The Tippling Point | The Story of Chivas Regal, First Luxury Drink in Whiskey World, And Also the Finest

Anu Parthiban
News18 Tippling Point

Tell me the names of Scotch whiskies that come to your mind now and I bet Chivas Regal comes quite at the top of your list.

But how many of you know that it was the first luxury whiskey, an Aston Martin One in the world of spirits? The year was 1909. Prohibition was still more than a decade ahead in the US.

A century has withered by, still the ripples that the Chivas Regal made at the beginning of the last century in America haven’t yet died out.

James and John Chivas, brothers in a 14-member squad of siblings, could have spent all their lives in the place where they were born and brought up. They only had to take care of their Scottish farm. But at a very young age they could see a different path waiting for them, that would first take them to the town of Aberdeen and then to their glorious destiny.

The brothers found after the three-day trek to a city in mid-18th century, a world filled with opportunities.

While John started working at a wholesale firm, James went to work in a grocery store, the most prominent during the time, selling luxury goods and spirits to its elite customers.

The store’s fame finally reached the doors of the palace, and Queen Victoria granted it the rights to supply goods and provisions to her royal summer palace.

Eventually, James became partner of the store and later brought his brother too into the fold.

At the beginning of the last century, the Chivas family started blending whiskies of various sorts. They became a rave.

After the brothers died, the company was taken over by Alexader Smith, who worked with Alexander Chivas, James’ son. He decided to pay a tribute, and so in 1909, the then Master Blender Charles Howard brought out the first luxury drink in the whiskey world (and also the finest) - Chivas Regal 25 year old.

It was a huge hit. The company was then rebranded as Chivas Regal.

Since then generations of master blenders have been handing down the carefully guarded Chivas house style which has enamoured people by the millions. Frank Sinatra, the phenomenal singer, wanted a bottle at the backstage after every performance.

The rest of the hippie singers and artists made it get to stratosphere in terms of success.

In times of crisis, Chivas threw up magic which other spirits could never dare to. In the 1940s, when its sales dipped, what Chivas did was not to slash its price. Instead it doubled it.

Sales magically skyrocketed. Known in the spirit world as the Chivas effect, it threw into relief the conspicuous consumption among the emerging middle class.

Today, owned by the Pernod Ricard company, Chivas Regal is available in many expressions - Chivas 12, Chivas 18, Chivas 25, Chivas brothers Blend, Chivas Regal Family and in 2016, Chivas Regal, the Icon etc.

It all started with two brothers who could have spent their lives in their cozy farm in some remote place in Scotland. Instead they dared to dream. And as they woke up, believed that if they could walk for three days up to a distant town, they could catch up with that dream and turn into their destiny.

(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)​