In the world of spirits, there’s a whisky to suit every taste, and now there are two new ones you need to try. known as the ‘King of Whisky’, the esteemed whisky brand Royal Salute recently introduced its first new 21 year old blends — The Malts Blend and The Lost Blend — since its founding in 1953 (timed to coincide with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II). At the launch event in Seoul, we got a first look at the two new additions and we also sat down for a taste with Master Blender Sandy Hyslop as we discussed the spirit of Royal Salute and his two new creations for the brand.
How long have you been blending whiskies and how did you get started?
I started in the whisky industry in 1983. Gradually my career has evolved to become master blender. You just can’t become [a master blender] overnight. You need to learn about all the different parts of the process; to understand whisky quality, maturation, casks, and technicalities of bottling. It’s about building up a full palette of understanding of all the different parts of the whisky business.
In your opinion, what makes for a good whisky?
A good whisky is something that is well matured and sophisticated in flavour. It’s all about getting a balance of flavour and not allowing any one of those flavours to dominate, but complete each other.
Congratulations on the launch! How do the new blends align with the history of the brand?
The first bottles of Royal Salute were first produced in 1953, two of which were given to the Queen at her coronation, which makes this extra special. We are the only whisky in the world that has been continuously available at 21 years old since then. There’s no other whisky in the world that has these credentials. For me, as master blender for Royal Salute, it is a huge honour to be responsible for such a prestigious whisky. But the icing on the cake is for me to be able to add new whiskies with new flavours to the family of such amazing lineage under my tenure — it’s an amazing achievement. This isn’t just a limited edition, or a one-off.
The signature Royal Salute 21 year old is rich pear fruit flavours. The Malts Blend is dialled up in that fruit flavour to possess the same Royal Salute credentials, but with the sweetness of peaches and homemade jam making it more indulgent and syrupy.
For The Lost Blend, I was going for something a little bit more traditional. Some of the whiskies in the blend are no longer in existence, [making The Lost Blend] extremely rare. It’s still Royal Salute with the traditional spiciness and nuttiness, but it is also sophisticatedly smoky. Not just peat, not just medicinal, but more of a whisper of bonfire smoke. It’s the easiest thing in the world to make a smoky whisky, but not to make a whisky that still has that sweet flavour. A dusting of smoke is what you want, and that’s what The Lost Blend is all about.
I wanted two things: people who enjoyed Royal Salute at the moment to be given the opportunity to try something slightly different. but also for people who were coming to Royal Salute for the first time to be able to choose different kinds of flavours. It’s great to be able to offer different dynamics to Royal Salute.
Between the two new blends, which do you prefer?
That’s a tough one. That’s like asking which is your favourite child! I love The Malts Blend. But the smokiness of The Lost Blend is something really exciting for me to work on. To make something 21 years old with a smoky character was a real challenge for me and I really enjoyed the challenge. They’re different in both ways. I’m a real sweet tooth, so I love that the sweet Malts Blend, but the smoky Lost Blend is also really interesting. It’s too hard to pick between the two.
As The Lost Blend is using whiskies that are no longer in existence, how will this affect production?
We’re never going to have oceans of stock of The Lost Blend. But I have ring-fenced a serious amount of distilleries that are no longer producing to make sure that we have a sizeable amount of inventory for the future. One advantage that we have is that we’ve been producing 21 year old whiskies for so long that we have extensive amounts of inventory laid down.
In your opinion, what are the best ways to enjoy these new additions?
The Malts Blend I love with a little bit of water. It lends itself really well with a big block of ice. I actually quite like The Lost Blend as a highball with soda and ice. It works really well with the aromatics and the smoke comes off brilliantly. Because it has so much richness in flavour, both blends actually also work really well in a cocktail. It’s actually a really versatile whisky, more versatile than what people. You’ll have to have a taste yourself to know what I mean.