Chivas Regal 12 Year Old Scotch Review

By Kenrick Thurston-Wilcox

Rating: C+

Chivas Regal 12 Year Old
(Credit: Pernod-Ricard)

Cracking the top 10 list of best selling blended Scotches last year, Chivas Regal is likely one brand that most whisky drinkers have reliably heard of. The Chivas brand starts around 1857, but stretches back even further to 1801, when the grocery store the bothers would come to acquire, was initially started by John Forrest. The store was sold to William Edwards, with James Chivas joining Edwards in 1838. Edwards passed in 1841, with Charles Stewart taking his place beside James. Soon after, Queen Victoria granted a royal warrant for the duo to be her royal grocer, resulting in the company gaining a reputation among the wealthy and elite. Stewart left the company in 1857, allowing the younger brother, John, to join his brothers side. 

The first signs of the brand and name as we know it today start in 1909, with the introduction of a 25 Year Old blend, and the adding of “Regal” to the label. The 25 Year Old whisky had the distinction of being the oldest available blend of the era, and was for a time what the brand was known for. The 12 Year Old was started in 1938, cementing it as their flagship entry. The 25 Year Old quickly fell out of use, though is still made today but in smaller batches. In 1950 the company also acquired the distillery that is at the heart of their current day malts: Strathisla. Distilling since 1786, it is the oldest continually operated distillery in Scotland.

With such an illustrious past of having been good enough for Victorian royalty has Chivas kept up it’s reputation? In my bar most people order Johnnie Walker when ordering blended scotch, with the next most ordered being Dewar’s. With 4 other blended brands beating out Chivas last year, it seems there may be more ‘luxury’ brands available that people prefer; yet numbers do not always indicate what’s in a glass. So, how does their product hold up over 150 years after the initial royal warrant?

The Scotch
In the glass the whisky is a pale straw color. On the nose, there is vanilla and fruit, indicating used bourbon barrels, with either a small or no percentage of sherry casks. Orange, and apple stand out to me the most. The aromas overall are a little weak and unimpressive. On the palate, the whisky is even less so. Though more pronounced on the tongue compared to the nose, it feels watery and thin. Wood dominates the senses, with vanilla following. More fruit comes in with orange again, and a slight salty feeling.

The finish is really where the 12 Year shines and makes a total 180. The fruity and woody characteristics become smoky on the tongue, with the vanilla morphing into milk chocolate. It could last a little longer but is overall pleasant. The finish will leave you wanting more; until you remember how disappointing the nose and palate are that is. I did add a couple drops of water to the sample as well. In general the whisky came out worse, with a sharp smell, everything feeling ‘tighter’ and more constrained. 

Overall the whisky lacks depth, with the woody characteristics dominating, but is decently well rounded. The experience starts out uninspired, but finishes on a strong note.

The Price
The world’s 5th best selling blended scotch can be purchased for $34.99 for a 750ml bottle, and is bottled at 40% ABV.

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