Host's Guide Holiday 2012: Crowning Glories
This year, for only the second time in the history of the United Kingdom, a ruling monarch is celebrating a Diamond Jubilee, marking six decades on the throne. This milestone first occurred during the tenure of Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 until 1901 and thus attained her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Now, her great-great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II is the second monarch to be so honored.
This momentous event was heralded throughout the Commonwealth by parades along bunting-festooned streets, as well as gala dinners, concerts, and an assortment of pageants that included a 1,000-boat procession along the Thames accompanied by a rare 41-gun salute fired from in front of the Tower of London as the royal barge passed.
Yet in spite of these elaborate festivities, the most "spirited" tribute came from Scotland: a commemorative quartet of prestigious Scotch whiskies from Royal Salute, John Walker & Sons, Gordon & MacPhail, and The Macallan. Each is as individual as the distillery and master blender who created it.
The Diamond Jubilee whisky with the closest ties to the throne is Royal Salute, originally introduced as a prestige 21-year-old blended Scotch in 1953 to commemorate the prior year’s coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Royal Salute enjoys a connection with the royal family through its official partnership with the Historic Royal Palaces, a charity devoted to the preservation of sites, such as Kensington Palace and the Tower of London, that are owned by the queen but no longer used as royal residences. "Our affiliation with the Historic Royal Palaces," notes Torquhil Ian Campbell, 13th Duke of Argyll and a Royal Salute ambassador, "strengthens this fantastic association that Royal Salute has with the British monarchy."
Both the name and blend of Royal Salute 21 Year Old allude to the traditional 21-gun greeting in honor of heads of state. No whisky used in this special offering is less than 21 years old—a feat made possible by the fact that its parent brand owns 85 percent of the world’s whiskies aged at least 21 years. "Historically, we have had this tradition of laying down whiskies," says Colin Scott, the fourth, and current, master blender for Royal Salute. "So within a year after the death of King George VI, Charles Julian, our master blender at Chivas Bros. at the time, was able to go into the warehouses and select special casks all aged over 21 years to create Royal Salute 21 Year Old."
Today this blend continues to be produced and bottled in porcelain flagons similar to the original—now designed by Wade Ceramics and bearing an embossed image of Robert the Bruce and a banner with the Gaelic-language motto "Fidelity, stability, since 1801." The flagons are still fired in red, green, or blue glazes to represent the rubies, emeralds, and sapphires of the coronation crown, but much to the consternation of American collectors, only blue flagons are cur-rently exported to the United States.
Royal Salute has also issued other limited offerings, including in 2003 a one-time Royal Salute Fifty Year Old, celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee; a Royal Salute 100 Cask in 2004, blended from 100 casks of whis-kies aged a minimum of 21 years; a Royal Salute Stone of Destiny in 2005, named for the Scottish coronation stone and containing no whisky less than 38 years old; a 62 Gun Salute in 2010, comprising whiskies with a minimum age of 40 years; and last year’s spectacular Tribute to Honour, consisting of 21 jewel-encrusted flagons containing whiskies aged 45 years or more.