Those who consider themselves to be true whisky aficionados may be less familiar with Royal Salute – since it’s a blended spirit and therefore one that those dedicated to single malts might never consider drinking. Or is that just me being a whisky snob?
My late father always kept a bottle of blended whisky on a tray in his study – Haig’s premium Dimple – that he would reserve for daylight hours and take with a generous squirt from his personal soda syphon before igniting a Senior Service cigarette. After dark, the two were substituted for a single malt and a mild cigar. No wonder he died young.
The idea that blends are the dispensable pawns of the whisky world, existing to be drowned in mixers, is not uncommon. But a really good blend deserves better – and Royal Salute is just that. The label was created by Speyside’s historic Chivas Regal distillery to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and takes its name from the 21-gun salute that marked the event (also why the blend’s whiskies are each aged for a minimum of 21 years).
Last year Royal Salute set out to enhance its premium image with an initial limited production blend under the Flask Collection banner, which it has now followed with the 28-year-old Kew Palace Edition (£605). Inspired by the palace’s notable kitchen garden, the result is a collaboration between Royal Salute’s head blender Sandy Hyslop and the leonine French perfumer Barnabé Fillion.
The aim of the project was to add a gentle, floral touch to the typically rich and fruity Royal Salute flavour, while helping the Historic Royal Palaces charity with a one-off donation made during its official launch at Kew.
Floral whiskies seldom appeal to me, but this quickly won me over. It just seems to be the perfect summer whisky (for daylight hours, at least), with distinct flavours of pear, honey and a touch of violet combined with an unexpected smokiness.
What’s more, the Kew Palace Edition is supplied in an elaborate 70cl flagon, along with a delightful hip flask made from green porcelain, a pouring funnel and a small wooden tray.