Chivas’s Royal Salute 21 year old has been around for quite some time – 1953 to be precise. Introduced to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, the name derives from a gun salute – a barrage of cannons or artillery fired as a military honour. The ‘basic’ salute is 21 rounds (which ties rather nicely to the age of this particular whisky) fired at 10 second intervals. Though in certain locations (Royal Parks, London’s Tower of London etc) extra rounds are fired, meaning that for something as significant as a royal coronation, both 41 and 62 gun salutes would take place. Earplugs at the ready.
Royal Salute 21 year old, like many Chivas blends has its basis in single malts drawn from Pernod Ricard owned distilleries: Allt A’Bhainne, Braeval, Longmorn, Strathisla and Tormore, though I believe is primarily a product of Strathisla. It’s bottled at 40% ABV and delivered in a ceramic decanter produced by Wade. You currently have a choice of three colours of decanter: blue, green or red (or sapphire, emerald and ruby if you’re feeling a touch pretentious) – there’s literally no difference in these, other than which one will match best with your soft furnishings. In the UK you’ll be looking at around £110-115 for this blend.
Nose: Entirely pleasant – orange peels, grapefruit and honeycomb come together with some older aromas of leather armchairs, dusty books and brass polish. Deeper, some nuttiness (hazelnut) and light chocolate, alongside both cinnamon and ginger spicing. There’s something slightly Japanese-esque here - incense, or sandalwood – it’s light, but perceptible nonetheless. A few drops of water (take care, this drowns easily) adds both biscuit and gentle earthy mushrooms.
Taste: Frankly this is a bit odd. The arrival delivers almost nothing – no texture, no weight, certainly no attack of flavours that were detected on the nose. Then, in the mid-palate, everything lands at the same time – honey, toffee, toasted cereals, earthiness and sweet/sour soft fruits. Again with the brass polish and nuttiness, but now with much more wood – vanilla, old bark and a ton of freshly cut 2x4. All quite delicate and restrained – don’t expect a big hitter.
Finish: Long with fruity berries and soured wood.
Royal Salute 21 year old is the epitome of a whisky that is invariably going to be described as ‘smooth’ (quite possibly my most hated whisky descriptor). But, in this instance, it’s strangely apt. The nose has some elegance and intrigue and is quite likable, but the palate is a very odd-duck indeed – I’m still at a bit of a loss as to how it’s possible to deliver virtually no immediate impact and then to burst into a menagerie of rich (but arguably delicate) flavour. Nevertheless, whilst certainly interesting, that’s not something which I think is actually preferable – unless ‘smoothness’ is your whisky North Star. All rather too subtle and overly engineered for me. At this price you can certainly do better.
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