COLIN SCOTT, MASTER BLENDER
How did you become involved with the blending of whisky?
I grew up in a whisky environment because my father worked in the whisky business. This gave me a subconscious understanding of (but not a passion for at this point) Scotch whisky. Then, shortly after school in 1973, I joined Chivas Brothers – at this stage, not to become a blender – just to be in the whisky business. My career path really started in the bottling halls managing package quality control, which of course had a direct link to spirit quality control.
Spirit quality was controlled by the Blenders, who then took an interest and asked me to join their team in the early ‘80s. Over the next few years I learnt all about the blending traditions, and the house style of Chivas Regal. In December 1988, my mentor Master Blender Jimmy Lang retired and I was appointed Master Blender for Chivas Brothers. The rest is history!
What makes Chivas Regal whisky distinct, why is it unique?
The taste experience of every bottle of whisky you see on the shelf is different. All of these whiskies have different formulas and recipes. It is the skill of the blender - who uses a different selection of many malt and grain whiskies - to create the unique and individual taste experience within the house style of the Chivas Regal family. Specifically, Chivas Regal is smooth, rich, harmonious and generous.
Describe the process of blending whisky.
Blending is all about flavours, and the selection of the different whiskies for their unique flavours. Every single malt and grain whisky has its own unique character and flavour. Once it is distilled you’ve got your quality new spirit, which is then matured for a minimum of 12 years in oak cask. During this time, the character of the new whisky will mature, develop, intensify & mellow. It will also pick up flavour nuances from the oak cask during maturation.
The art of blending to create the ideal blend then involves selecting each of the different whiskies for their character, flavour and in which cask they were matured – whether ex Sherry casks, ex Bourbon barrels, or both. Although Chivas Regal 12, 18 and 25 are blended in the same Chivas house style, they each have their own formula and selection of different malt & grain whiskies.
The aged whiskies that are available may change each year, so the real art of blending is managing the formulas around this availability. Then it involves selecting the correct whiskies to ensure the final result will have the same great taste and high quality as the original smooth and harmonious blend year after year. Therefore, each year, although the number of whiskies in a blend may change, it is the art of blending that ensures the final blend will always be of the same high quality and consistent taste experience.
What qualities are desirable in a good whisky?
It is most important to mature the new spirit into quality casks, because then the spirit will be able to quietly mature, and the flavours can intensify for 30, 40 and even 50 years or more. At the end of the day it’s just down to personal taste preference – because all whiskies are great, and the characters of each are different. Chivas Regal is a fantastic whisky, with international appeal, because of its richness, smoothness and orchestra of flavours. That's what I call a great whisky; all of the flavours playing together in harmony.
What is the best way to drink the Chivas Regal whisky?
The best way to drink Chivas Regal is the way you personally enjoy it – neat, with ice or water, with mixers or in cocktails. I would recommend adding a little water – at least 50/50 with still bottled water. If the weather is hot you could add no more than 2 ice cubes, so it cools the drink, but does not chill it.
Adding water maximises the release of all the characters and flavours hidden behind the barrier of the alcohol – in the blending room we always evaluate the whiskies at 20% volume – which is 50/50 with water.
Chivas 12 makes fantastic cocktails and is used by leading bartenders around the world. I’d also recommend it with ginger ale on a little ice to make a long, cool drink. Chivas 18 and 25 are more reserved, and better on their own. If you’ve never drank whisky before – try it with a little water, to release the flavours – although some people like the heat of the alcohol. There really are no rules about drinking whisky – it’s for your own personal preference and enjoyment.
What is the best type of glass to drink each whiskey from and why?
A nice heavy crystal tumbler is perfect for drinking whisky – or a highball if you are adding mixers. If you’re doing a tasting, however a tulip shaped glass works best.
What kind of food best matches to each of the Chivas 12/18/25 blends?
Good whisky will always go with good food. Though specifically Chivas 12 is great with shellfish and chicken – try it with scallops. The 18 pairs brilliantly with smoked salmon, steak and warm chocolate pudding. The Chivas 25 would pair with game, cheese & biscuits, and of course cigars & good conversation.