Towards the latter part of 2016 Chivas produced their very first blended malt (i.e. a marriage of single malts from different distilleries, but without the addition of a grain element) in the form of Chivas Regal Ultis. Ultis is presented in a snazzy bottle, housed in a snazzy box and has some snazzy marketing behind it - a story of the five master blenders who have preserved the Chivas house style since 1909.
The five blenders: Charles Howard, Charles Julian, Allan Baille, Jimmy Laing and Colin Scott (current Master Blender) are honoured in several ways with Ultis – visually, the bottle has five etched rings around the closure, as well as a giant embossed V on the bottom of the bottle – liquid-wise, five different single malts have been selected. Ultis is a marriage of single malts from Allt A’Bhainne, Braeval, Longmorn, Strathisla and Tormore – the actual constituents in terms of volumes and ages are not specified – and it’s not a cheap one - £170.
The launch of Ultis is hardly a surprise if you look at the wider whisky market and the Chivas Regal portfolio. The blended malt segment has been rather the small one relative to blends and even single malts, but when companies such as Diageo (competitors of Chivas’s parent company Pernod Ricard) start to launch products like the re-release of Johnnie Walker Green, and the new Green Island, competition in the segment feels almost inevitable. Then just take a look at the wider Chivas Regal range – there’s a huge gap between the relatively low priced 18 year old and the closer to £300 25 year old. Ultis, at least in terms of price, slots in neatly between these two core expressions.
Ultis is bottled at 40% and currently widely available, so let’s look beyond the packaging, marketing and rationale and explore the all-important bit – the liquid:
Nose: Pronounced and interesting flavours. Commencing with incredibly prominent coconut (almost coconut oil), vanilla, caramel and honey, we then move into a more fruity vein – red apples and particularly peaches (deep and intense, like a fruit tea infusion) alongside strawberries, and other sherry-cask suggesting small berries. Light herbalness and menthol are joined by delicate spicing – cinnamon and cardamom. A lively and welcoming nose, but one which doesn’t scream opulence – or age.
Taste: Underpowered at 40% but with a generally soft and smooth texture that’s pleasant enough Honey, vanilla and toffee are combined with a really big dry tobacco note – leafy, slightly astringent and rather bark-like. Fruits are now slightly more tropical in nature – pineapple and papaya – and are joined with greater cask influence – ginger, cinnamon and some peppercorns.
Finish: Medium in length, quite drying and with a strange floral/perfume note hidden amongst toffee and bitter spice flavours.
Chivas Regal Ultis is a well-constructed blended malt, but as is often the case, the story behind the bottle is much more cohesive than the liquid experience itself. Ultis is far from exceptional, in fact, I find it a little mundane – there’s just no wow factor, and to my mind, any bottle costing £170 should be stimulating a reasonable amount of wow. ‘Nice’ is just not good enough for that price when you consider the wide variety of alternative options available – especially in the blended malt arena with the likes of Compass Box.
With thanks to Mark Bickell for the sample - sorry I don't like it as much you!
But don't take our word for it..
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