I recently received one of the more intriguing packages ever from the Liquor Fairy. The good people who represent Chivas Regal wanted to call attention to Chivas’ 18 year old blend. It is a significant cut above their twelve, which just about any drinker on the planet has seen, if not tried. They sent me and a number of other cocktail bloggers samples to give a go. So far, nothing exceptional, beyond another bottle of good liquor to opine upon.
But here’s where they called their shot, a la Jake Taylor above.
To demonstrate their confidence in the product, and to ensure that we had an “appropriate” reference to compare it against, the Chivas people sent me a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue as a foil! They wrote, “We’re very confident that Chivas 18, although far less expensive, is the better tasting scotch, but we’d love to hear what you think!”
This is swinging for the fences, people. Ohio pricing for a standard bottle of Chivas 18 is $49.00. Johnny Walker Blue Label Blended Scotch runs $232.15. Chivas 18 is a mostly unknown bottling. Blue is sort of quasi-mystical elixir that has people of many levels of sophistication talking about it in hushed tones like it’s the Golden Fleece, dinner with the Queen, or the sharply pressed creases in Barack Obama’s trousers.
The point is that the Chivas people are smart. The balls it takes to send out a bottle of the more-than-competitor for comparison with what is actually not even your own top-line bottling is pretty arresting.
As for my own pre-conceived notions on the matter, I have gone through a half-sized bottle of Blue before, back when I was making the transition from Winophile to Cocktailian. And I had never, to my knowledge, even have Chivas’s regular twelve-year-old before.
For a baseline, I went out and purchased a bottle of Chivas 12, and matched it up with my bottle of Johnny Black. Then I set the Chivas 18 and its Apollo Creed together. I did all my tasting from identical glasses, each with a single small ice cube. My Scot relatives are invited to kindly shut the Hell up about the ice….
The undercard of Chivas 12 versus Black Label was a quick decision. The base Chivas was simply too smooth and narrow in profile to match up with Messers Walker’s regular infantry. I’ll admit that I can see why a whole lot of people prefer the Chivas, by the way. It is a lot friendlier stuff. But like the Scots who distill it, Scotch ain’t supposed to be all that friendly, in my book. I imagine that the Chivas would make a darn fine Blood and Sand, but I’m out of Cherry Heering right now to give that a whirl. Still, for drinking straight, I think the Chivas 12 is a little bland for a more discerning liquor fan.
However, the point of this post is to see how the premium Chivas 18 works, and how it stands up to the “Legend”. Keep in mind that I usually drink single malts when the scotch whisky mood takes me. That said, I liked both quite a bit. The Blue Label was actually better than I remember from a few years back, when I found that I actually preferred the Gold Label. It remains a big, big flavored whisky, with a lot of challenge. I think I like it more now because my palate is more robust, but I’d still take a number of single-malts over it, even if price were not an issue.
Here’s the bullet point: The Chivas 18 holds up against its desired competition quite well, to my way of thinking. These two liquors are still as different as the 12 and Black. As with the lower end comparison, the Chivas is more mellow and accessible than the Walker. But the difference here at the upper end is that the Chivas 18 is not at all bland. There is complexity here that I like. And while I am useless in describing a flavor profile in the typical way critics are supposed to deliver, full of words like, “rich, velvety tones of…”, I can tell you about one particular element that stands out about the Chivas 18. It has a very pleasant finish that lasts a very long time.
Chivas 18 is not going to impress your friends when they hear you order it, like Johnny Walker Blue would. Walker’s finest has the intimidating price tag, and the intimidating flavor, to leave any who you deign to share it with talking about it, and more importantly you, in hushed, awed, and uneasy tones.
Me, I’d buy the Chivas 18 for drinking whisky the way I do. For sipping in the comfort of your favorite chair, alone in your darkened Basement Bar, when the world has left you tired and in need of gruntlement, this is fine stuff. And if you must share your brown liquor, a broader cross-section of your friends will probably enjoy the Chivas than they would the Blue, at least if you hide the bottles. Take the money you save and spend it on filling your humidor.
UPDATE: The Scotch bloggers have gotten ahold of this challenge and are writing about it now. Here’s a well-written and entertaining example, if you want a much more technical breakdown. He says essentially what I I do here, only he sounds like he knows what he is talking about….
And via WHISKYhost Blog, here is a lovely video by Chivas. We all need to go back to the concept that the first value we should require in everyone, politician and friend alike, is honesty.
The following product, Chivas Regal 18, was recently provided to me as promotional consideration to encourage me to discuss it.
For a complete disclosure of my policies regarding promotional items and all other financial interests, please click this link, or follow the
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