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Sunday 29 October 2023


The 2023 San Francisco World Spirits Competition

On June 16 and 17, The Tasting Alliance and Reserve Bar sponsored Top Shelf at Resorts World in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event combined elements of a consumer show, where enthusiasts could taste many top-rated spirits from the 2023 San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC) and, on the evening of June 17, an Awards Gala dedicated to the Best of Class and Best of Category winners at the 2023 SFWSC.

Historically, the whisky/whiskey category has been the largest category of entries in the competition. This year there were over 1,800 individual whisky submissions from more than three dozen countries. Roughly one-third of the whisky entries were in the bourbon category, compelling proof not only is the revival of the American whiskey industry continuing but also of how the emergence of the craft distilling sector has energised the landscape of American spirits.

The Best in Show Whisky winner and Best Single Malt Scotch Whisky was Tomatin, Highland Single Malt, 36 YO, NCF and 45.1% ABV.

Located about an hour north of Inverness, Tomatin is one of the lesser-known gems of Scotch whisky. Founded in the late 19th century, Tomatin was once one of Scotland's largest Scotch whisky distilleries. Owned since 1986 by two Japanese companies, Takara Shuzo and Okura & Co, the distillery has kept a relatively low profile and is not too well known among American whisky enthusiasts. This Show will open Tomatin up on a global profile, not just the USA.

The SFWSC Judging Panel described Tomatin 36 YO as featuring: Fruity, featuring orchard, stone and tropical fruit aromas, waxy and leather notes, and a bit of vanilla on the nose. Sweet, fruity, and creamy with pronounced apple notes, some cinnamon, and a touch of clove on the palate. Long, sweet, fruity finish. This is an incredibly complex, nuanced whisky that offers up incredible smoothness and layers of flavours. This 36-Year-Old single malt is a really special dram. A marriage of casks, a refill hogshead and an Oloroso sherry butt, gives off a remarkably smooth yet complex whisky that keeps one intrigued with lively top notes which bring vibrancy to this rich and warming expression. Without a doubt, one of the world’s greatest Scotch whiskies.

There are eight separate Best of Awards in the Scotch whisky category. The Best Blended Scotch, No Age Statement, is Johnnie Walker, Blonde, 40% ABV. The expression is a special edition blend from Johnnie Walker that was designed for mixing in cocktails. It’s sweeter than the typical Johnnie Walker whisky with “prominent toffee and fruit notes,” according to Diageo, and is designed to “bring the best from lemonade, cola, and ginger.”

The SFWSC Judging Panel described the Johnnie Walker Blonde as featuring Orchard fruit on the nose with notes of apple and spicy Japanese pear. Sweet on the palate with orchard fruit and a bit of caramel. Long, sweet candied, fruity finish.

The Best Blended Scotch Whisky 16 Years and Older is Dewar’s Double Double 20 YO, 46% ABV. The SFWSC Judging Panel described the Dewar’s Double Double 20 YO as Fruity with cooked cereal notes and a hint of herbaceousness on the nose. Sweet and fruity on the palate, with a hint of spice. Long, sweet, candied, fruity finish with lingering fruit notes.

The Best Distillers Single Malt Scotch, No Age Statement is The Glendronach, Portwood Single Malt Scotch, 46% ABV. Once a little-known brand, The Glendronach has achieved growing recognition for its outstanding single malts – the result of a substantially increased marketing budget from new owner Brown Forman, who has owned the distillery since 2016, and the deft hand of Master Blender Rachel Barrie, who was appointed to that post in 2017.

The SFWSC Judging Panel described The Glendronach Portwood as showing Dried fruits, along with herbal notes and a hint of spice on the nose. Sweet and creamy on the palate. It’s herbal and fruity, with a hint of anise/licorice and a bit of cinnamon. Long, sweet, fruity finish with a touch of pepperiness.


The Best Distiller’s Single Malt Scotch Up to 12 Years is Glen Scotia, 10 YO Cask Strength, 55.3% ABV. The SFWSC panel described the Glen Scotia 10 YO Cask Strength as expressing Floral, tropical fruits, herbal, cooked cereal, vanilla, and brown sugar notes on the nose. Sweet and drying on the palate featuring tropical fruits, spice notes, and a bit of pepperiness. Sweet, dried fruit finish, along with some herbaceous notes and pepperiness.

The Best Distiller’s Single Malt Scotch 13 to 19 Years was Craigellachie 17 YO Single Cask, 46% ABV.  Craigellachie is one of the key component malts in Dewar’s blended Scotch whisky. Under Master Distiller Stephanie Macleod’s, however, it is gaining a reputation as an outstanding Speyside single malt. The SFWSC Judging Panel described Craigellachie, 17 YO, as exhibiting Fruity notes with seasoned oak and a bit of spice on the nose. Sweet and fruity with some tropical and stone fruit notes on the palate, a touch of anise/licorice, and spicy notes. Long, sweet, fruity finish with a touch of anise and a little pepperiness.

The Best Blended Malt Scotch is Dewar’s Double Double 37, 46% ABV. Unlike some other expressions in the Dewar’s Double Double Range, the 37 YO is a blend of single malts and does not include any grain whisky.

THE SFWSC Judging Panel described the Dewar’s Double Double 37 YO as expressing Pronounced tropical fruit notes of mango and melon with a hint of spice and vanilla on the nose. Sweet on the palate with stone and tropical fruit, cinnamon, seasoned wood, a slightly bitter note, and a mild pepperiness on the palate. Long, sweet, fruity finish with lingering tropical fruit notes and a mild but persistent pepperiness.

The Best Independent Merchant Single Malt was The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Cask No 4.346 Savory and Sweet, 62.9% ABV while the Best Single Grain Whisky is Loch Lomond, Cooper’s Collection, 50% ABV.

The Best Irish Whiskey was Keeper’s Heart, 10 YO Irish Single Malt, 43% ABV. Keeper’s Heart also won Best Single Malt Irish Whiskey. The SFWSC Judging Panel described the Keeper’s Heart as exhibiting Very fruity notes on the nose with pronounced aromas of overripe apple and some pear. Smooth, sweet, and fruity on the palate with hints of spice. Long, sweet, fruity finish with lingering apple and pear notes.

The other winners in the Irish Whiskey category were Best Blended Irish Whiskey, Cairlinn Bay, Oak & Coast Blended Irish Whiskey, 46% ABV and Redbreast 15 YO, 46% ABV in the Best Pure Pot Still Whiskey category.

The Best Australian Single Malt Whisky is Callington Mill Distillery, El Sol Tasmanian Single Malt Whiskey, 46% ABV.

The Best Japanese Whisky is Mars Tsunuki, 2022 Single Malt Japanese Whisky, 50% ABV.

The winner of the Best Other Single Malt Whiskey is Kavalan, Solist ex-Bourbon Single Cask Strength, 54.7% ABV and the winner in the Best Other Whiskey category is Alfred Giraud, Harmonie Triple Malt, 46.1% ABV.


The 2023 SFWSC judging produced an outstanding set of winners. These 27 whiskies/whiskeys represent the very best of more than 1,800 entries. All of them should be part of your home collection, costs notwithstanding, and they are all absolutely worth a taste at the first opportunity.

A comprehensive list of winners and runners up is at the Tasting Alliance website.



Thursday 26 October 2023




The International Whisky Competition is the world’s most-followed whisky competition and reaches out to the whisky community on various social media channels and unique medals are designed to promote each of the winning whiskies. First launched in 2010 for whisky consumers, distillers, and people behind the scene making whiskies, the mission was to create a true competition by offering only 3 medals per category, just like in the Olympics or any other real competition. So far, no whisky has won this competion back-to-back yet.

Their goal is to bring the best whiskies from around the world to be tasted and rated by their professional tasting panel. Unlike other competitions, since 2015, judges are presented with one whisky at a time, to ensure each whisky gets the proper attention. In-depth notes are taken at every step for review ultimately to be compiled by the tasting panel committee.

The International Whisky Competition take place in mid-May annually, and presents Unique medals! Only 3 medals (Gold, Silver & Bronze) per category. Just like in the Olympics, not everyone can be a winner nor should. Category winners (excluding flavoured and Ready To Drink) must score above 85 points to be eligible for a medal.

This event first took place in Chicago, but has moved through many prominent cities over the years. In this competition, whiskies are blind tasted and rated by a professional tasting panel. The results are used to produce tasting notes for an International Whisky Guide.

Whiskies are sampled individually and judges are given 5 minutes to blind taste, judge, and score each whisky. A 100 point scoring system is used adopting the following four criteria:

     Colour (0 points)
     Visual appeal (5 points)
     Intensity and complexity (15 points)
     Distinctiveness of aromas (10 points)
     Balance of aromas (10 points)
Taste-Mouth Feel
     Palate and balance (10 points)
     Alcohol, body and complexity (10 points)
     Distinctiveness of flavours (10 points)
     Balance between flavours (10 points)
     Length and finish (10 points)
     Quality of finish (10 points)

                                                              The Golden Barrel Trophy

Designed in Switzerland and unveiled at Diageo Archive, the Golden Barrel Trophy represents the pinnacle of excellence in whisky making, showcasing two lions holding a whisky barrel. It is cast in bronze with 24K golden leaves on each side of the barrel. The Golden Barrel will be kept by the winner of the Whisky of the Year until next year’s competition and the name of each winner will be engraved in its marble base to commemorate the history of each annual Whisky of the Year. Basically, the Golden Barrel is to whisky what the World Cup is to Soccer or Cricket. You are on the global whisky map forever!


Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1989 Mortlach 31-Year-Old – 54.2% ABV – (97.1 points)

The Gordon and MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 31 Year Old from Mortlach Distillery, distilled in 1989, has been awarded the prestigious title of 'Whisky of the Year' at the 2023 International Whisky Competition, which was held this year in Bardstown, Kentucky. This achievement underscores the company's unwavering commitment to quality, tradition, and innovation in the art of combining oak, spirit and time to create single malts using their own casks.

New make spirit from Mortlach Distillery was filled into cask 4303 a refill sherry hogshead in 1989 and selected for bottling by Stuart Urquhart, Operations Director at Gordon & MacPhail 31 years later. This exquisite whisky, matured in hand-selected casks and finished in a refill Sherry Hogshead exhibits the true essence of the Mortlach character, and the savoir-faire of the Gordon and MacPhail's expertise, offering a complex array of rich fruit, chocolate, and subtle spice flavours that culminate in a stunningly long and warming finish.

Gordon and MacPhail will receive the Golden Barrel Trophy during a ceremony to be held this fall in Elgin, Scotland.


Master Distiller of the Year
Bob Christine - 1989
Mortlach Distillery (Speyside, Scotland)

Golden Barrel Trophy
Gordon & MacPhail (Elgin, Scotland)

Distillery of the Year
Kavalan Distillery – 92.45 Avg/Pts (Taiwan)

Master Blender of the Year
Stephanie Macleod
John Dewar & Sons (Scotland)

TOP 15 Whiskies of 2023

1.    Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1989 Mortlach 31-Year-Old - 54.2% ABV – 97.1 Pts (Speyside, Scotland)

2.    Kavalan Solist Port Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky – 96.95 Pts (Taiwan)

3.    Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila 1997 23-Year-Old - 59.9% ABV – 95.9 Pts (Islay, Scotland)

4.    Kavalan Triple Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky – 95.5 Pts (Taiwan)

5.    George T. Stagg – 95.3 Pts (Kentucky, USA)

6.    Kavalan Distillery Reserve Madeira Cask Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky – 94.9 Pts (Taiwan)

7.    Kavalan Distillery Reserve Peated Malt Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky – 94.8 Pts (Taiwan)

8.    Glenmorangie The Accord - 12 Year Old – 94.6 Pts (Highland, Scotland)

9.    Stagg - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – 94.4 Pts (Kentucky, USA)

10.   Ardbeg BizzareBQ – 94.2 Pts (Islay, Scotland)

11.   Kavalan Classic Single Malt Whisky – 94 Pts (Taiwan)

12.   Dewar's Double Double - 37 Years Old – 93.8 Pts (Scotland)

13.   Stauning KAOS - Triple Malt Whisky – 93.75 Pts (Denmark)

13.   Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky – 93.75 Pts (Taiwan)

15.   Ardbeg Corryvreckan – 93.65 Pts (Islay, Scotland)

At the bottom of this page, I have featured all the whiskies which scored 90 points and above.

Note: Whiskies that scored under 85 points are not listed or featured unless so requested by the competing distillery.


Best Single Malt Scotch
1st Place:  Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1989 Mortlach 31-Year-Old - 54.2% ABV – 97.1 Pts
2nd Place: Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila 1997 23-Year-Old - 59.9% ABV – 95.9 Pts
3rd Place:  Glenmorangie The Accord - 12 Year Old – 94.6 Pts

Best New Scotch Release
1st Place: Ardbeg BizzareBQ – 94.2 Pts
2nd Place: Dewar’s Double Double - 37 Year Old – 93.8 Pts
3rd Place: Ardbeg Heavy Vapours Committee Release – 91.05 Pts

Best Single Malt Scotch NAS (No Age Statement)
1st Place: Ardbeg BizzareBQ – 94.2 Pts
2nd Place:  Ardbeg Corryvreckan – 93.7 Pts
3rd Place:  Aberlour Casg Annamh – 92.4 Pts

Best Single Malt Scotch Under 10 Year Old
1st Place: Ardbeg Wee Beastie - 5 Years Old – 91.93 Pts
2nd Place: Ardbeg 8 Years Old for Discussion – 91.43 Pts

Best Single Malt Scotch 10 Year Old
1st Place: Ardbeg Ten Years Old – 89.9 Pts
2nd Place: Laphroaig 10 Year Old – 89.2 Pts
3rd Place: Glenmorangie The Original - 10 Year Old – 88.75 Pts

Best Single Malt Scotch 12 Year Old
1st Place: Glenmorangie The Accord – 12 Year Old – 94.6 Pts
2nd Place: Royal Brackla OLOROSO – 12 Year Old – 93.2 Pts
3rd Place: Aberlour 12 – 92 Pts

Best Single Malt Scotch 13-14 Year Old
1st Place: Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban - 14 Year Old – 92.45 Pts
2nd Place: The Glenlivet 14 Year Old Single Malt Scotch – 90.78 Pts
3rd Place: Glenmorangie Elementa - 14 Year Old – 90.03 Pts

Best Single Malt Scotch 15 Year Old
1st Place: Benromach 15 – 92.53 Pts
2nd Place: The Glenlivet 15 Year Old – 88.93 Pts
3rd Place: Bowmore 15 Year Old – 86.15 pts

Best Single Malt Scotch 16-17 Year Old
1st Place: Glenmorangie The Tribute – 16 Year Old – 92.45 Pts
2nd Place: Aberlour 16 – 90.15 Pts
3rd Place: Aberfeldy Madeira Cask – 16 Year Old – 90 Pts

Best Single Malt Scotch 18 Year Old
1st Place: Aberlour 18 – 92.13 Pts
2nd Place: The Glenlivet 18 Year Old – 90.43 Pts
3rd Place: Glenmorangie 18 Year Old – Extremely Rare – 88.98 Pts

Best Single Malt Scotch 19-24 Year Old
1st Place: Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila 1997 23-Year-Old – 59.9% ABV – 95.9 Pts
2nd Place: The Glenlivet 21 Year Old Single Malt Scotch; The Sample Room Collection – 92.58 Pts
3rd Place: Aberfeldy 21 - Red Wine Cask St. Emillion – 92.15 Pts

Best Single Malt Scotch 25 Year Old And Over
1st Place: Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1989 Mortlach 31-Year-Old – 54.2% ABV – 97.1 Pts
2nd Place: The Glenlivet 25 Year Old Single Malt Scotch; The Sample Room Collection – 90.85 Pts
3rd Place: Ardbeg 25 Year Old – 90 Pts

Best Peated Single Malt
1st Place: Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila 1997 23-Year-Old - 59.9% ABV – 95.9 Pts
2nd Place: Ardbeg BizzareBQ – 94.2 Pts
3rd Place: Ardbeg Corryvreckan – 93.7 Pts

Best Islay Single Malt
1st Place: Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila 1997 23-Year-Old - 59.9% ABV – 95.9 Pts
2nd Place: Ardbeg BizzareBQ – 94.2 Pts
3rd Place: Ardbeg Corryvreckan – 93.7 Pts

Best Highland Single Malt
1st Place: Glenmorangie The Accord – 12 Year Old – 94.6 Pts
2nd Place: Royal Brackla OLOROSO – 12 Year Old – 93.2 Pts
3rd Place: Glenmorangie The Tribute – 16 Year Old - 92.45 Pts
3rd Place: Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban – 14 Year Old – 92.45 Pts

Best Speyside Single Malt
1st Place: Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1989 Mortlach 31-Year-Old – 54.2% – 97.1 Pts
2nd Place: The Glenlivet 21 Year Old Single Malt Scotch; The Sample Room Collection – 92.58 Pts
3rd Place: Aberlour Casg Annamh – 92.4 Pts

Best Lowland Single Malt
1st Place: Glasgow 1770 Single Malt Scotch Whisky - The Original – 88.93 Pts

Best Cask Strength Scotch
1st Place: Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1989 Mortlach 31-Year-Old - 54.2% ABV – 97.1 Pts
2nd Place: Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila 1997 23-Year-Old - 59.9% ABV – 95.9 Pts
3rd Place: Aberlour A'Bunadh - Batch #73 – 92.28 Pts

Best Blended Scotch
1st Place: Dewar’s Double Double - 37 Year Old – 93.8 Pts
2nd Place: Dewar’s Double Double - 21 Year Old – 92.85 Pts
3rd Place: Dewar’s Double Double - 36 Year Old – 92.63 Pts

Best Blended Scotch 10 Year and Under
1st Place: Dewar’s Portuguese Smooth - 8 Year Old – 92.53 Pts
2nd Place: Dewar's French Smooth - 8 Year Old – 91.83 pts
3rd Place: Dewar’s Ilegal Smooth - 8 Year Old – 90.7 Pts

Best Blended Scotch 12 Year Old
1st Place: Imperial 12 Year Old Blended Scotch – 91.95 Pts
2nd Place: Dewar's 12 Year Old – 87.13 Pts
3rd Place: Chivas 12 Year Old – 85.88 pts

Best Blended Scotch 15-19 Year Old
1st Place: Dewar's 19 Years Old - The Champions Edition - 123 U.S  Open – 91 Pts
2nd Place: Dewar's 15 Years Old – 90.2 Pts
3rd Place: Dewar's 16 Years Old - Double Agent - Batch #001 – 89.7 pts

Best Blended Scotch 20-24 Year Old
1st Place: Dewar’s Double Double - 21 Year Old – 92.8 Pts
2nd Place: Dewar’s Double Double - 26 Year Old – 90.1 Pts
3rd Place: Dewar’s Double Double Rye - 21 Year Old – 85.9 Pts

Best Blended Scotch 25 Year Old And Over
1st Place: Dewar’s Double Double - 37 Year Old – 93.8 Pts
2nd Place: Dewar’s Double Double - 32 Year Old – 92.6 Pts
3rd Place: Dewar’s Double Double - 36 Year Old – 91.2 Pts

Best Blended Scotch - NAS
1st Place: Dewar’s White Label – 91.3 Pts


Best Irish Whiskey
1st Place: The Taoscán by The Craft Irish Whiskey Co.– 90.4 Pts
2nd Place: Bushmills Black Bush – 90 Pts
3rd Place: Bushmills 16 Year Old – 89.8 Pts

Best Single Malt Irish Whiskey
1st Place: The Taoscán by The Craft Irish Whiskey Co.– 90.4 Pts
2nd Place: Bushmills 16 Year Old – 89.8 Pts
3rd Place: Bushmills 12 Year Old – 88.3 Pts

Best Blended Irish Whiskey
1st Place: Bushmills Black Bush – 90 Pts
2nd Place: Bushmills Original – 89.4 Pts
3rd Place: UAIS Irish Whiskey– 85 Pts


Best Japanese Whisky
1st Place: Hatozaki Small Batch –91.05 Pts
2nd Place: Tenjaku Blended Whisky – 90.2 Pts
3rd Place: Hatozaki Finest – 87.9 Pts

Best Pure Malt Japanese Whiskey
1st Place: Hatozaki Small Batch –91.05 Pts
2nd Place: Hatozaki Finest – 87.9 Pts
3rd Place: Tenjaku Pure Malt Whisky – 87.6 Pts

Best Blended Japanese Whiskey
1st Place: Tenjaku Blended Whisky – 90.2 Pts
2nd Place: Hibiki Japanese Harmony – 87.4 Pts
3rd Place: Suntory Toki – 87.25 Pts


Best World Whisky
1st Place: Kavalan Solist Port Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky – 96.95 Pts (Taiwan)
2nd Place: Kavalan Triple Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky – 95.5 Pts (Taiwan)
3rd Place: Kavalan Distillery Reserve Madeira Cask Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky – 94.9 Pts (Taiwan)

Best World Whisky - Cask Strength
1st Place: Kavalan Solist Port Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky – 96.95 Pts (Taiwan)
2nd Place: Kavalan Distillery Reserve Madeira Cask Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky – 94.9 Pts (Taiwan)
3rd Place: Kavalan Distillery Reserve Peated Malt Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky – 94.8 Pts (Taiwan)

* All countries which are not represented with their own categories. Must score 85 Pts and above to be listed.

Best European Whisky
1st Place: Stauning KAOS - Triple Malt Whisky – 93.75 Pts
2nd Place: Stauning Bastard-Rye Whisky Mezcal Cask Finish – 86.35 Pts
3rd Place: Stauning Smoke - Single Malt Whisky – 85.73 Pts

Best Indian Whisky
1st Place: Amrut Indian Single Malt Whisky Cask Strength – 91.3 Pts
2nd Place: Godawan Single Malt Rich & Rounded Whisky – 90.8 Pts
3rd Place: Amrut Fusion Single Malt Whisky – 89.1 Pts

Best Malaysia Whisky
1st Place: Timah Double Peated Blended Whiskey – 93.4 Pts


2023 Whiskies Scoring Over 90 Points

1.) Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1989 Mortlach 31-Year-Old - 54.2% ABV - 97.1 Pts
2.) Kavalan Solist Port Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky - 96.95 Pts
3.) Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila 1997 23-Year-Old - 59.9% ABV - 95.9 Pts
4.) Kavalan Triple Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky - 95.5 Pts
5.) George T. Stagg - 95.3 Pts
6.) Kavalan Distillery Reserve Madeira Cask Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky - 94.9 Pts
7.) Kavalan Distillery Reserve Peated Malt Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky - 94.8 Pts
8.) Glenmorangie The Accord - 12 Year Old - 94.6 Pts
9.) Stagg - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey - 94.4 Pts
10.) Ardbeg BizzareBQ - 94.2 Pts
11.) Kavalan Classic Single Malt Whisky - 94 Pts
12.) Dewar's Double Double - 37 Years Old - 93.8 Pts
13.) Stauning KAOS - Triple Malt Whisky - 93.75 Pts
13.) Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky - 93.75 Pts
15.) Ardbeg Corryvreckan - 93.7 Pts
16.) Timah Double Peated Blended Whiskey - 93.4 Pts
17.) Kavalan Podium Single Malt Whisky - 93.38 Pts
18.) Whisky entered for evaluation purpose only - 93.35 Pts
19.) Stranahan's Sherry Cask - 93.33 Pts
20.) Whisky entered for evaluation purpose only - 93.28 Pts
20.) William Larue Weller - 93.28 Pts
22.) Royal Brackla OLOROSO - 12 Year Old - 93.2 Pts
23.) Stranahan's Mountain Angel 10 year - 92.9 Pts
24.) Dewar's Double Double - 21 Years Old - 92.85 Pts
25.) Olde Stogie - Straight Bourbon Whiskey finished in Armagnac & Tawny Port Casks - 92.8 Pts
26.) Maker's Mark 101 - 92.77 Pts
27.) Olde Raleigh Whiskey Society Straight Bourbon Whiskey finished in a Honey Barrel - 92.75 Pts
28.) Uncle Nearest Single Barrel Whiskey - Barrel #028 -92.68 Pts
29.) Dewar's Double Double  - 32 Years Old - 92.63 Pts
30.) The Glenlivet 21 Year Old Single Malt Scotch; The Sample Room Collection - 92.58 Pts
31.) Dewar's Portuguese Smooth - 8 Years Old - 92.53 Pts
31.) Benromach 15 - 92.53 Pts
33.) Glenmorangie The Tribute - 92.45 Pts
33.) Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban - 92.45 Pts
35.) Aberlour Casg Annamh - 92.4 Pts
36.) Ardbeg An Oa - 92.3 Pts
37.) Aberlour A'Bundah - 92.28 Pts
38.) Aberfeldy 21 - Red Wine Cask St. Emillion - 92.15 Pts
39.) Aberlour 18 - 92.13 Pts
40.) Aberfeldy Madeira Cask - 21 Year Old - 92.08 Pts
41.) Aberlour 12 - 92 Pts
42.) Imperial 12 Year Old Blended Scotch - 91.95 Pts
43.) Ardbeg Wee Beastie - 5 Year Old - 91.93 Pts
44.) Glenmorangie Nectar d'Or - 12 Year Old - 91.88 Pts
44.) Kavalan Concertmaster Sherry Cask Finish Single Malt Whisky - 91.88 Pts
46.) Dewar's French Smooth - 8 Years Old - 91.83 Pts
47.) 1792 Full Proof- 91.73 Pts
48.) Five Trail Cask Finish - 91.6 Pts
48.) Maker's Mark Private Select Mustang's #5 - 91.6 Pts
50.) Hatozaki Small Batch - 91.50 Pts
51.) Ardbeg 8 Year Old for Discussion - 91.43 Pts
52.) Amrut - Indian Single Malt Cask Strength - 91.33 Pts
52.) Giant Texas Cask Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey - 91.33 Pts
52.) Paul Sutton Bourbon - 91.33 Pts
55.) Dewar's White Label - 91.3 Pts
56.) Kavalan Distillery Select No.1 Single Malt Whisky - 91.25 Pts
57.) Glenmorangie The Cadboll Estate Batch #3 - 91.2 Pts
58.) Dewar's Double Double - 36 Years Old - 91.18 Pts
59.) Ardbeg Uigeadail - 91.1 Pts
60.) King Car Conductor Single Malt Whisky - 91.08 Pts
61.) Ardbeg Heavy Vapours Committee Release - 91.05 Pts
61.) Uncle Nearest Master Blend Edition Batch 017 - 91.05 Pts
63.) Dewar's 19 Years Old - The Champions Edition - 123 U.S Open - 91 Pts
64.) Dewar's Double Double 30 - 30 Years Old - 90.93 Pts
65.) Brother Justus American Single Malt Cold-Peated Whiskey - 90.88 Pts
66.) The Glenlivet 25 Year Old Single Malt Scotch; The Sample Room Collection - 90.85 Pts
66.) Glenmorangie Lasanta - 90.85 Pts
68.) Ardbeg Heavy Vapours General Release -90.8 Pts
69.) Aberlour A'bunadh Alba - 90.78 Pts
69.) The Glenlivet 14 Year Old Single Malt Scotch - 90.78 Pts
71.) Godawan Single Malt Rich and Rounded Artisan Whisky - 90.75 Pts
72 ) Royal Brackla  OLOROSO - PALO CORTADO & PERDO XIMENEZ - 21 Year Old - 90.7 Pts
72.) Dewar's Ilegal Smooth - 8 Years Old - 90.7 Pts
74.) Dewar's Japanese Smooth - 8 Years Old - 90.48 Pts
74.) Whisky entered for evaluation purpose only - 90.48 Pts
76.) W.L. Weller - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey - 90.45 Pts
76.) Eagle Rare 10 YO Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey - 90.45 Pts
78.) The Glenlivet 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch - 90.43 Pts
79.) The Taoscán by The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. – 90.4 Pts
80.) Ardbeg Smoketrails Batch #1 - 90.25 Pts
80.) Eagle Rare 17 Year Old - Fall 2022 - 90.25 Pts
82.) Dewar's Caribbean Smooth - 8 Years Old - 90.23 Pts
83.) Dewar's 15 Years Old - 90.2 Pts
84.) Sazerac 18 Year Old - Fall 2022 - 90.18 Pts
85.) Aberlour 16 - 90.15 Pts
85.) Tenjaku Blended Whisky - 90.15 Pts
87.) W.L. Weller Antique-Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey - 90.13 Pts
88.) Stranahan's Diamond Peak - 90.08 Pts
89.) Dewar's Double Double 26 - 26 Years Old - 90.05 Pts
90.) Glenmorangie Elementa - 90.03 Pts
90.) 1792 Small Batch - 90.03 Pts
92.) Bushmills Black Bush - 90 Pts
92.) Ardbeg 25 Year Old - 90 Pts
92.) Aberfeldy Madeira Cask - 16 Year Old - 90 Pts 

Glenmorangie The Accord 12 YO 43% ABV

This whisky is one of three that form the core range of travel retail exclusive single malts from the north Highland distillery of Glenmorangie, the other pair being The Elementa and the 16 YO Tribute. They were launched in Autumn 2021 as the world began travelling again following 18 months of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. They are easily available in Duty Free Stores globally.

The Accord is bottled at 12 years old and 43% ABV, and is a classic marriage of ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry barrels. It costs £59/ $79 US.

Glenmorangie has an annual production capacity of six million litres and the stills are the tallest in Scotland. They stand at over five metres (16.5 feet) tall. It also uses the hardest water of any Scotch whisky distillery in production - from the nearby Tarlogie Springs. The distillery and brand are currently owned by Moet Hennessy.

Tasting Notes:

Appearance: The colour is deep golden yellow with a hint of amber.

Nose: The nose is rich and fruity. Aromas of toffee, caramel and dried fruits (especially raisin and candied orange) rise first. They are followed by further aromas of dried apple, cereal bars, heather honey and a hint of almond.

Palate: On the palate this whisky follows a similar path to the nose. It is rich and fruity. Juicy dried fruits (think of raisin and sultana), crumbly brown sugar and caramel notes lead the way. These are joined by candied orange peel and hints of marzipan and milk chocolate. There is also a background green vegetal note that is difficult to pinpoint. A distinct woodiness comes through early on and evolves well. This gives grip and a drying oaky quality, which is accentuated with a pinch of baking spice.

The Finish: The finish continues on this theme and this adds to the length. Hints of wood and leather are followed by subtly spiced notes of nutmeg, clove and ginger.

Saturday 21 October 2023



Scotch Prices May Drop by 20-25 Per Cent

Brexit came into effect on 31 January 2020. Post divorce from the European Union (EU), all governmental policies had to be reviewed and, where required, recast. As part of its new trade policy, the UK has been negotiating free trade agreements (FTA) with several countries on a war footing, even amidst the pandemic. An Indo-UK FTA was set in motion in January 2022. The India-UK FTA pact will be the most comprehensive trade agreement signed by India. Of the 26 voluminous chapters under consideration, in-principle agreement or broad consensus has been reached on 24 chapters. In an important chapter of the trade deal, the UK will be looking for tariffs to be cut on goods such as Scotch whisky. As it stands, the FTA on alcohol products is moving rather slowly.

With India becoming UK’s largest market for Scotch whisky, the makers of some of the finest distilled liquor in the world are gearing up to rake in the explosion in the Indian market by revving up sales and production cycles. In distilleries which dish out the premium brands that are now familiar to the Indian customer, there is palpable excitement about the need to rev up exports while maintaining their qualitative edge. For instance, Dalmunach, Glenlivet, and Strathisla distilleries are home to the spirits that have found their niche in the Indian market – Royal Salute, Glenlivet, and Chivas Regal. While the company simultaneously produces well-known vodka, gin, and wine brands, it is the whisky segment that is driving the Indian thirst for spirits.

India is the world’s largest whisky market by a large margin. Whisky is seen as a discerning person’s drink. So, every category of whisky has different associations. While the aspirational middle class in India is driving away the old taboos attached to alcohol and women have emerged as a big consumption cohort, with whisky, there are images of much more class and a lot more sophistication than any other drink. So, fundamentally India remains a whisky market. Within that, there are different segments where you would have the Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) association, the price-conscious and yet premium-seeking market that buys brands like Imperial Blue and Blenders Pride, where Scottish malts are blended with superior class Indian grain whisky. It must be noted that the Indian definition of whisky is far-removed from the stringent conditions imposed by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

India’s maze of state-controlled alcohol laws means it is hard for Scotch brands to make their mark in the country as a whole. But a mooted free trade agreement could open up the territory to a whisky gold rush. Diageo is clearly the biggest player, with a foot in both camps, given its wide portfolio of Scotch brands and its 56 per cent stake in United Distillers, India’s leading whisky producer. Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes insisted the company was ready if and when tariffs come down. “For a product like Scotch whisky there’s nothing like more demand,” he said, adding, that if Diageo’s stocks do start to run out, “all we’ll do is make it more expensive.” “If you look at the Scotch whisky export stats from around about 2007, you can see that the upward trajectory steepened following that change.” Since 2010, the value of Scotch shipments to India has risen from £40.6 million to a peak of £166.2m in 2019. After collapsing in 2020 due to Covid-19, it recovered to £146.1m last year, putting the country eighth in the drink’s export charts by value.

By volume, India is huge, notwithstanding the tariffs. However, only a fifth was bottled in Scotland. Some brands are bottled in India, like Teachers, Passport and Vat 69, but the majority of what’s imported in bulk disappears into bottles of Indian whisky, a spoonful at a time. A comparison of an average NAS Blended Scotch brand bottled in the UK with that same brand bottled in India reveals tangible differences. Despite being the world’s second-biggest importer of Scotch, the category has a mere 02 per cent of the Indian whisky market, according to the SWA. If Scotch were to treble its share of the Indian market to 6 per cent, “It’s still going to be a niche”, says SWA’s Bell, even if that equates to a staggering 400m bottles. Back in Scotland, you wonder if there is enough whisky to supply such demand. “Potentially not,” says Russell, who feels producers will want to bottle as much as possible rather than export it as cheap bulk whisky if supplies run short.


IMFL encompasses a category of alcoholic beverages in India designed to emulate the styles and flavours of foreign liquors. These spirits are locally crafted using domestically sourced ingredients and adhere to specific techniques to achieve a taste profile like their foreign counterparts. Companies making IMFL beverages in the whisky domain are: United Spirits Limited (Signature, McDowell’s No.1), Radico Khaitan Limited (8 PM Whisky), Allied Blenders and Distillers Pvt. Ltd. (Officer’s Choice), Pernod Ricard India (Royal Stag), etc.


Currently, import duties on whisky stand at a spirit dampening 150 per cent. The UK body would like to see the duties whittled down to 30-50 per cent in five years, but are also amenable to keep the duty-reduction period phased over ten years, first being reduced to 75% in 2024. This will induce many distilleries to sell their wares in India. The Indian distillers of world-class single malts as well as the IMFL group counter this proposal and prefer an FTA where the 150 per cent duty whiskies may be brought down to 100 percent by 2024. This would establish a new pecking order, which could then see duty reduced to 50 per cent over ten years. Currently, only 20 of its 140-odd distilleries sell their brands in the largest whisky market globally. As a globally important market, India is still the sixth biggest global destination for Scotch whisky; the country imports 95 per cent of its domestic needs, according to International Wine & Spirit Research, a global agency tracking the alcohol market.

During 2022-23, bottled whisky imports from the UK more than doubled to $316 million from $152 million, while the value of bulk whisky shipments to India increased by over 40 percent to approximately $149 million during the same period, according to a report by the International Spirits & Wines Association of India (ISWAI).

Bulk whisky is the spirit entering the country in barrels or cases that typically operates on a business-to-business (B2B) model, where buyers may be wholesalers or distilleries looking to blend or age their own whisky. The FTA, when signed, is pegged to bring down the prices of whiskies entering the Indian markets while also increasing the choices for customers, as per ISWAI.

As divulged earlier re Duty-reduction time-frame, ISWAI has stated, “We have recommended that import duties should see an immediate rationalisation of 75 per cent from the current 150 per cent as soon as the FTA is signed. Furthermore, we have suggested the duties be reduced and brought down to anywhere between 30-50 percent over a period of time.” However, one concern that continues to trouble the industry is the fact that alcohol is a state subject in India, and any relief that may be available at the FTA level may get wiped out or diluted in different state tariffs. Currently, Haryana allows the sale of certain prominent Scotch Whisky brands at the lowest prices in the world, relying largely on bulk and economies of scale.


Chivas Brothers, the Scotch whisky business of French distiller Pernod Ricard, said there should be a level playing field in the India-UK free trade agreement (FTA) that will not just result in higher Scotch consumption in India but also fuel surging demand for Indian whisky globally. But, of the two global leaders in the Scotch Market, Diageo and Pernod Ricard, the latter is hogging the news for the wrong reasons.

“Scotch whisky in India is very, very heavily taxed at 150%. On the contrary, Indian whisky in the UK is not taxed at all. So, I think it's a bit of an unbalanced situation between the two right now," said Global Chairman and CEO Jean-Etienne Gourgues, whose company sells the three prominent brands mentioned supra. Diageo owns 200 brands, with sales in over 180 countries, including the world’s best-selling Scotch whisky brand Johnnie Walker. One could expect to see other brands like Buchanan's 12 YO, Grand Old Parr 12 YO, Talisker, Lagavulin and more.

While demand for Scotch in India has doubled over the past two years, a higher portion of them is imported in bulk, used to make bottled-in-India scotch and premium Indian whisky brands. Export of single malt whisky and premium blended Scotch whisky (Age stated, usually 12 years old and older) is not permitted in any form other than bottled in Scotland, with such provenance clearly visible on the label and carton.


From tax notices to allegations of illegally boosting market share, French liquor giant Pernod Ricard is facing several business and regulatory challenges in India, one of its key growth markets. The maker of Chivas Regal and Absolut vodka is the second-largest spirits company globally and in India. It accounts for 17% of the alcohol market by volume in India, where it competes with the likes of Diageo.

Pernod has since last year been under the scanner of India's Enforcement Directorate as part of an investigation into how retailers, manufacturers and politicians allegedly colluded to illegally profit from the 2021 auction of liquor retail licences in New Delhi.

The capital city's liquor policy prohibited manufacturers from participating in retail sales, directly or indirectly, but Pernod was "in contravention" as it effectively used bank guarantees to invest in retailers, the agency says. Pernod Ricard India said it strongly denies the allegations of the directorate, adding that it "will continue to fully cooperate with the Indian authorities in this matter."

On the tax front, the spirits giant is facing a near $250 million federal demand for allegedly undervaluing imports for over a decade to avoid full payment of duties. India's customs authority, in a court filing last year called the company a "habitual litigant" and accused it of a conspiracy "to defraud the Government of India of its legitimate revenue." Pernod, which challenged the demand, says it has "always endeavoured to act with full transparency and in compliance with customs and regulatory requirements."

Market Share Jumps: In exchange for financial support by Pernod, New Delhi retailers who received the loans "had to ensure" that 35% of the stocks in their shops would be Pernod products, the investigating agency said in its documents. It said its agents questioned HSBC and Pernod executives during the investigation. As select retailers got loans with Pernod's support and stocked more of its products, the liquor giant's market share rose from 15% to 35%, the agency said.

The arrangement "establishes a clear intention of Pernod Ricard to indulge in brand pushing and (to) gain illegitimate market share," said one of the agency's documents late last year. Pernod did not comment on these specific allegations.

The Response: Pernod says that since 1994, its tax disputes have made it tough to do business in the country. In a letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2021, the company said that "ever-lasting litigation has been a big strain on our ease of doing business and has inhibited fresh investment by our group headquartered in Paris (France) for expansion of business in India." Pernod says it has been in dialogue with Indian authorities as it looks at finding a swift resolution to the matter. In July 2022, Pernod wrote a letter to the federal tax authority stating it was "facing significant business ccontinuity challenges" and that operational challenges were choking its supply chain.


India's alcohol market is heavily regulated and Pernod - like much of the industry - has been concerned about the 150% tax imposed on imported liquor. In April last year, the company urged the government to drop the tax it said poses a "large challenge" for Pernod Ricard and puts many of its drinks out of reach of consumers.

Pernod's revenue from operations in India stood at $2.4 billion in 2020-21, but taxes and duties - which includes federal, import and state levies - accounted for 79% of that. Its India net profit for the year stood at only $130 million, a relatively minuscule profit margin.

“We have a number of single malts in Scotland, but not all of them are present for the time being in India,” Jean-Etienne Gourgues, Chivas’ chairman and chief executive officer, said in an interview.  

The company’s Secret Speyside single malts, for instance, aren’t sold in India. “We have a number of single malts in Scotland, but not all of them are present for the time being in India,” Gourgues added. Gourgues, however, declined to share details on brands that might be introduced in the country. Glenlivet, in its many avatars, should soon be seen in India.

There is a noticeable trend even within the overwhelming growth in the whisky segment — scotch sales have shown a bigger jump in volumes even as the lower-end whisky brands show a consistent growth because of the already large base of sales. Overall, scotch whisky sales have nearly doubled in India, with the wealthier middle class shifting to pricier drinks.

Pernod Ricard’s premium segment, which includes high-end brands such as Chivas Regal, Glenlivet and Royal Salute, showed a 50 per cent growth in volumes between 2021 and 2022. Other origin whiskies, such as Jameson, showed a growth of 79 per cent in the same period, while the lower-end whisky admix premium grew at 21 per cent between 2021 and 2022.


Drawing from Australia’s experience with an interim FTA, where India reduced the customs duty on premium segments for wine, there is a push from the domestic industry for an MIP of US$5 for each 750 ml bottle. However, it is speculated that India might agree to an MIP of US$4 per bottle, which could lead to a potential influx of Scotch imports from the UK.

Domestic players are now concerned that such a move might have adverse effects, potentially leading to the displacement of several homegrown brands and IMFL products. There are some fears that foreign players with bottling units in India might not invest in fresh capacity and may even reduce existing capacity, negatively impacting employment in the industry.

In fact, analysts report that even a US$1 difference in MIP – from US$5 to US$4 – would see a significant increase in the shipment of popular whisky imports like Aberlour, Arran, Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, Brora, Deanston, Glen Garioch, Fettercairn, Glendronach, Glenmorangie, Glenfarclas, Highland Park, Tobermory, Tomatin, Springbank, Tamdhu, Tamnavulin and scores more.





Friday 29 September 2023



Chivas Brothers Holdings, officially on record as Chivas Brothers Ltd., is the Pernod Ricard alcohol segment dedicated entirely to Scotch whisky. It manages, among others, the Chivas Regal brand of Blended Scotch Whiskies, has its headquarters at Paisley, near Glasgow, and operates 14 Scottish malt distilleries, all located in the Speyside area – apart from Scapa on Orkney – along with Strathclyde grain distillery in the Gorbals District of Glasgow.

Its Chivas Regal 12 YO premium Blended Scotch Whisky was at the second spot globally in this category and behind Johnnie Walker Black Label in terms of volume sold till 2014, but has been moving up and down the table, losing ground to other brands, was sixth last year and now lies fifth. Judging by giant German budget supermarkets Aldi and Lidl Scotch Whisky standards, the brand is rather expensive, but invariably very close to the eponymous Black Label. That said, the Black Label is always on some kind of promotion across the globe, with Chivas Regal matching it stride for stride. A 75Cl bottle at 43% ABV is available in the State of Haryana, India at £21, discounted to £19 per on purchase of a case of 12 bottles, lower than most Duty-Free prices across the globe.

What is not generally known is that the Chivas Brothers company came into being only in 1857, when John Chivas joined his elder brother James in his grocery, wine shop and luxury goods emporium in Aberdeen. John, who had been working at a footwear and apparel wholesale company, DL Shirres and Co. Aberdeen since 1838 had risen in status to become a partner there. His Chivas entry, again as a partner, came about after the exit of James’ hitherto partner, Charles Stewart, who left after a tiff over blending malt and grain whiskies covertly and illegally when holding a Royal Warrant. Chivas' records blandly state that the split took place because Charles was unhappy with James' domineering attitude and sold off his half to join another company in the same business. This was strange, because James was well known and popular for his 'can do, will do' approach to all customers, no matter how odd the demand. The company known as Chivas Brothers officially appeared for the first time in the 1858–1859  Aberdeen Directory. It would appear there for over a century. John died early at only 48, in 1862 and James at 75 in 1886.

In 1854, at age 44, James met and married Joyce Clapperton. They had four children, Julia Abercrombie, Alexander James, Williamina Joyce and Charles James. When James died, his Will stipulated that his wife and all four children be given £ 5,000 each. To their horror, they found this impossible due to lack of money and settled instead for a monthly packet of £ 100 each for five years, overcoming stiff resistance by the shiftless Charles James who had met and married one Emma Grosskopf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

The last actively connected Chivas family member, James' son Alexander Chivas, died in 1893, and control was handed over to two temporary directors, Messrs Smith and Taylor, while matters were resolved in the incredibly haphazard, dishonest and unscrupulous market of Scottish/ Scotch whisky. For example, there was no statute on the age factor of Blended Whisky, forcing customers to rely entirely on the vendor’s statement. The first ever law on such age statements started as The Immature Spirits (Restriction) Act 1915, which required the ageing of both grain and malt-based alcohol in barrels for at least 2 years in a Bonded Warehouse, quickly extended to 3 years later that same year, while charging holding taxes on a quarterly basis.

The statement on both the carton and bottle 'From 1801' is without foundation. The Chivas brothers in question, James and John, weren’t even born then. It is quite probably a legal loophole that is being exploited. James Chivas’ first sniff of whisky came when he was 28 years old, in 1838, when he joined William Edward, fine grocer and wine seller, in his first job as a full-time hired employee. This fine grocery business, which was destined for fame under another name, had been founded in 1801 by John Forrest at 47 Castle Street, Aberdeen. Forrest died in 1828 and Edward, his manager, bought the company from the bereaved family and registered himself as a grocer, wine, and spirits purveyor and provision merchant, one of 209 others in Aberdeen, besides 193 vintners. Edward soon bought the cellar, 46 Castle Street as he expanded. He then added a portfolio as a “total service merchant” for Aberdeen’s thriving wealthy citizens, acting as an employment agency for domestic help, which type of work was his forte and something the dashing James would later revel in and establish numerous contacts.

The business continued to expand with time, and 49 Castle Street replaced the smaller premises at 47 Castle Street. In 1837, Edward, seeking even larger quarters to house his newly added retail and service placement businesses, moved uptown to a fashionable location at 13, King's Street. James Chivas, hired in 1838, rose to minor partner that very year, with almost total control over the wines and spirits department, as Edward was struck with a 'palsy' and died overseas just three years later in Madeira in March '41. As Edward had died intestate, his legacy went under judicial probate. In this indistinct period for business out of those premises, James left and joined a similar victuals provender, Charles Stewart as junior partner, registering themselves as Stewart and Chivas, 39 Woolmanhill Street. They bought the vacant 13, King Street property available post-probate later that year and relocated there as a “One-stop-shop.”

James Chivas remained the sole common partner/owner till his death. The company, when known as Edward and Chivas (1838-41) and later Stewart and Chivas (1841-57), had furthered the ex-Forrest company's reputation for excellence from the extravagant shop at 13 King Street and obtained a Royal Warrant to supply luxury goods to Queen Victoria in 1843. Between 1843-51, they expanded further and added 9,11 and 23 King Street. James purchased 21 King Street as his residence.

The Forbes-Mackenzie Act permitting vatting of whiskies when in a bonded warehouse was passed in 1853, with a proviso that the bonded warehouse would be no further than one-quarter mile from a town. A larger variety of blended malts were now available to vendors to sell. Initially open to selling outsourced Blended Malt whiskies that met their stringent quality standards, they moved up to blending, ageing and selling proprietary deluxe malt whiskies starting in 1854.

Privy then through Andrew Usher—a major brewer but small-time distiller and sales agent for George Smith's The Drumin Glenlivat (sic) of King George IV's 1822 demand fame, who had outreach into the corridors of power—to PM Henry J Temple’s tacit approval of his Chancellor of the Exchequer William Gladstone's plan to permit the blending of malt and grain whisky in bond by 1860 under the Spirits Act (often called the Scotch Whisky Act of 1860), James started to secretly blend malt and grain whisky as suggested by Usher and requested by his customers, aiming to create a proprietary aged blend by 1860. This Act, when published, was surprisingly limited to distillers and brewers only, benefiting Usher but not James. It took a further three years till grocers could carry out the blending of such "spirituous liquors" in Bond on-premises and sale under their own label legally, under an Extension to the tariff-related Anglo-French Cobden-Chevalier Treaty of 1860. In this period, many other grocers and wines & spirits merchants got set to enter the business full-time—John Walker, George Ballantine, Peter Thomson of Beneagles, William Teacher and the Berry brothers are good examples. Matthew Gloag of the Famous Grouse was to follow much later.

From 1864 spirit strength could be reduced using water in approved warehouses, and 1867 saw the bottling of whisky for domestic consumption in bonded warehouses. The blending boom, which would really take off during the 1870s, was a growing interest in malt whiskies distilled in what is now called the Speyside region of production in north-east Scotland, specifically an 80 sq miles tract lying between Tomnavoulin and Ballindaloch that was usually referred to in the 19th century as ‘Glenlivet.’ Their favourite whisky was Scotland's first Single Malt, GJ Smith's The Glenlivet. This brand soldiered on as it was found too mild in an era of heavy,complex and dense Blended Malt.

Their most popular malt whiskies were:
  • Magna Charta Blended Malt Scotch, 5-Year-Old (initially outsourced, but bought in 1858).
  • Royal Glen Dee Blended Malt Scotch, 6-Year-Old (in-house).
  • Royal Glendee Blended Malt Scotch, 8-Year-Old (in-house).
When the company was dissolved in 1857 and renamed Chivas Brothers Holdings with the advent of John Chivas, new ideas and concepts came to fruition. Using the cellar beneath their emporium as a part workshop, they conducted experiments in blending ageing whiskies to move upmarket en bloc and entice an upper-class word-of-mouth clientele with a smooth, rich and expensive whisky experience. The three popular malts supra were then given a re-look, i.e., replaced, improved or renamed, with a concomitant increase in selling price. Another blended Malt whisky was added, the 8-YO Chivas Brothers Old Highland Whisky to mark the arrival of John Chivas as a partner. This brand was discontinued after John’s untimely demise.

In 1854, Edwards and Chivas launched their first self-owned Blended Malt Scotch for local consumption, the Royal Glen Dee, followed by other proprietary Blended Malt Scotch Whiskies. In 1857, they switched to quarter-gallon (quart, 1.132 L) tall bottles. Most blended Malt whiskies were between 60-65% ABV! Chivas Brothers' first Blended Scotch whisky, the Royal Strathythan was launched in 1863. The grain Scotch added along with water brought the ABV down below 50%, a not unpleasant outcome. They gradually realised that a good diluted Grain Scotch whisky would help soften and marry the heavy malts and could be used in volumes that would bring down the overall strength of the whisky, which, surprisingly, tasted smoother and far more flavoursome at 46-50% ABV. By 1900, Chivas Brothers had six in-house blended whiskies on their books: 
  • Chivas Old Vat Blended Malt Scotch 5-Year-Old which had replaced in 1895 the outsourced and then acquired in 1858 Magna Charta and was made with better malts.
  • Royal Glen Dee Blended Malt Scotch 6-Year-Old, but allowed to fade out in 1885.
  • Royal Glendee Reserve Blended Malt Scotch 8-Year-Old, improved by blending some of the select malts used for the fading 6-Year-Old which had now aged two years more with better malts from the wider range available.
  • Royal Glen Gaudie Blended Malt Scotch 8-Year-Old, Master Blender Charles Stewart Howard's- ex J&G Stewart- first contribution, blended in 1894 at 48% ABV and targeted at the local market and then at the promising market in Australia: Popular in Australia.
  • Royal Strathythan Blended Scotch 10-Year-Old: Popular in the US and Australia.
  • Royal Loch Nevis Blended Scotch 20-Year-Old: Very popular in the US.
The last actively occupied Chivas family member, Alexander, died of a throat fungal infection in 1893 aged 37 and his wife Alyce died of the same malady three days later, not out of shock and broken everlasting love, as romanticists would have us believe. Two temporary directors, Alexander Smith and Taylor, kept control till Alexander Chivas’s mother Joyce and two sisters Julia and Williamina and the Board of Trustees could meet to discuss the future course of action. They agreed that control of the company would be exercised by Alexander Smith, close friend, aide and confidante of the late Alexander Chivas and their Master Blender, Charles Stewart Howard. In 1895, Smith and Howard told the Board of Trustees that they wished to buy them and the distaff side of the Chivas family out. The offer was accepted with the one proviso that the brand would remain (and has remained) unchanged as Chivas Brothers, a Ltd. company till this day. In doing so, they neglected any rights Alexander Chivas’s younger but shiftless brother Charles James Joyce Chivas- a bête noire, mistakenly called James Jr elsewhere, banished to the USA-had in the matter of succession. Charles Chivas died in 1908 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Chivas had agents incessantly assessing market conditions in the US through the 1890s. The marketing team reported a rapidly booming economy in the US which was looking for luxury. In 1900, Howard decided to create a new blend that would pay tribute to the legacy of the founding brothers, James and John. Using select malts from the Royal Loch Nevis and other aged malts procured from the Highlands and Campbeltown, Howard found a malt-dominated recipe fitting the bill. Introducing the term ‘Regal’ for the first time ever, Howard created in 1909, all of 9 years later, what he believed to be the finest whisky ever made, a 25-year-old whisky called Chivas Regal that met all regulatory parameters for bottling and labelling as the oldest Blended Scotch Whisky of its era, establishing it as the world’s first and oldest luxury whisky. The ABV was deliberately reduced to 46% to make it an excellent base for a Highball. It made its debut in a specially designed heavy green glass bottle — with gold and silver trimmings as well as a cork made in Portugal — in the USA to a glamorous reception in 1909.

Chivas Regal Blended Scotch 25 YO met with resounding success. Ironically, no member of the Chivas family had, or would ever have, any connection with this ultra-premium successful blend, or, for that matter, its substitute in later days, the 12 YO. The basic price was a steep 38 shillings per gallon, eight more than that of Royal Loch Nevis and 15 more than The Glenlivet 12 YO, which was destined to become USA’s leading Single Malt after WW II. It was all one-way street for the Chivas Regal, from 1909 till end 1914, when WW I started to become a sluggish long drawn affair (1914-18). Existing stocks were exhausted quickly as demand outstripped supply. Shipping lanes to the USA closed down and Chivas Bros switched to building reserves at home.

WW I was to hurt most brands across Scotland, particularly exporters to the USA, and Chivas was no exception. The war did not hamper the production of its two aged brands as the malt whiskies required were over 20/25 years and older, and stock held in reserve was adequate. There was no requirement for fresh barley or other grains, the use of which for liquor had been severely restricted if not almost banned by the Govt to cater for daily living. This limitation led to the production of whiskies with ABVs between 40-43%. Huge stocks in barrels were piled up in anticipation of large-scale export to the USA as soon as the war ended. Production of the Royal Loch Nevis was shrewdly slowed down in phases to shift all focus to the flagship brand. Sadly, an extended unhappy period lay in store for the Chivas Regal 25 in the form of the US Prohibition (1920-33) that followed immediately after WW I, catching the company totally unaware in terms of stock, and the unrelated deaths of both its senior partners in 1935. For the standard and inexpensive at-home Blended Scotch brands, Prohibition was a godsend.

The surviving partner William Mitchell, unable to handle Chivas Brothers, sold off the entire holdings to whisky brokers Morrison & Lundie in 1936 on an 'as is' basis. Well stocked, Morrison decided that it was far too onerous to maintain aged barrels of whisky. They wound up the Loch Nevis and reduced the production of the Chivas 25 drastically, resulting in its withdrawal as their standard-bearer and ultimate demise. They disposed off most of the aged stock in a greedy market to recover their cost of investment in no time. Morrison & Lundie sold the Chivas Brand for just £85,000 to Canadian Samuel Bronfman’s (1889-1971)Seagram Limited Company, who switched his attention to a 12 YO premium brand, a decision that would be seen as wise a lustrum later, when WW II (1939-1945) broke out in Europe, 4,000 miles from the USA. 1939 saw the debut of Chivas Regal 12 YO in the USA at what was to become a global standard proof value of 75°, i.e., 42.8% ABV (86° proof in USA).

By now, the 12 Years Old status had become a definitive attribute of a premium whisky and the Chivas Regal 12 YO was an immediate success in the USA. Sadly, this was to turn out a very short-lived flash in the pan. Things were quite different across the pond. In the shaky post-war economy, with no barley to make whisky, the industry had stalled in Scotland. The USA suffered in its wake and Chivas Regal went off the market and was soon forgotten. Samuel Bronfman had been tracking Morrison & Lundie, having bought some of the aged whisky barrels that they had earlier disposed off. These would come in handy later when the Royal Salute luxury whisky brand would emerge in 1953 as a 21 YO tribute to the ascent of Queen Elizabeth to the throne. In 1945, there were NO 12 YO Blended Scotch Whiskies except in the USA! The Glenlivet had 12 YO whiskies in the UK, but these were single malts. WW II had brought in many curbs and Blended Scotch whisky had suffered. The Chivas Regal 12 YO had to be imported from the USA, for a grand comeback, whereas other blenders had to wait for another three years.

Bronfman was on the lookout for a distillery as a home base. His agent found one in 1950 called the Milton(aka Miltown) Distillery at Strathisla, Keith. The owner, one George (Jay) Pomeroy, a known scoundrel, wanted an astronomical sum, so Bronfman backed off. But the owner was jailed that year for fraud and Milton (aka Miltown) Distillery was put up for auction. Seagram purchased Milton for £71,000 at a public auction in Aberdeen in April 1950. This purchase was the second time Milton Distillery had changed hands in a public auction. 

Bronfman changed its name to Strathisla, as its water came from the river Isla, pronounced exactly as the peat haven of Islay. He had unknowingly struck gold as Strathisla distillery housed a vast amount of ageing whiskies underground, both malt and grain, mainly the Strathisla Old Highland Malt Whiskies, and another warehouse beneath the Glasgow railway yard, all between 6 & 10 YO. He then needed a good Master Blender and hijacked the Master Blender of J&B, the preeminent Charles Julian, who revealed that with the huge quantity of whiskies available at his new home, he could produce a superb 12 YO, only by 1954, but in great and annually repeating volumes. This was kept secret since Bronfman wanted to make headlines with the first deluxe 12 YO Scotch whisky after the War. Seagram employees were made to feel that Bronfman, an overly dynamic, brash and irascible man, seemed to be at odds and ends, juggling various whisky brands to keep the cash flow alive.

In the spring of 1954 and after an absence of over five years in the marketplace, Distillers Corporation-Seagrams Ltd. rolled out in grandeur the Chivas Regal 12-year-old Blended Scotch Whisky in the United States. This also kept British authorities happy with export income. Chivas Regal 12 YO sold at $8.00 per 750 ml bottle, vs the $3.5-5.0 for lesser whiskies in the 'fine' and 'rare' categories. It was also sparingly sold in the UK soon thereafter.

Bronfman’s shrewd philosophy of sale was an artificial creation of a shortage: The early advertising strategies devised by Sam Bronfman and his team for marketing and promoting Chivas Regal was to create the illusion of overwhelming demand for Chivas Regal in a time of acute shortage. “What assets do we have? Its [Chivas Regal] label is terrible but seems genuine. We have a Royal Warrant, and own one of the oldest operating distilleries in the Scottish Highlands, but to what avail? Only time will tell.” This was the initial refrain making the rounds in both the USA and the UK.

In the USA 1953-54, Sam’s advertising agency created and ran multi-page, full-colour ads in upmarket magazines and key trade publications. The flashy inserts heralded the coming of Chivas Regal. Full-colour free booklets that told the Chivas Regal story were sent to thousands of intrigued consumers across the country. Sales staff were to tease distributors by selling them only small amounts of Chivas Regal when it came, thereby instigating an instant “shortage” as soon as Chivas Regal hit the streets, a brilliant move. Bronfman wilfully told distributors, salesmen and retailers that there would never be enough Chivas Regal. He wanted them to get a fast turnover and come back for more. People always wanted what they couldn’t get.

He wrote to 200,000+ moneyed men, “As a connoisseur in this class, I urge you to visit your pub or spirit shop and to ask for a bottle of Chivas Regal, which, though very limited in quantity, will be reserved for you, who appreciates the best in Scotch whisky.” His ad agency devised a series of “shortage crisis” print ads disclosing the deficit situation of Chivas Regal. Consumers were asked to show ‘patience’ while more Chivas Regal was being produced and matured across the Atlantic and their wait wouldn’t be overly long. All such statements were patently false, a shrewd marketing strategy. 

The “CR shortage” strategy worked better than expected. Distributors quickly ran out of Chivas Regal and immediately reordered, but were then only given another carefully meted out case amount. Retailers placed Chivas Regal on strict allocation exclusively to their best, most affluent clientele because “The best people in town were talking about Chivas Regal. . . . Styles start at the top and percolate downward...” The perceived, if hollow, scarcity snowballed into a minor feeding frenzy for Chivas Regal in the major US markets throughout 1954 and 1955. The backbone single malt in the Chivas Regal family was the Strathisla, buttressed by Glenlivet and rounded off with Braeval and Longmorn. Other malts were added to maintain consistency in flavour and taste.

Bronfman decided to finance Chivas as its whisky and gin producing arm, with the Chivas Regal 12 YO Blended Scotch Whisky bringing in the money from across the globe, bar the Middle East, soon to become a new and growing oil-spawned market. Since Bronfman was Jewish, the Seagram brands, including Chivas Regal, were not seen in the Middle East until 2001 and firmly under Pernod Ricard patronage. Phipson's Black Dog 12 YO Blended Scotch, an 1889 product that ruled the roost over the Australasian half of the British Empire up to 1983 gave way to Haig's Dimple 12 YO, and Diageo's Johnnie Walker Black Label thereafter.

In 1957 a ‘sister’ distillery named Glen Keith was constructed close to Strathisla, while thirty racked warehouses at Keith Bond were developed as a maturation and blending facility, slowly being expanded as time passed. The 100 Pipers blended Scotch whisky was created at Glen Keith, to match both Cutty Sark and J&B in the USA. Growth of whisky sales during the 1970s led Chivas to construct Allt-a-Bhainne and Braes of Glenlivet (1973). The latter dropped the Glenlivet suffix in 1994 to become Braeval distillery, all providing additional malt capacity.

In the next 25 years, Aberlour, Glenallachie, Edradour, The Glenlivet, Glen Grant and Longmorn distilleries were brought into their fold by Seagram. Benriach joined its fold for just two years and was hived off as it was found complex for Chivas' classic style of blending.

Their prize catch was a controlling stake in The Glenlivet Distillers Ltd in 1978, for which Edgar, the eldest son of late Samuel Bronfman paid £46 million (~ $88 million at the time). Its sister distillery Glen Grant was also acquired, allowing him to aggressively market a 5 YO Glen Grant in Italy and simultaneously insert Chivas Regal into that market. The valuable lessons learnt when promoting the Glen Keith malts assisted Strathisla product 100 Pipers in the USA to counter the Cutty Sark and J&B Rare were employed here.

Today, Seagram is part of Pernod Ricard and Chivas Brothers is the second-largest Scotch whisky company after Diageo. This perplexing statement reflects how fortunes fluctuate in the liquor industry.

In 1994, Edgar Bronfman handed over control to his eldest son, Edgar Jr who had little interest in whisky, preferring the glamour of the cinematic world. He led Chivas Regal into almost total ruin with a series of appalling decisions, despite sane advice to the contrary. His worst experiment ever was the “Chivas DeDanu,” a specially concocted blend geared for younger drinkers in Italy. It failed on Day 1. To the shock of old-time Seagram money managers the world over, the dim-witted Edgar Jr sold their entire blue chip 24% Du Pont holding in 1995 at a price 13 % lower than the market rate. Commentators said, “Buying Du Pont was the deal of the century; selling it was the dumbest deal of the century.”

The epigram "from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations" was proved.

He moved the excellent Something Special 12 and 15 YO Blends out of Asia into South America, where it rose immediately to No 1, later settling as No 3 when the Something Special 12 YO went NAS. In his mind, entertainment was “in” and booze was “out.” He spent $5.6 billion on MCA Inc., which made movies and operated theme parks. In October 1999, he along with Jean-Marie Messier, the blustery top manager at Vivendi, the French water and utility firm, formed a dubious bond that would on December 8, 2000, resulting in the ill-fated union of Seagram and Vivendi. Edgar traded the family’s controlling stake in Seagram for what amounted to less than 9% of Vivendi and the two giant companies evolved into a single corporate entity, the Vivendi Universal. In August 2002, Vivendi Universal went bust and Bronfman was on the street, easy pickings for Pernod Ricard S.A. of France and Diageo plc of the UK. It retained its name, Chivas Brothers, as promised almost a century ago.

It officially opened its latest state-of-the-art malt distillery, Dalmunach (situated on the site of the mothballed Imperial Distillery) at Carron near the River Spey in June 2015, increasing malt whisky distillation capacity by 17% as Dalmunach is capable of producing up to 10 million litres per year. Pernod Ricard’s ownership had the following distilleries and their products in its bag:
  • Aberlour: Speyside Single Malt (SMS) Scotch Whisky
  • Allt-a-Bhainne: Speyside SMS Whisky
  • Braeval: Speyside SMS Whisky
  • Caperdonich: Speyside SMS Whisky (Glen Grant No. 2), mothballed in 2002. Still provides very old single malt whiskies, though.  
  • Dalmunach: Speyside SMS Whisky
  • Glen Keith: Speyside SMS Whisky, which also produced the double-peated Craigduff SMS Whisky, never released as a distillery offering. Chivas insists, however, that Craigduff was made at Strathclyde.
  • GlenAllachie: Speyside SMS Whisky
  • Glenburgie: Speyside SMS Whisky
  • Glentauchers: Speyside SMS Whisky
  • Longmorn: Speyside SMS Whisky. Key component of Chivas Regal and Something Special. Something Special was very popular in India, and Chivas Bros, sensing a potential conflict with Chivas Regal, had Seagram move Something Special out to South America in 1980, where it met with instant success.
  • Miltonduff: Speyside SMS Whisky, key component of Chivas Regal. Also produced Mosstowie SMS Whisky.
  • Strathisla: Speyside SMS Whisky, key component of Chivas Regal.
  • The Glenlivet: Speyside SMS Whisky
  • Tormore: Speyside SMS Whisky
  • Strathclyde: Lowland Single Grain Scotch Whisky, key component of Chivas Regal.
  • Glenugie: Highland SMS Whisky, shut down in 1983, but provides diminishing stock of very aged whiskies for the 30-YO plus category, like Chivas Brothers’ Deoch an Doras range and Royal Salute 32, 38, 50 and 62 YO.
  • Scapa: Islands SMS Whisky
The Chivas Regal 25-Year-Old, designed to woo the high societies of the US, had a higher malt content than the other blends of the time, its intention being to offer a more sophisticated and complex palate to its rivals. The malt content was 65% and the grain 35%. Since then, with tighter cask management by its owner, Chivas Brothers, the flagship expression 12-year-old has a lower malt content than its predecessor, believed to be ~40% Malt, ~60% Grain.

The typically Speyside character of the blend’s malt constituent displays as green apples and orchard fruits; the palate is smooth, sweet honey, applesauce, and hazelnut making way for creamy vanilla, wet sand and heather; the finish has a mild but ephemeral hint of cereal sweetness, while the heather and sea salt linger nicely and dry across the palate. Its excellent grain content lends a honeyed sweetness and does not turn bitter and splattered after a while. 

All its malts are from Speyside. There is no Islay, Lowland or Highland Malt as erroneously stated by some well-meaning writers. The core single malt is Strathisla, a dominant Speysider; the other major malts are Longmorn, Miltonduff; Braes Glenlivet aka Braeval; Glen Keith, Allt-a-Bhainne, Aberlour, The Glenlivet and GlenAllachie. The grain is from Strathclyde, the only ingredient not from Speyside, as it is a Lowlands Grain WhiskyEach distillery can contribute more than one Single Malt Whisky; Strathisla provides up to five to six strains while Longmorn and Miltonduff provide up to three to four each. The Strathclyde provides all desired Single Grain whiskies. The exact recipe is something to kill for.

In view of the falling sales, the Ad Agency was changed, the bottle was changed from dark green to clear glass to accentuate the striking tawny-amber colour of Chivas Regal and a new ad followed. The headline read: ‘What Idiot Changed the Chivas Regal Package?’ The copy explained the reasons (you could now see the whisky, etc, etc). Its conclusion: ‘Maybe the Idiot Was a Genius.’” This one ad turned a fading Chivas Regal into the shining star it is today.

In 1958, Chivas Brothers closed both the King Street and the Union Place shops and moved to a new retail location at 387-391 Union Street. The new site included a restaurant, called Chivas Brothers. In early 1960, a bar called the Crusader Bar was opened. The restaurant turned into a popular meeting place for well-to-do Aberdonians throughout the 1960s and 1970s. On January 31, 1980, Chivas Brothers closed down for good and has never reopened.


Interestingly, Strathisla has its own 12 YO Single Malt and Strathclyde its own 12 YO Single Grain, both under the Chivas Regal label, and sold as the Chivas Distillery Collection.







As the 20th century came to a close, work intensified on at a stepped up pace in the vast Scotch Whisky empire, as more and more millennials came of drinking age. Anticipating the boom, the fifth Master Blender at Chivas Brothers, Colin Scott, with the help of then Deputy Master Blender Sandy Hyslop and his wide expertise in blending, particularly Single and Blended Malts, set about creating new whiskies for the international market, while retaining tight control over the flagship 12 Year Old. Under a sustained push by Pernod Ricard, the 12 YO blend was allowed in the Middle East and quickly moved into the vast market that it controlled, including lands as far afield as India and China. 

The new blends introduced by the Chivas family to the market were the Chivas Regal Extra, Chivas Regal Mizunara, Chivas Regal 18 YO, the Chivas Regal Ultis- a blended Malt, the Chivas Regal Extra 13 in four separate moulds, 15 Single Malts from four famous but quiet distilleries, the Chivas Regal 25 YO in 2007 and the Chivas Regal 15 YO in 2019. Surprisingly, the Chivas 18 is rated higher than the much older Royal Salute. The relaunch of the 25 YO in the USA was a sentimental moment for Chivas Bros, as Master Blender Colin Scott released the very first bottle on 28 September 2007 in New York, 98 years after its global debut in the USA.

Chivas has unveiled a fresh new look for its flagship blend - the biggest redesign in Chivas’ 113-year history, in a re-evaluation of what luxury looks like. Chivas 12 has undergone an extensive redesign of its bottle, label, and pack to usher in a striking new look that blends boldness, modernity, and status while still flexing the luxury and distinguished heritage long associated with Chivas. The iconic Chivas 12 bottle has been reshaped and elongated to stand taller and prouder while still retaining its recognisable rounded shoulders, while shedding weight. A redesigned crest shines a light on the beating heart of Chivas – the ‘luckenbooth’. The outer box has undergone a complete renewal with a vibrant burgundy replacing the familiar silver and gold tones as the principal colour scheme. The package retains the intricate detailing and textured finish loved by Chivas fans worldwide.
The Icon: Chivas Regal The Icon is the pinnacle of the Chivas range. This blend is made up of more than 20 of Scotland’s rarest whiskies, some of which come from ghost distilleries now lost forever, making their products extremely rare and incredibly exclusive. Coveted by whisky aficionados the world over, these precious rare malts are blended together and matured to craft a timeless expression released in highly limited qualities every year. Each decanter used for Chivas The Icon is hand-blown and hand-finished by dedicated master craftsmen at Dartington Crystal. The artistry ensures a sublime finish reminiscent of the iconic green Chivas Regal bottle that captivated high society over a century ago. The crystal decanter carries an intricately designed metal Chivas Regal logo, and an exquisite heavy stopper bearing the Chivas luckenbooth, an ancient Scottish symbol of love, which embodies the Chivas’ love for Scotch whisky.

Though a NAS whisky, it has often been quoted as a 25 YO and a decanter recently auctioned by Sotheby’s was a 50 YO, distilled in 1968 and bottled in 2018, in memory of Manchester United’s European Cup final victory in 1968. Do note that there is no reference to the Royal Salute family, which comes from a totally disparate genre.


In March 2020, Chivas launched the Chivas Extra 13 collection: a range of four 13 year old whiskies that deliver extra flavour with the addition of one of four casks during the whisky-making process: Oloroso Sherry, Rum, American Rye, and Tequila.

The new collection was inspired by pioneering whisky blenders and founding brothers James and John Chivas who imported rums, exotic spices, and luxury food items from across the globe to their emporium at 13 King Street, Aberdeen. Each additional cask brought into the maturation or finishing process imparts its own unique combination of characteristics onto the Chivas blend, bringing a number of new flavour notes to the spirit for the first time:

– Chivas Extra 13 Oloroso Sherry Cask: the selective Oloroso Sherry cask maturation delivers a richer finish, with hints of sweet ripe pears in syrup, vanilla caramel, cinnamon sweets and almonds.

– Chivas Extra 13 Rum Cask: the selective Rum cask finish delivers a sweet finish with rich flavours of juicy orange, sweet apricot jam and honey offset by warm and spicy cinnamon flavours.

– Chivas Extra 13 American Rye Cask: the selective American Rye cask finish delivers an exceptionally smooth and mellow finish, with flavours of sweet and juicy orange and creamy milk chocolate.

– Chivas Extra 13 Tequila Cask: the selective Tequila cask finish delivers a sweet and round finish, with hints of grapefruit and pineapple.

With each new expression featuring artwork by renowned street artist Greg Gossel, Chivas has once again established new boundaries of traditional Scotch whisky with a fresh approach to pack design – blending images from its history with contemporary designs celebrating each finishing cask’s vibrant heritage. The four new whiskies rolled out globally in select markets from March, with the Chivas Extra 13 Rum Cask available exclusively via travel retail outlets from July that year. 



 In 2016, Chivas produced their first blended malt after the 1894 Royal Glen Gaudie in the form of Chivas Regal Ultis. Ultis is presented in a snazzy bottle, housed in a snazzy box and has some snazzy marketing behind it - a story of the five master blenders who have preserved the Chivas house style since 1895.

The single malts used in Chivas Ultis are:

  • Tormore: Presenting the palate with rich citrus orange notes.
  • Longmorn: Revealing a creamy smooth vanilla toffee character.
  • Strathisla: The heart of every Chivas whisky, full of malty and fruity charm with a subtle sweetness.
  • Allt-a-Bhainne: Bringing balance in the form of spice and malt, adding subtlety to the blend.
  • Braeval: Displaying a complex floral scent with green notes.

The five blenders: Charles Howard (of the first ever Chivas Regal blend, the luxurious 25 YO of 1909 fame), Charles Julian, Allan Baille, Jimmy Laing and Colin Scott (current Master Blender) are honoured in several ways with Ultis; visually, the bottle has five etched rings around the closure, as well as a giant embossed V on the bottom of the bottle; spirit-wise, five different single malts have been selected. While the actual constituents in terms of volumes and ages are not specified, it is known that all five are close to the 20 YO mark. It’s not cheap either at £170. Sadly, this is a listless 40% ABV whisky in a 70 CL bottle. It is fading into oblivion.

Chivas Regal Ultis is now history. Its successor Chivas Ultis XX is the ultimate indulgence. Every bottle contains an exclusive blend of Chivas’ rarest and most precious single malts, married with their signature single grain.

This whisky was created with five blended malt Scotch whiskies; Master Blender Sandy Hyslop made this whisky in honour of his five predecessors who held crucial roles in Chivas history, adding predecessor Colin Scott to the pathfinders. The importance of this number can be seen in the five copper rings across the bottle’s neck. Aged for 20 years, this is the ultimate blend to mark an occasion.

With less than 1% of the millions of casks within their inventory used, and each cask individually hand-selected and nosed, they have ensured only the highest quality are included in a blend worthy of a celebration.


Subsequent to The Excise Act 1823, all malt whiskies had to be stored in bond. The date of entry was printed on the barrel, as was the date of withdrawal. This gave the owner a genuine age certificate. But unscrupulous vendors would fetch another barrel (or more), forge the dates of entry and withdrawal, add a cheap malt whisky to the original, bulking up the volume, and sell two or more barrels at an inflated price. Worse was to follow from 1860, when Blended Scotch Whisky hit the market. Rogues would add only 5-10% of the aged Malt Whisky to a fresh barrel of some unknown grain whisky from one day to one year old, creating 9-10 barrels off one and sell them at a hyped-up price.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer under PM Henry Temple in 1860, Gladstone was under pressure from distillers because of his Malt Tax, which depended directly on ABV. Average Malt ABV was 65%. So, under his fiat, Revenue authorities agreed to allow the blending of “plain British spirit” with pot still malt whiskey. Dealers were permitted to bring any spirit from any part of the UK (including Ireland at that point) to any other part and mix it in any quantity. After an outcry, Gladstone accepted the proposal of Patent Still whisky (grain whisky) which was bland and weak as the additive to Malt Whisky, in ANY proportion. But ONLY distillers could do this blending. Grocers were added in 1863, but the whiskies had to be in an inconvenient BOND house. After pressure from Scotland, this rule was withdrawn and amended and Grocers could now blend at home in Bond, providing home or the distillery in Bond was no further than one-quarter mile from town.

Hardly anybody put his malts in Bond. A survey showed average storage time worked out to three months, most probably the transit time by ship to foreign ports. Those that were stored were found to be much better after three years or more; quality rose after maturation, volume dropped due angel’s share and price increased exponentially. No such barrel was ever seen in a pub. Between 1823 and 1890, after the publication of Acts by the dozen, most malts were being stored in Bond, but for an average of SIX months! There were many honest distillers, though, who allowed their barrels to age six, eight, ten years and more.

Timeline: Strathisla Distillery

Strathisla Distillery started life as the brewery of the local monastery and turned itself to the making of whisky in 1786, one of the few distilleries in what is now the Speyside region to go legal.

1786: Alexander Milne and George Taylor license Milltown distillery in 1796, making it the oldest registered plant
          in Scotland.
1823: The distillery is bought by McDonald Ingram and Co.
1830: William Longmore purchases the distillery.
1880: Longmore retires and his son-in-law JG Brown takes over.
1890: The distillery is renamed Milton.
1940: J Pomeroy purchases a majority share of the distillery.
1950: Seagram purchases the distillery when Pomeroy is jailed for fraud and the 
          plant is rendered bankrupt.
1951: The name is changed to Strathisla.
1970: The distillery begins a heavily peated run of Craigduff.
2001: Taken over by Pernod Ricard.
2013: The Strathisla brand is given a packaging update.

Timeline: Chivas Brother's Holdings

1801: Forrest opens Grocery, 47 Castle Street
1820: Hires William Edwards as Manager
1828: Forrest dies. Grocery bought by William Edwards.
1828: William Edwards expands Grocery by buying 46 Castle Street. Changes shop designation to Grocer,
          Wine and Spirits Purveyor and Provisions Merchant.
1834: Relocates to larger premises at 49 Castle Street. Adds Employment Agency to the portfolio.
1837: Relocates to 13 King Street.
1838: Hires James Chivas as his assistant. Chivas goes on to prove his worth.
1838: John Chivas employed by Apparel Merchant and Wholesale Dealer, DL Shirres.
1841: William Edwards dies intestate overseas. Legal formalities require closure of store.
1841: James Chivas leaves and joins food and wine merchant enterprise of Charles Stewart as junior partner,
          Stewart and Chivas, 39 Woolmanhill Street. Purchase vacant 13 King Street later that year and relocate there
          as a “One-stop-shop,” and excel in servicing disparate demands.
1843-51: Expand further to add 9,11 and 23 King Street. Purchase 21 King Street as residence for James Chivas.
1857: Charles Stewart leaves. John Chivas joins James as Partner, Chivas Brothers.
1862: John Chivas dies.
1886: James Chivas dies and control goes to James' son Alexander Chivas.
1893: Alexander Chivas dies, marking the end of the Chivas family’s association with products bearing their name.
1909: The first ever Chivas Regal bottling, the ultra-luxurious 25 YO makes its debut in the USA. No Chivas family member
          is associated with this release, essentially dedicated to/in honour of the departed James and John Chivas.

First published on 15 Dec 2019.