I don’t review a lot of blended scotch, and only once have I reviewed Chivas Regal (a 12 year). That said, I’ve had good experiences when makers of blended scotch push the envelope a little bit with cask finishes or other frills, and I thought maybe a 13 year age-stated blend finished in rye casks could be a successful experiment. Also, it was (and still is) $18 at some retailers in the US, even though its original MSRP was closer to $40.
This special edition Chivas was bottled as a tribute to the Manchester United Football Club (that’s soccer to us yanks). Why? I don’t follow soccer so I don’t know. For some reason Chivas thought the entire world needed access to British soccer-themed liquid merchandise because they even went so far as to run 750ml bottles for the US market. Maybe that particular miscalculation is why I got it on sale for only $18.
The whisky in true blended scotch fashion is bottled at the absolute minimum 40% ABV strength.
Nose: First note is acetic – like cider vinegar. Behind that is a clear grainy note, with classic scotch grain whisky notes of vanilla, hay and nail-polish remover. After a rest in the glass, some subtle fruit notes start to appear: pear, white tea, orange blossom honey. These are subtle, though.
Palate: Medium-heavy body (not quite syrupy). Almost no tongue burn. Flavors are mild, but distinctly in-line with blended scotch: light honey, hay, shortbread cookies. If there’s a rye note, it’s so far in the background that I can’t taste it.
Finish: Short. A little charcoal, and a mouth-drying woody note (finally). Fades quickly without evolving, leaving only a ghost of nail-polish remover.
With Water: A few drops of water amp up the nose tickle significantly, and also increase the fruit notes (primarily, pear). The palate and finish seem sweeter. The water is an improvement, but it doesn’t save the day.
Overall: In a word, Forgettable. It’s not bad whisky, and it would be easy to consume a bottle in a few nights of casual social drinking without paying much attention to the liquid. There’s nothing standing out, though, no interesting aromas or flavors, and no discernable effect from the rye cask. Even the 13 year age statement is ignorable: it doesn’t taste any “older” than your typical 3- or 4-year old blend, although perhaps it has fewer off-notes. My guess is that Chivas tried to bottle an older blend and found that the re-used oak hadn’t matured the whisky sufficiently, so they tried dumping it into more active rye casks to accelerate the maturation. If so, I’m not sure it worked.
Now that I’m done panning the whisky, if you find yourself with only $20 to spend on a whisky, and it has to be scotch, and they don’t have Glenlivet, you could certainly do worse than this but I would not pay full retail for it. If you’re a deal hound who finds enjoyment in drinking underpriced whisky, you’ll definitely appreciate the price-to-value ratio here.
Apparently if you sit in a hospitality suite at Old Trafford, Man U’s home stadium, the full range of Chivas products is available to you. I got that bit of useless information from their website. I looked it up because I had a vague memory of watching one of their matches a few years back and some kind of a big deal being made about their new partnership with Chivas. I think it happened sometime after the Chivas MLS club folded.
“If you find yourself with $20 to spend on a bottle”
You ain’t getting a full bottle here for that price. Even at $30 CAD, selection is VERY limited. Jim Beam Black is probably the only bottle that’s drinkable neat at that price point. Chivas 12 is passable, but it sells here for the same as some single malts….which is why I’ve never owned a bottle of it.
Wise choice, on the Chivas. I’ve never seen the appeal. At any rate I understand your pain, but I just have to quote prices in local California terms otherwise I’d go mad. Imagine if every sentence was along the lines of “If you find yourself with $20 to spend on a bottle in California or New York, or $25 in the midwest, or $30 in the northwest, or $35 in any state with a state-run liquor control board, or $50 in Canada…” 😉
I DEMAND you cater your price recommendations to me and every other person who reads this blog! (Kidding).
‘if you’re a deal hound who finds enjoyment in drinking underpriced whisky’ – hey that’s me