Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blended Scotch Whiskey

Senator Ted Kennedy reportedly calls Chivas Regal, "that life-sustaining liquid." It is legend that the senior senator is a big fan of Chivas. This is unfortunate for Chivas in that this fine blended scotch has turned into a political lightning rod in America making right-leaning scotch drinkers avoid it.

When I drink blended scotches like Chivas Regal 12 year old, I think of the old Pretenders song “Middle of the Road”. Not because it is a mediocre scotch. No, it is a very enjoyable experience. The experience is a little bit of everything on the flavor spectrum. It has a little bite, a little smoke, a little honey and a little woodiness. It truly is the middle of the road on the palette. After all, Chivas Regal is a blended scotch, and blending tends to lead to a well balanced taste.

That’s both a curse and a blessing for blended whiskey because people tend to gravitate toward their favorite flavors. If you’re into the sweet, you’re going to pick a single malt like the Glenlivet or a Highland scotch over a blended. If you’re into smoke, you’re going toward a Laphroaig, Balvenie, or some other Islay scotch. Blended whiskeys like Chivas are usually whiskeys that sit between the ends of the flavor spectrum. A little of this, and a little of that…

Are all blended scotches similar in their position mid-road? Well, most of the blended scotches that I have tried are formulated this way. There is some variation in the aging process. Older Chivas is more complex, for example.

One of the best thing about Chivas Regal, is that it’s widely available in every airport bar, pub and tavern. If you can separate the politics from the scotch, and if you can you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the subtle range of flavors it offers. The straight-up Chivas has a moderately smooth mouth-feel, with a little bit of everything on your palette. Adding water and/or ice to Chivas brings out the peat and smoke.

A bottle of Chivas as a gift is a great idea, particularly if you know he’s into scotch, but you don’t know exactly what flavor spectrum he prefers. The range of flavors and the price make it just right for gift giving.

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