I'm gonna share my first encounter with Chivas Regal 12 year old blended scotch whisky. It was during my high school days.
One time following a Christmas time exam that finished at noon, I and a couple of classmates piled into a taxi and dropped by a local bar on the ground floor of a hotel, Sheraton, at that time. The dimly lit bar would be mostly empty except for the odd business types eating club sandwhiches and maybe cougars travelling in packs of two, who were feasting on salads. Myself, a mature student, who left a career as an insurance adjuster to return to school, Gordon, a failed businessman who thought law would lead to days of wine and roses, John, a top student suffering soul searching angst about whether he should go to med school instead (wish I had that problem) and Brian, not really a friend, but like a bad penny, we just couldn’t shake, would tumble into the bar and attract stares of consternation from the aforementioned patrons and bar staff. Brian, I might add, was cruelly nicknamed Barney after the character on the “Simpsons” because he was disheveled, smelled bad and looked like a drunk who just woke up on a park bench or under a bridge.
In any case, we would drop into red leather wingback chairs, dark burnished wood panel walls behind us and stare out the massive windows at the winter river that was mostly frozen. To warm ourselves up, and defrost our minds from the frantic study leading up to the exam, we would order Rusty Nails. This drink was composed of 60/40 mix of Drambuie and Chivas Regal 12 years old plus a couple of ice cubes. What a nice drink! The Drambuie and Chivas melded into an incredible drink.
In those days, I did not enjoy scotch neat, matter of fact, I had no appreciation of scotch whatsoever. Two weeks ago, I found myself in the liquor store scanning a wall of scotch, thinking what will I review next? Chivas Regal 12 years old appeared and I remembered I liked it as an active ingredient in a Rusty Nail, but would it work on its own?
Citrus, apples, maybe damp leaves.
Smooth, sweet honey, applesauce and hazelnut. Mid-palate: creamy vanilla, ocean spray of sea salt and heather.
A little Oloroso sherry? I think so. Some peat/smoke, heather and sea salt linger nicely and dry across the palate in an expansive manner.
The taste starts out sweet but finishes dry. I am impressed!
Frankly, I had very low expectations. Anything so widely available can’t be that good I thought to myself. I was wrong. This blended scotch exhibits no bite, bitterness or rough edges. It is designed to be smooth and totally inoffensive. It succeeds in this aim.
I am also pleased by the lack of a certain graininess that is very common in many blended scotch whisky. By graininess, I mean an unadulterated alcohol/bitter flavor that I associated with cheap blends.
It is a 12 year old blended scotch whisky, and compared to other 12 year old blended scotches, it does very well. Matter of fact, it can hold its own against the gold standard of 12 year olds, Johnnie Walker Black Label. Chivas Regal 12 years is priced competitively too so you are getting good value for money. Unfortunately, when you upgrade to the 18 year old bottling of Chivas, you could buy many superior single malt blends for less.
The limitations to this scotch are if you compare it to single malt scotch whisky. Of course it will come up a bit short in such a comparison, but you are not making a fair comparison. General Motors manufactures Chevrolet and Cadillac, but comparisons are not helpful as you are not comparing apples to apples.
Nevertheless, I do prefer this to some single malts. Depending on my mood, I could enjoy this blend just as much as Glenfiddich 12yrs or Glenlivet 12 yrs. But, there are certainly single malts that are superior like Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie and others!
Chivas Regal 12 years old serves up a rich, smooth blended scotch that most certainly is dominated by Speyside single malts. At the core of this blend is Strathisla single malt. You probably never heard of Strathisla and that is due to the fact that the Chivas and Glenlivet Group (the corporate owners of Chivas Regal) do not promote the brand. The principal purpose of owning Strathisla is to cement a steady supply of the main single malt ingredient making up the Chivas Regal blends.
I am so impressed with Chivas Regal 12 years old that I will have to reconsider my review of the 18 year old bottling. The 18 is very good, it just fails on the price point. Too much money for a blended scotch whisky. Anyway, I will return to the 18yr old at another date.