Chivas Regal is one of the most famous Scotch whisky brands in the world. Many consider it the first luxury blended whisky.
The blend was developed by Chivas Brothers which is now the Scotch whisky arm of Pernod Ricard. The French spirits giant owns a total of 15 distilleries in Scotland.
Chivas Regal takes inspiration from the character of the Speyside malts. It carries notes of orchard fruits, floral heather and sweet honey.
Chivas Regal is a blended Scotch whisky comprising of both malt and grain whiskies from all over Scotland. Malt whiskies associated with the brand include Longmorn, The Glenlivet, Allt-A-Bhainne, Miltonduff and Braeval. Grain whisky from Strathclyde also forms a key component. The Strathisla single malt has been a core ingredient since the distillery came under the same ownership in 1950.
The brand originally launched with a 25-year-old that was famed for its high malt content. It was later downgraded to a 12-year-old but in 2007, a new 25-year-old version was introduced.
The core range consists of 12, 18 and 25-year-old bottlings alongside the Extra series and XV 15-year-old. There is also a blended malt called Ultis. Each expression is bottled at 40% abv.
Whiskies used in the blend are matured in an array of different casks. Special editions have been finished in bourbon, rye and cognac casks. In 2014, Chivas became the first Scottish whisky to be matured in Japanese Mizunara oak.
Chivas Regal was created by Chivas Brothers, James and John Chivas. The business began in Aberdeen in 1801 when John Forrest established a grocer and wine merchant. Later it was passed to William Edward who was joined in 1838 by James Chivas.
After the passing of Edward, James was joined by his brother, John. They sold a wide range of goods including imported fruits, meats and cheese, teas and alcohol.
By the 1900s, Chivas Brothers had at least six blended whiskies on their books and the basement of their King Street shop served as a bottling plant. Such was the regard in which their name was held, they began to put it on the label. They were also among the first to give their whiskies an age statement.
Their most famous product was launched in 1909. By then the company had been taken over by Alexander Smith and master blender, Charles Stuart Howard. Despite new ownership, the name was retained.
The Chivas Regal 25-year-old was developed by Howard to capitalise on the booming economies of the US & Canada. For five years it held its own against the established American whiskey brands before the Great War cut off trading routes.
The directors continued to buy stock, waiting to recapture their success. However, disaster struck when both Smith and Howard passed away unexpectedly. The loss of both directors in a short space of time left the company adrift.
Chivas was eventually acquired by Stanley P Morrison and R. D. Lundie in 1936. However, the two men used some of the company’s stock to fund the takeover. As a result, they were forced to re-evaluate the brand. The popular 25-year old was discontinued and replaced with the new flagship 12-year-old in 1939.
Chivas Brothers continued to trade through World War II but the business was in a rocky position by the late ‘40s. Tempted by the brand’s prior success, however, Seagram's of Canada stepped in.
By the 1960s, Chivas Regal was being exported to 35 countries. Sales in the US alone reached 100,000 cases. A decade later the brand was selling 1.2 million cases worldwide.
The whisky remained under Seagram ownership until the company broke apart in 2001. Chivas Brothers in its entirety was taken over by Pernod Ricard.
Today, Chivas Regal is the third-best-selling Scotch whisky brand in the world. Only Johnnie Walker and Ballantine’s sell more cases.