An icon put up against another promises to produce a battle that will be equal parts legendary, and tantalizing. When a whisky drinker is faced with a choice between the world’s first luxury blended Scotch whisky, up against this historic single malt from the Speyside, a truly epic conundrum is what they have at their hands.
Of course, some would point out that a comparison between a blended Scotch whisky with a single malt Scotch aren’t ideal, fair, or even balanced, but a truly extraordinary Scotch is never afraid of a worthy battle.
Established in 1801, the Chivas Brothers perfected the meticulous art of blended Scotch whiskies while catering to a wealthy clientele that within a few decades, included the British Monarchy itself.
Granted a Royal Warrant in 1843 to supply goods to Queen Victoria, the Chivas Regal brand went from strength to strength to conquer the loyalties of every Scotch lover in Scotland and England, and it was time to spread the gospel of luxury Scotch whisky around the world. Chivas Regal introduced the United States to the first luxury Scotch whisky ever produced, and was an instant hit with the New York elite.
Today, the Chivas Regal brand has fortified its name in the realm of whisky making, and continues to reinvent itself with some of the most exquisite blends that are doing right by tradition with some of the most robust and timeless expressions such as the Chivas Regal 25-year-old, and the Chivas Brothers Blend while constantly reinventing themselves at the same time with blends such as Chivas Mizunara, an ode to Japanese traditions, and the Chivas Regal Ultis, a prestigious blend of five iconic Speyside single malts.
Gaelic for Valley of the Deer, Glenfiddich is recognized all over by their logo, a stag and for their fine single malts that have earned them a lot of acclaim and praise from whisky lovers worldwide.
Established in 1886 in Dufftown by William Grant, the Glenfiddich distillery is located in the ‘glen’ of the River Fiddich. A ‘glen’ is a narrow valley with concave sides. Swan-necked copper stills are used to produce the Glenfiddich single malts, one of the world’s most widely sold single malt whiskies. It has a diverse inventory of expressions beginning from the standard Glenfiddich 12-year-old, to the 21-year-old in their core range, with a vintage 26-year-old expression too.
Glenfiddich was one of the many distilleries that popped up in the Speyside following the establishment, and subsequent success of The Glenlivet, the first legal distillery in the Speyside that paved the way for other distilleries in the region. Together, these historic Speyside distilleries earned the region its very own identity as a distinct Scotch producing territory of Scotland.
Comparing the two icons
In terms of history, and tradition, Chivas Regal edges out Glenfiddich as they were one of the first Scotch whisky brands to earn the preference of the British Monarchy, much before the very foundations of Glenfiddich were laid.
At a time when blended Scotch whiskies were perceived to be inferior to single malt whiskies, Chivas Brothers worked hard to shatter this baseless myth by producing spirits that were renowned far and wide for their smoothness and distinct palate and aroma. Ever the innovators,
Chivas Regal was also one of the first blended Scotch whisky brands to introduce prestige and luxury into the art of whisky making by using the rarest and most carefully selected single malts to blend their whiskies. It was also one of the very first brands to export their finest and most aged drink to the United States, becoming associated with high-profile patrons such as Frank Sinatra, becoming synonymous with luxury and fashion.
Talking about a diverse and magnificently thought out inventory of expressions, the Chivas Regal has 4 core expressions, aged 12 years, 15 years, 18 years and 25 years respectively. Other rare and limited edition expressions include the Chivas Ultis, The Chivas Brothers Blend, the Chivas Mizunara, the Chivas Pinnacle and the Chivas Extra.
Glenfiddich on the other hand, too has 4 core expressions, aged 12 years, 15 years, 18 years and 21 years with special editions and limited releases such as Glenfiddich Distillery Edition, Glenfiddich Rare Oak, Glenfiddich Excellence 26-year-old, Glenfiddich Reserve Cask, Glenfiddich Vintage Cask and the Glenfiddich Select Cask.
Overall, both brands have an impressive portfolio with some excellent expressions that span ages, and many different finishes although Chivas Regal has a slightly more diverse inventory. With the likes of the Chivas Mizunara, finished in Japanese Mizunara barrels; Chivas Pinnacle, a blend of precious and rare source whiskies from many ‘ghost distilleries’ that have now become defunct; Chivas Ultis, a blend of five iconic Speyside single malts.
Let us compare the standard 12-year-old expressions from both, Chivas Regal and Glenfiddich for their tasting notes, to see when it comes down to brass tacks, who is the clear winner here.
Chivas Regal 12-year-old is a blend of malt and grain whiskies with a slightly more generous inclusion of Speyside malts in their blend, that lends a distinctly fruity nose to the whisky, with traces honey and wild herbs. A rich, creamy palate that carries the flavors of ripe pears, honey, butterscotch and vanilla is followed by a rich, and lingering finish. Overall, the Chivas 12-year-old’s blend beautifully retains and carries the best characteristics of the Strathisla single malt.
Glenfiddich, also a Speyside brand is described as mellow, and creamy drink with a fresh nose that carries notes of pears and oakiness, and a palate that is sweet, and fruity with a long finish. Chivas Regal takes another round with their blend of complex flavors, and interesting nose that makes it a delight for every whisky lover, both to decipher and to devour.