It’s not every day that you get to sit down with a Duke and chat about the finer things in life. Yet that was what we did recently when Royal Salute flew Torquhil Ian Campbell, 13th Duke of Argyll down to Kuala Lumpur for the launch of two new whiskies and the unveiling of a new look for the ‘King of Whiskies’, as the brand calls itself.
After many years, the people behind Royal Salute decided that this heritage brand needed a redesign, so they engaged artist Kristjana S. Williams to conceptualise its new look, which now depicts the British Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London. That’s why you’ll find key elements of the menagerie – essentially a zoo in antiquity – with the lion, elephant, and ravens.
Besides maintaining the core range, Royal Salute has also added two new whiskies to the collection: The Malts Blend and The Lost Blend. The former is the first blended malt from the whisky brand, crafted with more than 21 single malts and aged for a minimum of 21 years from the five whisky regions in Scotland.
The latter, however, is a duty-free exclusive and an equally precious collectable. The Lost Blend is Royal Salute’s first peated whisky, crafted from Scotland’s ‘lost’ distilleries that are no longer in production. It has notes of sweet juicy pears and orange rind with hazelnuts and aromatic peat with a long, smooth finish.
New whiskies aside, we hear what the Duke of Argyll, Royal Salute’s ambassador has to say about the developments in a brand that he has been with for the past 23 years.
What makes a bottle of whisky fine, in your opinion?
In my opinion – and I say my opinion – it has everything to do with age. Royal Salute is very proud of its history – it was made in 1953 as a 21-year-old whisky because a 21-gun salute is the highest mark of respect you can pay to a monarch.
I think age does matter. If a brand is proud of the age of the whisky that’s in the bottle, they should put the age on the bottle. Royal Salute is the only whisky brand that starts at 21 years old – we have nothing younger. And I think that’s a good guideline of the quality of a whisky.
In what way does the age matter?
Aged whiskies tend to have greater character – they’re more rounded, slightly softer, and less harsh. They’ve had time to grow and create character. That’s what happens inside of the barrels when whisky ages. With time, it evolves, develops, and grows. It loses a lot of water to evaporation as well, so the whisky becomes more concentrated and condensed, and the flavours are enhanced.
What makes Royal Salute the ‘King of Whiskies’?
It’s the heritage. Our story is simple – it started off with Sam Bronfman, a Canadian businessman in the whisky industry. He was a true royalist and, I believe, the only Canadian invited to Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953. He wanted to pay respects to the new queen and decided, based on the 21-gun salute, he would gift the Royal Salute 21 Year Old whisky to her.
About 18 months back, I was privileged to be able to go into the royal archives at the Windsor Castle to do some research on this. We wanted to prove if Sam Bronfman had actually given the queen these bottles. Everything that was given to her at the coronation is listed in a big book, and I spent two days going through it. At about three-quarters of the way into the book, I found it: “Presented, two bottles of Royal Salute scotch whisky, 21 Years Old, in glass flagons, presented to the queen by Sam Bronfman.
How does one properly appreciate a fine whisky such as the Royal Salute?
If I were to tell you how I liked it, it might not necessarily be the way that you might like it. Normally when you taste whiskies for the first time, you’ll nose them neat, and then you’ll taste them 50/50 with water because that’s how the master blenders do it to get the most character out of the whisky.
I personally like drinking it in lots of different ways. I love cocktails. I like having whisky with water. I like it long, short, and with ice. I like drinking aged whisky neat, in particular, because I think it’s so special that I don’t want to mix it with anything. But also, I think the climate that you live in can sometimes dictate which way of drinking it to be better.
But ultimately, you can drink them in cocktails or any way that you like. My job is to get you to try it for the first time and show you a multitude of ways of drinking it. There’s no one right way to appreciate whisky — it isn’t like drinking wine. At the end of the day, your enjoyment is the most important thing. Hence, the correct way to drink it is the way that you enjoy it.
(All images: All is Amazing)