I had one bad experience with Royal Salute and one very good one. The bad experience was due to an older bottle that was some how gone bad. The good experience was an excellent bottling.

      In general, Royal Salute is a fine dram, matter of fact an impressive one, but the price point makes me shy away. If I can pick up a bottle for $85 I would buy it in a heart beat.

      The difficulty in buying Royal Salute at its full asking price is that there are excellent single malts at half or less in price that deliver the same honeyed malt and golden fruit profile with just as much complexity. I am thinking Cragganmore 12 and Glenfiddich 15.

      Royal Salute is in direct competition with Johnnie Walker Blue Label. Both are good blended scotch whiskies, actually probably the best of blended scotch whisky, but not worth the price for me. Some people enjoy the cachet and the prestige that is associated with these brands and dont have the time to research alternatives that are just as good if not better in the single malt sector of the market.

  7. Another wonderful review Jason!. Thank you. I am sipping Chivas Regal 18 and it is: smooth, sweet, almost boring, yet very pleasing. Honey, orange and sherry with a hint of peat. My aunt who is not a scotch drinker would like this drum. Got it at Costco for $45 and it is a GREAT whisky for this prices. Would I pay the undiscounted price of $70-$80? Absolutely not!

    1. At $45 this is excellent whisky. No doubt about it. Great price! Enjoy!

  8. I am no connoisseur in whisky. I enjoy good and despise bad. Over the years, without effort or prejudice, I have sampled a fair few from all price ranges. I have never analysed to the n'th degree, pallet, flavours, or after tastes. Clearly, I have experienced them. I have however never taken these experiences to the mental laboratory and analysed them for what they are. I am a heathen by comparison and only consider the overall experience. I wouldn't normally comment, being so uneducated, or perhaps unskilled to chime in. However... I do enjoy the 12 year as a regular drop. A trustworthy, reliable tipple to assist in leaving work where it belongs; at work. Good price, smooth enough, lively taste, perfect for the cabinet as a fall back at the end of a hard day, or week. I decided to buy an overpriced, in my opinion, bottle of 18 once. Only once. To my uneducated, unsophisticated, untrained, illiterate tastes I expected far too much it would seem. I considered the possible truth that perhaps my pallet was not sophisticated enough to appreciate the subtle flavours that had been offered. On further investigation I see that generally it is a bit of a flop. I am glad that even my poor experience can decide that this particular drop isn't worth the inflated cost. I love the 12 but the 18 can't command the price it holds. I have decided to learn more about scotch and whiskey so will read your reviews with interest. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and inspiring a "guzzler" like myself.

    1. Chivas 18 is too expensive!!!

      Our American readers can get it cheap sometimes for $45 and it is worth it at that price for sure, but for the rest of us, it is not worth the money we pay $60 ++++