I spent last night at the New York Public Library. It’s not what I normally do on a Friday night, but this was no ordinary night. I was invited by Pernod Ricard, along with four hundred lucky people who came from aound the world, to attend the debut of a new Chivas Regal whisky.
I don’t think we even got to taste the whisky until well after 11:00 pm. Before that, we enjoyed an excellent meal, along with being entertained by Grammy award-winning modern jazz musician Diana Krall, among others. I was joined by my friends, and fellow spirits writers, Gary Regan, Paul Pacult, and Dave Wondrich, which just made the evening even more pleasurable.
So, why all the hoopla? Well, about a century ago there was a Chivas 25 year old, but World War I and the Great Depression put an end to it. The 25 is now being re-introduced, and it debuted last night. Colin Scott, Master Blender and also a friend of mine, introduced the whisky to all of us.
Digression: My evening wasn’t all glamour. I live in Pennsylvania, and the most convenient way, from where I live, to New York City is (sadly) by bus. The plan was to get into NYC two hours early, which would allow me plenty of time to check into my hotel, change into my tux, and get to the gala on time at 7 pm. As luck would have it, my bus showed up late, and then it ran into traffic all the way from Newark through the Lincoln Tunnel. I arrive at the Port Authority Bus Terminal (a cultural experience on a normal day) at 15 minutes beore 7 pm. No time to get to the hotel, so I have no choice: change from my jeans into my tux in the Port Authority Bus Terminal men’s room and walk to the NY Public Library from there! (Just in case you think my job is nothing but glamour, try that sometime. The toilet was motion activated, so I enjoyed the sounds of constant flushing while I was getting all dolled up.)
Anyway, back to Chivas. First let me say that I have high regard for Chivas. I think that the Chivas 12 year old is a really good blended scotch. The 18 year old is one of the finest blended scotches on the market, regardless of price, for its complexity of flavor and impeccable balance. I consider it to be a benchmark whisky. (And the Chivas Brothers Royal Salute 21 year old isn’t far behind.) So, when I discovered that Chivas was coming out with a new 25 year old, I couldn’t wait to try it.
But let’s face it, it’s difficult to improve on a benchmark whisky, and 25 years is quite old for a blended scotch–there isn’t as much of a malty backbone (when compared to single malts) to balance all those years spent in oak.
I still think that the new 25 year old is a very nice whisky. It has a great nose, and the palate works for me too. But it is the finish where the whisky starts showing its age, by becoming dry, oaky, and lingering.
So, here’s what I would suggest. If you are a big Chivas fan, and you can afford the $300 splurge, get a bottle when it eventually gets in circulation and enjoy it. But, if you’re looking for the biggest bang for your buck, the Chivas 18 year old is my pick among the Chivas portfolio. (Formal review forthcoming in the next issue of Malt Advocate magazine.)