Something tells me the market for well-aged blends must be pretty small. The natural reaction when considering a blend even close to 18 years old is for the malt snob part of the brain to go “Woah! Easy tiger. Imagine the single malt you’d get for that money!” That voice is trying to trick you, and should be silenced.
I’ve seldom gone wrong with an aged blend. They’re something of a rarity outside a smattering of companies – and while the component whiskies might be old, the vast majority of blenders choose to forego age statements. Chivas Regal is one of the few companies that swear by aged blends, and if you exclude the newly introduced NAS “Extra”, their core lineup consists entirely of 12, 18 and 25-year-old expressions.
The Chivas Regal 18 “Gold Signature” eats awards and accolades for breakfast. I’ve been wanting to give this one a try for a while – let’s see if it lives up to the hype:
The immediate smell is of charcoal, slightly burnt wood. Gently smoky. Strong fruits – apples, oranges, cherries. Toasted almonds. Wet grass. The lightest of sherry going on in the background. Great start.
Woah, there’s a lot to discover here. What pops up first is toasted/caramelised nuts, and a strong taste of marzipan that lingers throughout. Cocoa. Sweet in the middle – Jelly Babies, brown sugar. And fruit right at the end – pineapple, apricots and some sherry-influenced cherries. All brilliantly integrated.
That marzipan rides along in a slow, pleasant oaky finish that leaves the palate nice and oily. This is good. Lovely.
I did not look forward to watering this down… But was pleasantly surprised. The marzipan is brought out with a little more clarity, as well as the fruit. This comes at the cost of some sweetness, but it’s a fair tradeoff if that suits your taste. But of course at 43%, water also kills a fair amount of oomph.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Chivas Regal 18 reminds me a lot of the equally aged Johnnie Walker Platinum, a whisky that I absolutely love despite the fact that it too has been watered down, filtered and Photoshopped to within an inch of its life. Tragic to mess with such great whisky.
Nevertheless, Chivas 18 is a fantastic blend, at a tempting price considering its age statement. Deep and complex, interesting, secretive, and rewarding. I’d struggle to buy this over more open-and-honest whiskies or even the Platinum… And to be honest the average bottle of Highland Park would tempt me more. But it’s great stuff – jump at the opportunity to try some.