By Richard Thomas
When it comes to the big blended Scotch whiskies, Chivas Regal is the line known for putting its starting rung in a premium position. The entry level expression is Chivas 12, the go-to drink for Boston Legal’s Denny Crane and Alan Shore got together on the balcony for cigars and chit chat. From there the line marches up the age ladder and into the Royal Salute range. These are all blends
Chivas Regal Ultis therefore stands out in at least two ways, and both of these are merely on paper. For one, it is a blended malt (I prefer the term “vatted malt,” to better stand out from “blended whisky”), which is to say there is no grain whisky in the mix. That is a first for Chivas Regal. For another, Ultis is a no age statement (NAS) whisky, and while not the first or last NAS Chivas, the point is still noteworthy from a line best known for its rather high age statement blends.
Chivas Ultis is made from five Speyside malts: Allt A’Bhainne, Braeval, Longmorn, Strathisla, and Tormore. This choice of using just the five is a nod to the line of Chivas Master Blenders, of whom there have been only five: Charles Howard, Charles Julian, Allan Baillie, Jimmy Lang and Custodian Master Blender, Colin Scot. The whisky is bottled at the usual 40% ABV.
While I never stopped caring about how a whiskey was packaged, I stopped commenting on it quite a while ago, except for stand out examples. Chivas Regal Ultis costs a pretty penny, and it comes decked out accordingly. Some of the trimming might be stripped off if you buy this from the liquor store, but the complete package comes in an enormous, heavy-stock box, this housing a video presentation about Ultis, an informative booklet, and another heavy-stock box that contains the actual bottle. The bottle itself shows a lovely sense of design, somewhat art deco in nature, with a plastic neck ring to match the stopper cap.
In the bottle and in the glass, the color is a deep orange amber. On the nose, the whisky is oaky, as Chivas Regal tends to be, but in this case only mildly so. Hand in glove with that almost signature woodiness is a malty, sherried sweetness, peachy fruitiness, a dash of cinnamon, and a touch of tea tannin. It’s a rich and elegant scent, exactly the kind of thing that invites one back for further study.
The liquid is like light cream on the palate, delivering an initial dollop of honeyed malt sweetness. Then up comes creamy vanilla and notes of citrus zest, cloves, cinnamon and ginger. The finish opens on a honeyed, sweet tobacco note, before rolling out into mild warmth and a dry, slightly peppery aftertaste.
Chivas Regal Ultis is both opulent and graceful, a whisky that shows its sophistication with an ease that allows it to remain approachable.
At $200, Chivas Regal isn’t cheap, that price point putting it in between the 18 Year Old and the 25 Year Old. For what you get in the bottle, however $200 is not unreasonable. Although I can’t speak for the 25 year old as of yet, Ultis is leagues better than Chivas 18.