In 1982, Gabriel Garcia Marquez won the Nobel prize for literature, Michael Jackson won praise for "Thriller," and E.T. won hearts at the movies. And in a sunny corner of Scotland, barley and malt began a 25-year journey to Ignacio Sanchez's whiskey glass in New York City. The trip ended last fall when Mr. Sanchez received a bottle of Chivas Regal 25 from his brother to celebrate opening the New York office of their partnership, TriStar Capital LLC, an equipment leasing and financing company based in Santa Ana, California.
"My dad was a Scotch drinker," Mr. Sanchez says. "I grew up smelling his Scotch and, to tell you the truth, sometimes tasting it. This Scotch brings back those sensations from when I was a kid."
For certain, every bottle of the Scotch contains a dram of nostalgia that U.S. sippers missed for decades. The Chivas Bros. distillery originally introduced its 25-year-old in 1909 as America's first luxury Scotch and as its first product in the U.S. market. Other, younger Scotches followed in the 1920s, and though they resurfaced after Prohibition, the 25-year-old did not -- until October 2007, when it was reintroduced internationally at a celebrity-studded gala at the New York City Public Library.
At a shade under $300 for a 750-milliliter bottle, Chivas 25 is no average Scotch. It nestles on the shelf with other luxury whiskeys, most of which are single-malt Scotches, not blends. "Aging is terribly important," says Paul Garza Jr., a Scotch connoisseur. Mr. Garza is a consultant in Fullerton, California who finds funding for public and private business development. "Most people drink Scotch less than 10 years old, and they add things to it, like water and soda," Mr. Garza says. In essence, he adds, they haven't tasted Scotch at all -- not the way it was meant to be consumed. He enjoys his neat, without ice. Some connoisseurs claim a drop or two of water opens the bouquet of a good Scotch. Savor the aroma first, they say, because most of the tasting happens in the nose. Then pick up hints of the whiskey's origin: the peat smoke of the Highlands, before rolling a bit over your tongue, savoring its smoothness and flavor. Swallow, they advise, and revel in the aftertaste.
"The Chivas 25 comes from the Speyside area, so it's kind of fruity and creamy," says Lorena Mendez, Chivas senior brand manager for importer Pernod Ricard USA. "The finish is smooth, rounded, and luxurious."
In New York, Mr. Sanchez says he detects essence of orange and chocolate in it -- a quality that made the original blend a favorite in New York's fine restaurants and nightclubs and on ocean liners docking there. Today, the Scotch still does well in New York, but also in Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Las Vegas.
Among Hispanics, the luxury Scotch market is particularly strong in Miami, the Southwest, and California because of affluence and national diversity, Ms. Mendez says. She attributed this to the popularity of Scotch whiskey in Mexico and northern South America. "Scotch whiskey is a staple among Hispanic consumers," says Ms. Mendez. "Chivas 25 fits well because of the sophistication of the Hispanic palate." The reintroduction, a limited run of about 1,000 bottles, came from a blend of single-malt and grain whiskeys -- all aged in oak casks at least 25 years, the company says, and some of which came from distilleries that quit production years ago. The blend allows for consistency, overseen by master blender Colin Scott and a team of three tasters.
The limited run has caused what a financial newspaper in Argentina called "a battle of the super-premium bottles." There, Chivas 25 was introduced in April with about a dozen bottles and a long waiting list of potential buyers.
In the United States, Ms. Mendez says, the brand has found a home in high-end boutiques. It sold out at mass marketer Beverages & More -- and it became a down-time pleasure for Ignacio Sanchez. "It's not your everyday Scotch, especially at that price point," he says, adding that until his brother gave him a celebratory bottle to treasure, "I had to go to a bar around the corner from my home, in TriBeCa, to treat myself to a good Scotch." Now he can taste it anytime he likes.
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