Type: Blended Scotch whisky
Malt Mileage rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Royal Salute is 21 year old blended Scotch whisky first created in 1953 to pay tribute to the British monarchy, with the first bottles launched at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (which took place at Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953 when Elizabeth II was in her mid twenties). Fittingly, the whisky takes its name from the “21 gun salute” which is a customary British gun salute.
Today, being only a matter of hours after Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 92nd birthday, I sit back with a dram of Royal Salute and raise my glass to Her Majesty – cheers Ma’am!
The Royal Salute liquid is 21 year old blended Scotch whisky. Despite being a blend of different whiskies, Royal Salute’s “home” is said to be the Strathisla distillery (which is the oldest working distillery in Scotland, having been founded in 1786). Beyond this hint from Chivas Brothers that part of Royal Salute’s recipe may be Strathisla single malt whisky, there is not much more official information about the malt and grain whiskies that make up this iconic blended Scotch.
The Royal Salute decanters, or flagons, would be familiar to most people who have visited a liquor store. They are eye catching polished artworks in their own right, with gold trimmings signalling contents worthy of royal consumption.
The decanters themselves are made from porcelain and they are available in a number of colours including sapphire (blue), emerald (green) and ruby (red). The colours are thought to represent some of the different Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, being sapphire, emerald and ruby. Queen Elizabeth II’s crown, which is is adorned with 2,901 precious stones, has 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 5 rubies.
Speaking of all this bling leads me to briefly mention my wedding, where I chose to have Royal Salute available for guests to enjoy.
Royal Salute has always struck me as an approachable celebratory whisky that is best savoured with company during life’s biggest milestones and triumphs. The whisky offers maturity, mellowness and complexity in one super fancy regal looking bottle. In my experience while whisky aficionados sit back and unpack its shades of character those new to whisky just throw it down the hatch and proclaim “wow, I never had whisky this smooth!” (ah yes, “smooth”, the favourite descriptor of whisky newbies the world over). In any event, the Royal Salute liquid does not usually last very long and it has proved time and time again to be a consistent crowd-pleaser; a great choice for a special occasion whisky.
Nose: Char, ash and wood smoke are intertwined with aromas of orange and lemon peel, honey, chocolate coated raisins, spicy tobacco and apple compote spiced with cinnamon sticks and nutmeg. Beneath the sweet smell of sherry casks is a rich and oily nuttiness, especially walnut oil.
Taste: The initial taste of sherry, walnuts and oak is strong, but the palate dries and orange peel, cinnamon, honey and cooked apples eventually emerge and cut through a thin veil of wood smoke and char, as an oily film coats the tongue.
Finish: The nut oils dry up as the oak becomes grippy, and the taste of tea leaves and spices fade gently together with dwindling citrus peel marmalade and dates in what is a slow, long-lived and classy finale.
Overall: Royal Salute is, hands down, one of the world’s great whiskies – its deliciously drinkable liquid, with its patchwork of old grain and malt whiskies defined heavily by the influence of sherry wood, is both quaffable and intricate; it is a match made in whisky heaven, north-west of Aberdeen.