Royal Salute 21 Year Old

Spirit Type:
Rating:
 Blended whisky

Score:
89/100 
ABV:
40% 
Region:
Scotland  
Body:
Medium  
Intensity:
Medium-high (dense rather than piercing) 
Texture:
Medium-oily  
Balance:
Heavenly  
Best served:
Neat  
Theme(s):
Creamy, orange and fruit cake, zest, star anise/licorice, chocolate  
In a nutshell:
(N) Velvety vanilla bean cream and dense orange poppy seed cake is carried by a fresh spring breeze bringing the smell of an orchard and freshly made milk chocolate. The grain weaves in and out of the luscious malt as meringue develops with star anise. (T) Luscious creaminess is interrupted by a sudden surge of citrus zest, fruit cake and spicy oak, both dry and sappy which bursts into a thick cloud of dry brandy, earthiness and cocoa coated licorice. (F) Bitter-dry finish develops with intense orange zest and extra old brandy drenched sponge cake bringing some sweetness that balances this work of art beautifully without dominating 
Likes:
The epitome of blended whisky, the grain and malt mingle beautifully. The whispers of brilliance chime in the waves of luscious malt and superb quality grain. 
Dislikes:
Can seem dull… but that is the nature of the beast. 
Price:
$120-$200 

Produced by Chivas Brothers, the Royal Salute is a prestigious blended Scotch launched in 1953 to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II on her coronation. Taking its name from the 21 Gun Salute this Scotch contains whiskies that have been blended for at least 21 years.

I had initially tasted the Royal Salute in a bar, but this review comes after purchasing a bottle for the great price of $120 and tasting it many times.  

Royal Salute: Engineered for Success? 

Chivas Regal produces some of the most popular blended whiskies in the world, and at the top of the range is Royal Salute. Owned by giant Pernod Ricard, it has a staggering number of casks at its disposal from some of Scotland’s most prized distilleries which it can use to make blended whisky. Combine the resources of Pernod Ricard with the talent it employs in the master blenders at Chivas Regal, and you have a recipe for a magical whisky. Of course, sometimes recipes do not turn out… though if whisky blending is a science and the blending is done by industry experts then the result should turn out. Scattered on the internet is a lot of negativity towards blends and Royal Salute by single malt whisky lovers who unfairly overlook blended whisky, falsely believing they are inferior because they contain grain whisky and not just malt whisky. If the most important thing about a whisky is the way it tastes, then I think blends offer something single malts (especially single casks) do not; engineering. Yes, engineering!

The master blenders at Chivas Regal have a lot of whisky to work with from different distilleries that produce grain and malt whisky, and combined with the fact that the Royal Salute is supposed to be the pinnacle of the core range then you would expect that their best efforts are used to produce a high quality, very well balanced whisky. Because the master blenders at Royal Salute can choose what goes into the blend with the aim of producing a desired character, this is like letting a master chef loose at Coles or Woolworths (the Costco, Tesco, Sainsbury etc of Australia, our supermarkets) to let them choose the ingredients that will go into a super dish. You can expect the results to be, well, spectacular… but sometimes recipes do not turn out or they are catered for a specific taste. Are the results in this bottle of Royal Salute spectacular? Yes! I think the Royal Salute sits at the pinnacle of the world’s blended whiskies.

This Royal Salute is a good example of a blended whisky at its finest, catered for the general market and with luscious smoothness. It also offers wonderful complexity and a powerful burst of bitter-dryness that is lovely. However, it can be quite dull when compared to other whiskies so be warned – the Royal Salute is super smooth.

Tasting Notes – Royal Salute

Nose

Luscious dense orange cake is immediately noticeable, slathered with some dark chocolate and sprinklings of ground cocoa and vanilla bean. Toffee and sweetness mixes with a dull earthiness as the aroma of basil and honey mingles with oak and a freshly unpackaged cigar. Soft and creamy, a fresh breeze carries the diversity of an orchard; stone fruits mingle with lush green and spring water while an earthiness is ever present. The chocolate develops into freshly made milk chocolate, as a sugary lemon meringue develops with star anise. This is dreamy.

Taste

The taste of oak and wood bursts on the palate together with cocoa and dark chocolate, and all the while that dense orange cake is smothered now with honey, spicy cinnamon and licorice. The orange cake then takes on a more pronounced zesty tang and develops into a fruit cake with sultana and dried paw paw. The star anise on the nose develops into gooey warm licorice and the oak bursts with dry wood and wet tree sap; bringing varied spices and sugary sweetness all intermingling to create one fine work of art.

Finish

Consistently strong, the finish is long and enjoyable. With intensity this whisky releases its flavours in waves. This whisky is very complex with lots of depth and layers, with flavours that change and evolve on the palate. Smoky spice is also noticeable on the finish, which evaporates from the tongue after a wave of bitter-dry zestiness and a sponge cake drenched with the finest dry brandy. 

This is a wonderfully balanced whisky, with a bitter-dryness moderating with near perfection the sweet notes that are plentiful but which play their part in the orchestra. 
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