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Whisky, As You Like It

Is there really a proper way to enjoy whisky? Listen to the master blender of Chivas Regal when he says that they have no rules.

You can’t think about whisky without thinking of wood barrels stacked in a cool underground cellar. You might think of whisky and think of old guys hanging around, cigars hanging from their mouths. Or you might think of whisky as that drink you always saw in your dad’s hand at parties.

The truth is, whisky is one of those things you might associate with antiques, black-and-white movies, and old people. And that’s not terribly surprising, considering whisky has been made the same way for hundreds of years.

Chivas Regal was launched in 1909, and you can’t think of the name without imagining the green hills of Scotland, hunting rifles, maybe even kilts. “Tradition” and “classic” are important keywords here.

Purists might say there’s a wrong and a right way to drink whisky, but Colin Scott begs to differ. And if you’re going to listen to anyone about how to drink whisky, it might as well be Scott, who is the Chivas Regal Custodian Master Blender, a legend of the whisky industry with nearly 30 years of experience as a Master Blender.

In other words, Scott is the guy who’s responsible for how the stuff tastes. From among hundreds of barrels, he and his team of blenders decide which ones come together to serve up the classic Chivas flavor in new forms. Blenders undergo years of rigorous training before they can officially be part of the blending team.

Part of Scott’s team is Kevin Balmforth, a Chivas Regal Blender. And their most important tool? The nose. “We do a lot of nosing, because the nose is much more powerful than the mouth. When we’re discerning whiskies, most of the time we’ll nose it, which is probably 90 percent of what we do.”

Whatever passes those noses’ discernment makes it to one of Chivas’ famous blends, such as Chivas 12, Chivas Extra, and Chivas 18.

“A versatile and approachable blend that can be enjoyed in a number of ways, the Chivas Regal 12 allows you to share and toast to your success with those around you,” says Scott. The brand’s most popular blend is light and fruity, with a hint of spice. Scott’s favorite is the Chivas 18. “It’s slightly more bitter but it goes down smooth, and it’s lovely with a bit of dark chocolate.”

Chivas Extra is a little spicier but noticeably sweeter.

And what can you do with a glass of whisky? Anything you like, apparently. Have it on ice. Maybe you want one cube. Or three. Or neat. Scott himself likes it with a little bit of water.

You can even put it in a cocktail. “For us, it’s up to you how you want to enjoy it, and we have no rules.”

Take that, purists.