Romanced by the Stone of Destiny
Posted: Feb 12, 2010 3:13pm ET
I thought they’d all been vanquished, but every once in a while you find one: the single-malt-whisky snob who talks smack about blended Scotch as if the latter had no business consorting with the former. I entertained one the other night.
I listened for a while, tempted to interject something about the palate-boggling experience I had recently been treated to with the Royal Salute 38-Year-Old Stone of Destiny. If my guest had only stopped prattling on for a moment about the “undeniable” superiority of some peat-bomb Islay he had just discovered, I might have let him have sip. Instead I told myself to let him remain blissful in his ignorance. And I'm the happier in not having wasted any of my small sample on a lout.
But I will share with you—if not a dram—my thoughts on it. In short, it's a mind scrambler.
This new release from Chivas Regal is the older brother of the company's standard Royal Salute (21 years old), which was already one of my favorite blended Scotches. The Stone of Destiny is the oldest Chivas has ever issued, save for a 50-year-old commemorative version released in 2003 to honor the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. The Stone of Destiny tops the 50-year-old in one significant way: it is planned for continued production, while the other was a one-off edition.
Don’t expect your local store to be flooded with it, however. Brand ambassador Michael McLaren, who introduced me to the Stone of Destiny, explains that it is a limited allocation with only 600 bottles in the first release, with only a third of them coming to America. He says the company settled on 38 years old as an age at which it could continue to produce on a regular basis.
The whisky marries a dozen single malts with one grain whisky for an exceptionally high malt content. Barrels filled for the third and fourth time were used to achieve its advanced age without the whisky being overpowered by the wood. Once blended together the product was allowed to marry in barrels for two years.
The result is breathtakingly complex. The nose itself contains notes of cinnamon, vanilla, almond, Sherry, graham cracker and bread dough. Most of those continue onto the palate and are joined with hard candy, Christmas pudding, a wealth of spices and licorice. The finish goes on and on and contains a wisp of peat smoke and slight grassiness. It differs from the 21-year-old version in that it's not as creamy.
Check out what Mr. McLaren has to say about it in this video.
The suggested retail price is $600, but consider that for that price you also get the full treatment in the packaging, which is a porcelain flagon (more granite in color and darker than the standard Royal Salute) crowned with a 24-carat gold-plated stopper inspired by the hilts of ancient Scottish swords. The front bears a handcrafted gold-finished coat-of-arms. The name refers to the traditional coronation stone of Scottish monarchs, which was last used for Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
You can be excused if you ignore all the trimmings and history and focus on the incredible whisky within. If it doesn't make you a convert to blended Scotch, you’re a lost cause.
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