Last fall Chivas Brothers (owned by Pernod Ricard) gave The Aspiring Gentleman and other whisky media a rare opportunity to deconstruct one of their prized blended whiskies, Chivas Regal 18 year. While we thoroughly enjoyed the tasting and process as it originally unfolded, we are guilty of letting portions of the samples linger on the shelf until recently, when we broke out the four components of Chivas 18 once more. Without further ado, this is how we felt about Grain 18, Longmorn 18, Strathisla 18, and Islay 18, which (although not available to the public) make up Chivas 18.
Grain 18: This light amber whisky starts off with honeyed marzipan and mince meats on the nose. On the palate a meringue bite lingers a bit too long before yeasty and buttery notes lead to a smokey finish. This is arguably not a whisky to be consumed on its own, hence its role as a blending component. Longmorn 18: Slightly darker in color than the grain whisky, the Longmorn has sweet cherries and blueberry on the nose, with a slight salty nuttiness combining to create the aroma of trail mix. Cinnamon and honey appear on the palate. On the medium-length finish, balsa wood shavings notes appear, fading to slightly salty iodine. Strathisla 18: Making up the lion’s share of Chivas 18, this gold-colored whisky has salt and a slight smokiness on the nose, followed by prune juice and mustiness reminiscent of a dusty old library. The finish is short, with smoky notes like burnt toast. Islay 18: Starting with notes of BBQ shrimp and iodine, this amber whisky then gives way to salty brine and bark mulch. There also hits savory undertones, reminding one taster of the oiled saddle leather from a tack room. Finish is long and smokey, like a campfire the next day or expended fireworks. Now, let’s turn to Chivas 18, which is a blend of the four previous whiskies: Light amber in color, this blend smooths many of the highs and lows of the four blending components, making for an enjoyable dram. New notes which could be picked up on the nose are over-ripe dark fruits, butterscotch and honeysuckle. Also, a hint of ripe bananas. We would argue that Chivas 18 is more complex, yet more balanced than its four components. In fact, the Strathisla 18 is the only component that stood out to us as a feasible daily drinker. Chivas 18, however, manages to rise above the sum of its parts to create a truly enjoyable whisky.