Booze Review

Whisky Review – Chivas Regal 12


I bought four different 50ml bottles of whiskies in late September and have so far reviewed three of them: Jim Beam’s Devil’s Cut, Johnnie Walker Red, and  Johnnie Walker Black. It’s finally time to put the Chivas Regal 12 under the microscope. But before I get on with the review, here are some quick facts (courtesy of Wikipedia) about Chivas Regal:

  • Chivas Brothers traces its roots to the opening of a grocery store at 13 King St, Aberdeen in 1801.
  • In 1843, Chivas Brothers were granted a Royal Warrant to supply goods to Queen Victoria.
  • During the 1850s, James Chivas decided to respond to his affluent customers’ demands for a smoother whisky, by beginning to blend whiskies to create a proprietary blend to Chivas Brothers. Their first blended Scotch whisky named ‘Royal Glen Dee’ was launched, followed in the 1860s by their second blended Scotch whisky, ‘Royal Strathythan’.
  • In the early 1900s, Chivas Brothers decided to create their most aged blended Scotch whisky to export to the U.S, where the booming economy after the turn of the century was fueling demand for luxury goods. The whisky was named Chivas Regal.
  • Chivas Regal was re-launched as Chivas Regal 12 year old in the US following the disruption of both Prohibition and World War II. Chivas became a fashionable brand of the era, and became associated with Frank Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack. Chivas Regal was the Scotch whisky requested by Sinatra, along with other spirits brands backstage at performances, and Chivas sponsored Frank Sinatra’s Diamond Jubilee Tour in 1990.
  • Chivas Regal was acquired by Pernod Ricard in 2000 upon the breakup of Seagrams Group.

And now for the review…

  • Appearance: Golden yellow.
  • Aroma: Once I get past the alcohol, some of the lighter notes come through. Honey. Rosemary. Ripe fruit. Eucalyptus. Faint smell of smoke.
  • Taste: Thin and watery mouthfeel. Tingles the tip of your tongue in the beginning. Let it sit on your tongue for a bit and you feel some mild cinnamon and peppery spiciness start to build. Ends with a medium, peppery finish. Pleasant, mouth warming aftertaste.
  • ABV: 40%

Overall, I genuinely enjoyed this itty bitty bottle of Scotch. The Chivas Regal 12 may not be as multidimensional as some of the whiskies that I typically enjoy, but what’s in the glass is perfectly acceptable and very drinkable. Much like the Glenlivet 12 and the Glennfiddich 12, this would be a great “training wheels” dram for someone that is curious about Scotch. Definitely a step up from the Johnnie Walker Red, and at the very least, on par with the Johnnie Walker Black.

30 replies »

  1. Hey G-LO,
    Thanks for this review! I always find them helpful & educational (Frank Sinatra, really?). I’ve never picked up or ordered the Chivas Regal 12 for no other reason than I always thought there were more interesting whiskies to try in that particular moment.

    Understanding that blends were typically not always made to be enjoyed neat – is this one that you think could hold it’s own when mixed with water (or soda water) or after having ice added – particularly in warmer months?

    Thanks!
    -WW

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    • Yo WW!

      Yes yes… Ole Blue Eyes was apparently a big fan. But I pulled the info off of Wikipaedia, so who knows if it’s true. Given that the finer whisky selections in the 50s and 60s were probably pretty slim, I can totally believe this fact. Do you watch Mad Men? There was a scene where Draper takes a sip of what I think was Glenlivet (Canadian Club and Seagram’s 7 were the norm I believe). He gets this grin and just says, “Smooth.”. I think that says alot about what was available to drink back then.

      I agree about passing on the Chivas in most instances. I will generally go Single Malt before picking up a blend. But you know, given what Compass Box is doing and a taste of the Chivas 18 that I had over the summer (and let’s not forget about the stunning Japanese blends), I am keeping an open mind with regards to any and all whiskies. Try, then decide.

      As far as on the rocks or mixed, I don’t see why not. I took a liking to the patented Limpd Whisky Water drink one night in September (half water and half whisky). Quite refreshing! But there was a problem with this. I started chugging. 4 to 5 drinks later, and I started slurring (always a bad sign!). It seems I need those strong flavors to remind me that I am drinking a very potent beverage. Forces me to slow down a bit.

      Cheers!
      G-LO

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      • I agree with G-Lo. Don’t discount the blends. I have found that some are just as good as or even better than single malts (I’m talking to you Tamdhu). The Dewar’s 18 that I had at this year’s Extravaganza was one of the best tastes of the evening. And, the Chivas 25 was a big winner the prior year.

        And, as far as the whisky water, I got that from Pappy and it is not a competitive event. One glass (under 32oz you lush), 1/2 whisky, 1/2 water and some ice.

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      • Great conversation! I heard that [Scotch] blends make up for 90% of the Scotch sold around the world – so clearly they are doing something right! 😉 Furthermore, single malts really only came about in the general market in the last 20-30 years, which isn’t that long at all. I try not to discount blends and agree with both G-LO and Limpd, keeping an open mind is best. This is also why I’m so appreciative of all of you whisky bloggers! I’m constantly informed & reminded of what I still haven’t tried! (of which, there are many!)

        Need. More. Whisky-drinking. Time.

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        • Once again, whisky infused/inspired banter strikes again! As has been said by numerous authorities, we are living in the Golden Age of Whisk(e)y (and Craft Beer). Pity there aren’t more hours in the day, and more cash in our wallets to try them all. Like you said, “Need. More. Whisky-drinking. Time.”

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  2. G-LO, I agree with the sentiments here. At first, I dismissed this as just too boring, but then I had it again and gave it some more attention, and it’s actually quite enjoyable. If you compare it to something light and unpeated like Bushmills, the lightly smoky finish of Chivas will jump out at you a little more, and I found it to be pretty impressive in its subtlety. I would be more likely to buy Chivas than I would Glenlivet 12 or Glenfiddich 12, but that’s also a lot due to it being cheaper by $5 or $10.

    To WW, I would imagine Chivas on ice to be a very nice summer dram!

    Like

    • Yo Ryan!

      As I said in my reply to WW, I discounted this whisky for the longest time. Partly because it just seemed to old school, and partly because there were so many other whiskies to try. I’m glad I went back to sample this. While I doubt that I would ever buy myself a bottle, I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed if someone gave me a bottle as a gift. Gotta keep an open mind!

      Cheers!
      G-LO

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  3. Nice review. I like your emphasis on a slow, patient tasting. As an aside, at a recent wedding, the Chivas 12 was flowing (neat or on the rocks). While not my whisky of choice, it was perfectly acceptable.

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    • Yes! Gotta savor these spirits. I have found that the nosing is at least 50% of the fun when drinking whisky.

      With regards to weddings and open bars in general, I remember when the Wife and I were visiting reception halls for our wedding back in 1998. Chivas Regal 12 was always on the “top shelf” list when discussing open bar options. The others on the list were Pinch and Johnnie Walker Black. Since I was still a whisky newbie at the time, that’s all I really knew about whisky. It’s funny how times and tastes change over time. Our collective whisky collections rival and beat many of the higher end bars/restaurants in our area. Not sure what that says about us, but I’ll put a positive spin on it … we have our priorities in order.

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      • Being so close to NYC I have it pretty good when it comes to bars stocking the rarer drams. Plenty of great whisky/ey bars around the area, but I find myself in pure scotch and irish whiskey territory when I’m there, so finding a good (not run of the mill) bourbon is a bit harder to come by. Hell, I’m still on the ultimate bourbonite’s mission to find a bottle of Pappy (or Rip) Van Winkles, but then again I’m lucky to find a bar that stocks Blanton’s which is a very common small batch.

        Chuck

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      • Yo Chuck!

        If it’s bourbon at the bar that you seek, then you should venture to the bar at Keen’s Steakhouse. Besides being a very old school and very cool place to drink, they also have an OUTSTANDING selection of Single Malts AND Bourbon. Not cheap, but if you’re looking for Bourbon, you’ll be sure to find it there (The bar food menu is pretty good too. Get the Short Rib Salad or the Burger.). You can also try Blue Smoke. Never been there, but I hear good things. Here’s a link to their Drinks Menu:

        http://www.bluesmoke.com/blue/PDF/beverageMenu.pdf

        Buona Fortuna!
        G-LO

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      • Chuck – G-LO gave some great rec’s for whisky bars in NYC. I’d also throw in Brandy Library and Ward III. If there’s a bottle of Pappy to be found on a bar in NYC, they will have it (& they are walking distance from each other so you can easily hit both in one evening). Owners of both are SUPER connected in the whisky world and they manage to get what everyone else can only dream of having. Furthermore, every Monday night, Ward III has free whisky tastings starting at 8pm that are poured/taught by either the distillers themselves or their brand ambassadors.

        Enjoy!
        -WW

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        • Quick recap… World’s best whiskies served at two different whisk(e)y bars that are within walking distance of each other AND free whisk(e)y tastings led by brand representatives EVERY MONDAY NIGHT. Three words: SIGN ME UP!

          Thanks for passing along the info WW!

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  4. Not being much of a scotch fan (the smoke is too much for my sweet bourbon tooth 🙂 ) I find Chivas 12 to be lighter than any of the others I’ve tried so far. It’s very smooth and round but for me that tends to be where the description ends. Kind of like Glenkinchie which I reviewed a month or two ago, it wasn’t unpleasant (and I actually liked Chivas much more than the GK and actually do have a glass occasionally when feeling like I’d like something different), but it just wan’t gangbusters for me. When I get the scotch itch I go with the JW Double Black. But Chivas was the first pleasurable scotch I tried. Not to mention my local store is selling a liter for 45 bucks with two 8oz tumblers in a gift set, had to pick one up.

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    • I turned my nose up at the Chivas 12 for many years (Single Malt Snobbery I suppose. Sad but true.), but after trying the 18 this summer (really really good!), I was curious to go back to the 12. Is the 12 a great whisky? No. But it’s still a fine dram at an affordable price. As far as the Double Black, I have no doubt that I’ll be trying it soon.

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  5. Nice write up! I cracked up because I did the same thing, bought several small bottles of chivas, johnny walker, dewars, because I never buy the full bottles in favor of Balvenie, Bowmore, etc…. I was going to review them but every time I looked at them I decided against it. Bad on my part, will still do it.

    I do agree that they are great for someone starting in scotch, however, I think most people believe all scotch taste like these omnipresent offerings which is far from the truth. Like the old saying goes, all scotch is good scotch, some is better than others. 🙂

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    • Thanks John! I found it to be a worthwhile exercise. Sometimes you have to go back to the beginning to gain some perspective. How else will you know if paying more for something unique is really worth it? The beauty of the Single Malts is the wide variety of flavors and styles. They are all so different, yet they are all Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Ya gotta love it!

      Like

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