Chivas Regal 12 Year: Everything You Need To Know

The world of whiskey is quite complicated. Bourbon, Scotch, and rye whiskey all have marked differences in terms of history, appearance, taste, and price point despite fundamentally falling under the whiskey umbrella (via Britannica). Chivas Regal 12 belongs to the subgroup of Scotch, which is defined as a whisky that has been manufactured and bottled exclusively in Scotland with barley as a key ingredient (via The Scotsman). 

Legally, Scotch must have an alcoholic content of 40 percent, and this is the standard ABV for Chivas Regal 12 and other Scotch spirits across the whisky industry. A 40% ABV gives Scotch a decent alcoholic bite while also allowing its flavors to shine (via Whisky Magazine).

According to VinePair, there are further classifications that can be made with regard to Scotch, most notably surrounding whether it is blended or single malt. Single malt Scotch is made from barley in one distillery only. Blended Scotch is made from a mixture of malt whisky (whisky made exclusively with barley) and grain Scotch whisky (whisky made from a mixture of grains), both sourced from a number of distillers. 

These disparate whiskies are then mixed by a master blender to create a blended Scotch. Chivas Regal 12 itself is a distinguished blended Scotch containing quintessential flavors of fruit and butterscotch. The flavor, mouthfeel, and aroma of this Scotch make this a highly regarded whisky that, due to its unimposing cost, is enjoyed regularly by critics, aficionados, and novices alike (as per Master of Malt).

The Chivas brothers were pioneers of blended whisky

The story of Chivas Regal 12 begins with two brothers, James and John Chivas, who grew up during the early 19th century on a farm in Scotland. The possibilities of the Industrial Revolution proved too tempting for the brothers, who moved from their rural family home to Aberdeen for work opportunities (as per Essential Journal). James (the elder bother) soon found himself working for a high-end grocer that was known for supplying fine quality goods including tea and whisky. James went on to form a partnership with a man named Charles Stewart.

James started blending whiskies and experimenting with stock from the shop. After the passing of the 1860 Spirits Act, blended whiskies started to get the recognition they deserved. The Act did much to propel the Scotch whisky business and did much to enable the expansion of blended whiskies and their manufacturers (as per Whisky Magazine). 

Charles Stewart left the business in 1857 and John joined shortly after, leading to the formation of "Chivas Brothers." The Chivas name soon became synonymous with high-quality blended whisky, an association that outlived the brothers themselves, thanks to Alexander Smith, who worked with both James' son Alexnder Chivas and master blender Charles Howard later on (as per Master of Malt).

A royal warrant transformed the Chivas brothers' lives

Royal patronage has always been an incredible opportunity for food and drink manufacturers. Indeed, whisky owes a large proportion of its early and contemporary popularity to the royal family (via Scotch Whisky). 

Whilst King George IV's robust appetite for scotch preceded Chivas whisky, the brothers did manage to impress one of his successors, Queen Victoria. Contrary to common belief, Queen Victoria was not averse to all types of fun; she was known for enjoying a frequent tipple. Scotch was one of her great loves, as she frequently used it to fortify her claret and her tea (as per Scotch Whisky).

For whisky producers around the nation, Queen Victoria's approval of their product by means of a royal warrant all but guaranteed a boom in sales, a phenomenon that is still apparent today (via Forbes). The Chivas brothers received a warrant in 1843 and were tasked with supplying Balmoral Castle with a range of provisions from their shop (per Master of Malt). 

Despite the fact that the warrant identified the Chivas brothers as grocers to the royalty, they wasted little time attaching the prefix "Royal" to many of their whiskies, and Chivas Regal 12 pays homage to this history of royal patronage.

Chivas Regal was first released as a 25-year aged Scotch

The Chivas Regal signature Whisky blend was not invented by the brothers themselves. In fact, it was created by Alexander Smith and the pioneering master blender Charles Howard, after taking over the business. 

Chivas Regal, aged for 25 years, was a revolutionary Scotch when it hit the shelves in 1909, as explained by Chris Brousseau, Chivas Brothers' archivist "We call this the world's first luxury whisky, because when you look at what was going on in the market at that time, there was nothing like it; nothing of that age. There were a few branded whiskies, maybe 10 years old ... This was really something very special" (as per Master of Malt).

The famous blend has since gone on to be bottled and sold to much acclaim: Each of the age levels (12 years, 15 years18 years, and 25 years) have won awards at both national and international levels. Other variations do abound. These normally rely on flavoring the Scotch through aging the spirit in different casks, such as ones that have been previously filled with bourbon or sherry (as per Chivas).

Perhaps the most ambitious of these is Chivas Regal Mizunara, a Scotch aged in barrels made from an oak that is native to Hokkaido, which has been dubbed the most flavorful in the world (via Gear Patrol).

Chivas Regal 12 is a fruity tasting Scotch

Although Chivas Regal was initially released as the original 25-year-old blended recipe, Chivas Regal owes its continued relevance to its youngest offering (as per Master of Malt). Due to the reduced time it spends in the cask, Chivas Regal 12 is lighter than its elderly counterparts in both color and taste.

Citrus notes are still present alongside the main themes of butterscotch, honey, and fruit (as per Chivas). The Chivas 12's fruity flavors are derived from the fermentation process (as per Whisky Advocate). 

The Chivas Brothers' flagship distillery at Strathisla utilizes traditional wooden vats are used in the place of steel vats, thus lending the fermentation (and the fruit flavors it produces) a unique twist (via Chivas).

The natural sweetness of Chivas Regal 12 stands in opposition to the oaky and often intense versions of Scotch frequently found on the market (as per The Whiskey Wash). This lighter profile lends Chivas Regal 12 a great deal of versatility, whilst also offering a fantastic introduction to sipping whisky. However, the spirit also performs well in a number of cocktails, most notably, highballs.

Chivas operates the oldest working distillery in the Scottish Highlands

The making of a blended Scotch, especially one as eminent as Chivas Regal, is a process that is clouded in mystery (as per The Whiskey Wash). Facts such as the malt whisky to grain whisky ratio, and the range of whiskies used are closely guarded secrets. 

However, Chivas Brothers has released some information regarding the famous blend's constituents, including the fact that both Strathclyde single grain and Strathisla single malt are used to form the heart of the Scotch. Other incorporated whiskies originate from a number of Pernod Ricard distillers, including Longmorn (as per Chivas).

Fortunately, there is more transparency regarding the grain involved in making the Scotch (as per Whisky Shop). It all begins with the growing of grain, predominantly barley. For a number of other illustrious manufacturers such as Macallan and Glenfiddich, the crops from which the grain originates are located in Speyside, which is a part of the  Scottish Highlands. 

The most famous component of the Chivas Regal Scotch is undoubtedly the Strathisla single malt (as per Chivas). This whisky is made at Strathisla, the oldest functioning distillery in the Highlands, and the undisputed jewel in the crown that is Chivas Brothers. 

Chivas Regal 12 can be consumed in a number of ways

As previously mentioned, Chivas Regal 12 is a versatile Scotch, one that can be as drinkable by itself as it is when blended into a cocktail (via Chivas Regal). Yet, the best way of drinking Chivas Regal 12 is still a divisive topic amongst whisky drinkers. Chief among these debates is whether it's best to dilute the spirit or drink it neat. 

Of course, this depends on personal preference; however, as noted by BBC Good Food, the addition of water will open up the flavors of some whiskies to a degree. If you are going to dilute the whisky, ensure you only add a tiny amount of water (less than five milliliters) to avoid the risk of ruining the spirit's fine balance.

Chivas Regal 12 is a light and sweet whisky. It can be combined with other spirits and mixers to make a range of delicious cocktails, as noted by Max Warner, an international ambassador for Chivas Regal: "We find Chivas works well in cocktails as it is a very smooth whisky. It takes a lot of flavour from the bourbon casks, so the notes you get are spicy, sweet, smooth and orchard fruits. I have found it works well with cocktails that normally use bourbon" (via Whisky Magazine). Cocktail ideas for the Chivas Regal 12 include putting a spin on the classic Old Fashioned or turning a classic Manhattan cocktail into the aptly named Rob Roy drink.

The casks set Chivas Regal apart from other whiskies

Whilst opinions and estimates vary, the general consensus is that the vast majority of the flavor of any whisky is derived from the barrels that are used for the aging process (as per Whisky Advocate). To make matters more complicated, each individual cask is varied, meaning that a number of ever-changing variables must be continuously taken into account. 

The details of this process were explained by Sandy Hyslop, master blender at Chivas Brothers "When looking at cask finishes, it's important to consider the history of the cask. When using a cask for a long maturation a second or third-fill cask allows for fantastic flavour balance between the cask influence and distillate character. If the distillate spends a long period of time in a first-fill cask, the cask influence will be too strong and is likely to take over completely. With younger maturations however, first-fill casks are ideal for bringing through cask flavour quickly." (via Chivas Regal).

This process stands in direct contrast to other whiskis, such as bourbon, which by law must be aged in a brand new white oak barrels (via The Whiskey Wash). Consequently, Scotch producers, due to their ability to use a range of woods and pre-used barrels, have the luxury of accessing many more flavors than bourbon producers. Many bourbon producers have tried to subvert this by using different barrels to "finish" the bourbon (per Breaking Bourbon).

Chivas Regal is prominently featured in popular culture

As one of the most popular Scotch whisky brands, Chivas Regal has long been present in popular culture. Amongst Chivas Regal's most notorious consumers was Hunter S. Thompson, the journalist who was best known for inventing the gonzo style of journalism (per MasterClass). Of course, Thompson was also known as a voracious drinker and drug addict, a fact that became widely known upon the publication of a biography by E. Jean Carroll (per Thrillist). Chivas Regal is repeatedly linked to Thompson throughout the book, most notably as a drink he enjoyed whilst reading the morning papers.

Frank Sinatra, one of the best-known singers of all time, was another creative who drank Chivas Regal (via Regina Leader-Post). According to drummer Don Young, Sinatra often drank Chivas Regal Scotch backstage; he even performed a comedic toast to the spirit during one of his performances. Fortunately for Chivas, the spirit's ties to popular culture are not only historical but contemporary as well.

LISA, a member of K-pop sensation BlackPink, has joined Chivas as an ambassador, a move that demonstrates the continued relevance of this spirit in popular culture, as outlined by Chivas' marketing director, Nick Blacknell: "LISA is a global superstar, and more importantly a role model for the next generation, which undoubtedly makes her the perfect spokesperson for our 'I Rise. We Rise' campaign." (via HypeBeast).

Chivas Regal 12 has been rebranded for sustainability

Altering a tried and proven brand is always a dangerous and difficult process. However, Chivas Brothers' budding commitment to ensuring the sustainability of its products has led to a complete redesign of the Chivas Regal 12 bottle and packaging (via FFT). 

The new product boasts drastically improved sustainability credentials, as explained by master blender, Sandy Hyslop "The redesign project started with sustainability in mind. The parent company, Chivas Brothers, targeted 2025 to get the company to use 100 percent recyclable, reusable, compostable or bio-based packaging. This new bottle is lighter and saves more than a thousand tons of glass annually. The outer packaging is now made from fully recyclable materials." (via The Whiskey Wash).

The rebranding of Chivas Regal 12 is not the only method that Chivas Regal has employed to minimize the company's environmental impact. Current measures include  recycling 9 billion liters of water a year, along with 100% of the company's food waste (as per Tesco). Further plans are in place to continue the company's impressive trend of cutting down greenhouse gas emissions, with the ultimate aim of running a carbon-neutral distillery (per The Digital Newsroom).

The future market for blended Scotch is uncertain

Despite blended Scotch still dominating global whisky sales, some beginning to wonder about the future of Scotland's premier export (via Scotch Whisky Association). This pessimism is due to a drop in demand for blended Scotch in the United States, amid growing appetites for alternative whiskies such as single malts (per The New York Times).

Perhaps in response to the changing consumer landscape, Chivas has launched Chivas Ultis, a luxury blend of five single malt whiskies (as per Chivas). As reported by Scotch Whisky, many see this launch as Chivas' way of gaining access to the booming malt market. 

However, Laurent Lacassagne, who was CEO of Chivas Brothers at the time of Ultis' introduction, was quick to distance the brand from any proverbial bandwagon, stating, "It's not about, let's say, riding the wave, it's more a way to remind everybody that Chivas has been made with very strong and beautiful single malts."

The Chivas brand is eager for improved international trade relations

As with any global product, Chivas Regal 12 is vulnerable to both fluctuating markets and devolving international relations. Tariffs, often used as a political bargaining tool, have been the most recent factor that damaged whisky exports (via BBC). There are multiple examples of how political tensions can damage whisky exports on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean as well as beyond (as per Insider).

However, maintaining sales in established markets is only one facet of sustaining and improving global Scotch sales. Another key aspect of sales and growth for Chivas Regal 12 and other Scotch whisky brands is a focus on trade with potential and emerging markets. 

Jean-Etienne Gourgues, current CEO of Chivas Brothers highlighted the importance of this, especially in the U.K., which finds itself in the post-Brexit landscape: "Lowering tariffs and tackling non-tariff barriers could raise UK spirits exports in emerging markets. We therefore urge the UK Government to secure improved market access in countries which are not yet a priority for trade deals and plan for the next generation of free trade agreements." 

A variety of foods pair well with Chivas Regal 12

Pairing whisky with food can be quite complex as drinking strong whiskies can often lead to an alcoholic burn that dominates the palate (per Wine Whiskey Dine). However, as the youngest whisky in the Chivas Regal line, the 12-year-old spirit does not suffer from this issue as much. In fact, this whisky is light and sweet enough to pair well with a range of gentle flavors, including those imparted from sushi and other kinds of seafood (via AskMen).

Another somewhat surprising pairing consists of pairing Chivas Regal 12 with typical dessert flavors like coffee and ice cream into an affogato (as per Chivas). The penchant for combining Chivas Regal 12 with sweets should not come as a surprise; after all, the world's most famous whisky cocktail, the Old Fashioned, features a hefty lump of sugar. Other popular pairings for Chivas Regal 12 include salty snacks like cheddar popcorn (via Manila Bulletin).

Chivas has a global cocktail competition that showcases its spirits

As an extremely beloved and well-established whisky brand, it can be difficult for Chivas to continue the innovative flair that it built its name (via Master of Malt). However, one way in which the company continues to champion innovation is through the creation of Chivas Masters, an international cocktail competition that runs every year (as per Difford's Guide).

Thanks to its balanced flavor profile Chivas Regal 12 is often used as the base spirit for many of the winning cocktails, as it was in Atsushi Suzuki's 2017 cocktail, The Double Talk (via Chivas). Speaking to The Vienna Blog, Suzuki also mentioned that he used Chivas Regal 12 due to its global nature, thus ensuring his cocktail can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. 

The competition not only provides opportunities for world-class mixologists to prove themselves, but also injects a new lease of life into an industry that often likes to rest on its laurels, as explained by Chivas global ambassador Rhys Wilson to The Digital Newsroom "They [the winning team] created a truly unforgettable bar experience showcasing the blend of their team, and that we truly are in the most exciting era for Scotch whisky, and contemporary cocktails."