Royal Salute: A Regal Recountal

In 1953, when Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was being crowned the queen of England, Charles Julian, master blender for Chivas Brothers, created a unique whisky to celebrate the ceremony. From the stills of the Strathisla Distillery at Keith, in Speyside, Scotland, Royal Salute was born as a blend of some of the rarest whiskies across the globe from the 1920s and 1930s. Named after the Royal Navy’s traditional 21-gun salute, the very first Royal Salute 21 Year Old marked the beginning of a regal journey.

Since the beginning, Royal Salute has always been bottled in colored ceramic decanters, the first of which was made by Royal Doulton, and painted green. It also featured the Royal Coat of Arms, which was later replaced by the Chivas Brothers crest depicting Robert the Bruce. During the mid 1950s, a brown decanter was introduced, but was discontinued within a few years after the introduction of the still prevalent blue decanter.

It was not until 1993 that the brand produced another masterpiece, and this time to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II. Bottled at 40 years old, in a gorgeous Baccarat ruby crystal decanter, the Royal Salute 40 Year Old is exclusive, with only 500 bottles released till date.

At Strathisla, select casks had been put aside in the Royal Salute Vault a long ago, a practise they still abide by. In 2002, whisky was drawn from those casks to produce one of the finest whiskies of all time, the Royal Salute 50-year-old, for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Matured in oak casks for 50 years, it is rich with raisin and nuts, leaving the palate smoky and sweet, with a long and warm finish.

A decade later, in 2011, Colin Scott, another master blender from the house of Chivas Brothers, crafted the Royal Salute Tribute to Honour, a limited edition whisky, to not just celebrate the Queen’s diamond jubilee, but also pay homage to the oldest crown jewels of the British Isle, the Scottish Regalia. With a whisky so rare, it is hardly a surprise that Chivas Brothers spared no expense in finding an exquisitely designed bottle to hold it. Thus, Stephen Webster, Creative Director of London-based jeweller, Garrard, was assigned the task. He handcrafted each of the 21 black porcelain flagons with 413 flawless black and white diamonds that are encrusted in silver and gold. But because the bottles would be embellished, the manufacturing process of the bottles was complicated, involving aeronautical engineers to design them. Revol, a French porcelain manufacturer, who was in charge of crafting the bottles, produced 400 bottles just to find 21 perfect ones.

It is, however, not just the bottles that are physically impressive. Each contains a blend of some of the rarest whiskies from the phenomenal archive of the Chivas Brothers. In Scott’s own words, “It is these very few whiskies which I have personally selected to compose Tribute to Honour—this opulent and rarest of blends.” Rich and languid, the smooth texture of the spirit leaves a luxuriously long finish which carries echoes of the blended whiskies’ enriching age. Priced at over £150,000.00 per bottle, it is one of the most expensive Scotch whiskies, across geographies.

In 2015, Chivas Brothers unveiled another limited edition set of 10 blended scotch whiskies, calling it The Royal Salute Age Collection. Contained in dark blue crystal decanters, and presented on a plinth made out of 8,000-year-old Neolithic wood sourced from Croatia, it is a beauty to behold. The Royal Salute Age Collection is a blend of age old tradition and contemporary understanding to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s 63rd year on the throne, the longest that Britain has ever seen.

Since 1953, only four people have had the privilege to become Royal Salute Master Blenders. Charles Julian, Allan Baillie, Jimmy Lang, and Colin Scott, four visionaries and skilled craftsmen perfected their art, by passing on their most-guarded secrets over generations. Their legacy of excellence has given birth to an exceptional range of scotch whisky, which is steeped in heritage and stature.