Whisky Connosr

Chivas Ultis

Many Vomits

8 1072

@MaltActivistReview by @MaltActivist

17th Dec 2016


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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2016 has not been a stellar year and few will disagree with me on that. From beloved icons to hairy primates we’ve lost a lot in the last 350 odd days. Many people I know, my self included, will be glad to get rid of ’16 much like a corrupted tooth that’s been making your entire head hurt.

Notwithstanding the troubles rife in all the world there is also the alarming downward tailspin that is the whisky industry. And I don’t mean that in terms of commercial worries.

Oh no. Quite the contrary.

The giants have enjoyed this resurgence immensely. There’s not enough whisky to go around and distilleries / blending houses are struggling to meet with demand.

That’s all good.

What is tailspinning out of control is the unabashed pandering of, and I say this with the largest grain of sand that has ever existed in the history of the world, luxury whiskies to an unsuspecting public. A public that, in the midst of all these crises, still manages to loosen their purse strings in the hope of deriving value. A public that does not know any better. And a public that is routinely being hoodwinked.

It’s a shame.

I’ve written so many of these rant type reviews of late that it almost feels like it’s becoming my signature style. And I don’t want that. Because that’s not who I am. That’s not why I decided to start this little site. It was, in fact, to discover great whiskies and share them with the world. Not to put down the ones that didn’t meet with my satisfaction.

But this year has been harsh. Everywhere I’ve turned I’ve seen expensive suits, flashy invites, stunning venues, beautiful packaging, brilliant PR and, in the midst of all the fanfare, bullshit spirits devoid of any depth or complexity.

It’s almost as if they’ve latched on to a formula for success. Brand ambassador – check. Expensive venue – check. Entertaining distractions – check. Like shooting fish in a barrel.

And the really sick part is that, despite knowing all of this, people like me still latch on to the hope that this time, maybe this time, they won’t take us for a ride. That the heavy price tag genuinely reflects the quality and craftsmanship that the brand so proudly boasts about.

When I first came across the press release for the Chivas Ultis I was immediately drawn. I love vatted malts, thanks in large part to Compass Box, and was really curious what was being done with this. It had a nice story – five malts for five blenders – as a homage for their services. Nice. Comprising of five whiskies from five Speyside distilleries, Tormore, Longmorn, Strathisla, Allt A’bhainne and Braeval, it had the makings of something special. The packaging looked sleek and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

I sent out a mass message to all my friends to pick one up if they encountered it during their travels. And it was not a small favour to ask given it’s US$200 price tag. One of my close friends happened across this at Heathrow and put down his hard-earned money to do me this favour.

And as I sat at his table unboxing the bottle and poured my self a drink the only thing I could think of was Please don’t suck.

That’s it. Not I hope this blows me away. Just Please don’t suck. We are literally in that sorry stage of acceptance that it if it’s simply average we’re relieved. Of course, that wasn’t meant to be.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 40%

Nose: Lots of sherry. Butterscotch. Vanilla. Toffee. Soft red apples. Some cinnamon. Christmas fruit cake. Becomes a touch dry after a bit. Blood oranges. Black liquorice. Cherries. A very strong minty aroma now. Close to spearmint. Quite strange. As it settles stale coconut oil. Started off promising but somehow failed to keep me impressed.

Palate: Light bodied. Extremely weak delivery. Was expecting velvet to quote my mouth. What a let down. Peppercorns. Cinnamon. Bitter chocolate. Trouble getting any flavours out thanks to the low ABV. I tried, believe me.

Finish: Medium. Woody. Touch of limestone.

Overall Comments: What do you want me to say? Unbalanced. Devoid of any real depth. Weak. When I first read about this I made a little joke about the name. You see Ultis in Hindi means many vomits and I observed that this was probably not the best name to go with given the penchant that many Indians have for Chivas Regal. But in hindsight it seems like a fitting name given the state the industry is. Don’t waste your money on this bullshit.

Related Chivas reviews


Victor commented

@MaltActivist, such an unwittingly fitting Hindi title. These truly are the days of 'caveat emptor'- let the whisky buyer beware. I have to agree with everything you say about shaky whisky industry quality standards and pandering to gullible buyers with repeated barrages of expensive dubious products.

It really is a public service to have the BS exposed through honest non-pandering reviews. The great thing is that you as a reviewer are an established enthusiast, and not a crank. Like many of us, you really would love to love everything that you are drinking. Like you, I would prefer to write laudatory reviews of products which I love,...but honest reporting requires that the overpriced shams be exposed. Thanks very much for a review which is probably more enjoyable than is the Chivas Ultis.

7 years ago 2Who liked this?

Nozinan commented

One of the drawbacks about not having access to (or time to taste) such a wide variety of whiskies is that we miss out on a lot of great whiskies.

One of the benefits is that we learn to enjoy the experience vicariously.

Even better than that, we get to enjoy reviews like this and can switch off the "taste vicariously" function.....

7 years ago 2Who liked this?

BlueNote commented

It sounds so good, doesn't it? "5 signature malts, 5 master blenders." But once again, the story greatly outshines the product, in fact the story is the product because that is essentially what is being sold. Kind of a Marshall McLuhan thing; "the medium is the message." No age statement, low ABV, chill-filtered, colorant added, thin palate; what could possibly make this stuff worth US$200? Thanks for the warning @MaltActivist.

7 years ago 3Who liked this?

Alexsweden commented

Yes, thank you. I can only agree with your assessment of the state of the whisky industry. It is sad indeed. Selling a story instead of actual content seems a larger trend, not only applying to whisky. The world of business is in a downward spiral as is the whisky niche. I try to favor distillers and bottlers not pushing the marketing more than the whisky. I'll be sure not to have this Chivas.

7 years ago 1Who liked this?

Pierre_W commented

I could not agree more with what you have written, @MalrActivist, you (one more time) hit the nail on the head.

7 years ago 1Who liked this?

MaltActivist commented

@Victor I won't lie. I was, quite frankly, gutted. It had all the makings of a classic but seems it wasn't meant to be. I was hopeful thanks to a spate of recent fun stuff they had been upto - what with the Rye finish, the first-fill bourbon finish, the sherry finish --- all worth digging your nose into.

I don't mind drinking bad whiskies for academic purposes. I do mind, however, blatant gimmickry. eg I wouldn't bash Haig Club (though I haven't drunk it yet) because it doesn't really claim to be a superior spirit. It's cheap, it's meant for cocktails & Beckham is just there to make it look cool. I'm happy to live with that.

But this? On the back of fancy product launches and men in suits it does not deserve my money. And that's what irks me.

7 years ago 4Who liked this?

Victor commented

@MaltActivist, it is interesting that Jonny McCormick named Chivas Ultis as his Editor's Choice in the Buying Guide (p.126) in the new Spring 2017 Whisky Advocate. He rated the whisky at 96 points, and described it as, among other things, "Captivating, enticing, and wonderfully charming...." and "Quite heavenly." @MaltActivist, I trust your taste a lot more than I do Jonny McCormick's.

7 years ago 3Who liked this?

MaltActivist commented

@Victor I seem to be in the overwhelming minority for this whisky for some reason. Scotchwhisky.com had some nice things to say about this as well. Except it wasn't Dave Broom but someone by the name of Whisky Virgin; and it shows. Anyone who gives the Laphroaig Lore a 9.1 does not know his whiskies, let's be clear on that.

Appreciate your faith in me and now all the more reason to see if you concur. Knowing your taste I suspect you might.

I will, in any case, re-visit the Ultis to see whether I was justified in my disappointment.

7 years ago 0

Victor commented

@MaltActivist, well the upside is that if you re-taste the Ultis and like it better with additional tastings, then your expensive bottle of Scotch becomes a lot more valuable to YOU.

In any case your review becomes a permanent record of your honest first encounters with your bottle of Ultis.

7 years ago 0

talexander commented

Great review, thank you. Like @Victor I had read that review in Whisky Advocate and was looking forward to the opportunity to taste it (hopefully at a nice bar rather than having the shell out for the bottle). I still hope to but will do so with caution. I just reviewed two different bottlings - each 40ish years apart - of Chivas 12 and even the rather conventional current bottling seems better than the Ultis. I've had a few Chivas and Royal Salute expressions in my time and one thing they never have is a thin mouthfeel, so I'm shocked that the Ultis suffers from that. I like Jonny McCormick but he's a better writer on the auction scene and whisky investments than he is a reviewer. Of course, I agree with you about the industry in it's current iteration. I almost get a sense of "irrational exuberance" in their forceful proclamations of value based on packaging and marketing gobbledy-gook rather than age, craftsmanship and quality. It's as if they know they are running out of quality whisky and are trying to unload as much as possible as quickly as possible before everyone runs out.

7 years ago 1Who liked this?