No doubt abut it, Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker are two of the most popular blended Scotch whiskies on the market. With JW being king of the blends and Chivas a close contender, it can be tough choosing between them.
Guilty as charged, I’ve previously been a bit of single malt snob. However, I’ve recently come around to the taste and balance you can get from certain blends. (Of late, I’ve been dabbling with whisky cocktails and just can’t face using my single malts!)
If you’re in a similar boat, you might share my curiosity – to see how both these market-leading blends stack up against one another. So, in this blog post, I’ll take a look at Chivas Regal vs Johnnie Walker, reviewing their 12 year old, 15 year old and 18 year old whiskies.
(I know there’s more bottles available from each brand, but I reckon this is fairly broad dissection with these six bottles.)
Hopefully, this review will help you get a sense of their overall taste – guiding you towards which blend is best for your taste and budget.
Let’s dive in.
Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker both make blended Scotch whisky. Neither of these brands make single malts. Instead they source malt and grain whiskies from various distilleries around Scotland which they use to make their various ages of blended Scotch.
Chivas Regalare owned by French beverage company Pernod Ricard. Their blended whiskies are primarily based around the Strathisla single malt from Keith, Speyside, including 13 more single malts from other Speyside distilleries and one from the Scapa distillery in Orkney. They also use a wheat whisky from the Strathclyde distillery in Glasgow.
Chivas Regal is renowned for its range of blended Scotch whiskies including their flagship Chivas Regal 12 Year Old plus their XV, 18 and 25 Year Old bottles. They also have a triplet of 13 year old ‘extra’ whiskies which have each been specialty-matured in sherry, bourbon and rye casks.
Johnnie Walkeris the flagship Scotch blend brand owned by spirits giant, Diageo. Their range is made using single malt and grain whiskies (such as wheat) from all around Scotland. As many as 40 varieties are used for a single blend such as their world-famous Black Label bottle. Designed to express ‘the 4 corners of Scotland’ their flavours balance light Lowlands, smooth Speysides, robust smoky Islays and floral Highland whiskies.
Johnnie Walker has a range of 7 Scotch blends which are identified via their iconic coloured label system. Red Label is their entry level bottle, accompanied by their Black, Double Black, Green, Gold, 18 and Blue Label whiskies (in that specific order).
Chivas Regal 12 vs Johnnie Walker Black Label
Chivas Regal 12 year old
Nose: Herbs, honey, heather & fruit
Palate: Banana, malt, aniseed, nuts, spice & toffee
Finish: Spice, black pepper & sweet
Age: 12 years (minimum)
Casks: Muti-cask maturation
Strength: 80 proof / 40 ABV%
Johnnie Walker Black Label
Nose:Sweet fruit with vanilla
Palate:Creamy toffee, sweet fruit & spice
Finish:Warm & smoky
Age:12 years (minimum)
Strength:80 proof / 40% ABV.
A closer look at the Chivas Regal 12
Nosing the Chivas 12, there’s subtle hints of heather, honey, and ripe fruit coming through. I also get a mild scent of spice. On the first sip, there’s an immediate peppery heat. Initially, this feels a little harsh, but it does eventually subside to an underlying honey sweetness. Adding a little water certainly helps as I begin to taste a mild herbal aroma. On reflection, I’d definitely recommend adding water from the start to relieve some of the harsh spiciness.
On the mid-palate, Chivas Regal 12 has mild flavours of banana, malt, aniseed, nuts and toffee. These mix together in a way that creates a complex yet smooth flavour profile. The finish is medium-long with notes of spice, black pepper and sweet lingering on the tongue.
Chivas Regal 12 is made in Scotland from multi-region casks which have been matured for twelve years or more. This blended Scotch whisky has an ABV of 40% and is chill filtered for extra smoothness. Chivas Regal 12 offers excellent value for money at US$34 and UK£28, making it an ideal choice for everyday sipping or as a special treat.
A closer look at Johnnie Walker Black Label
Opening the iconic square bottle, I’m Immediatley drawn in by the sweet and inviting aroma of Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky. The nose is filled with the tantalising smell of dried fruit and vanilla, with a hint of smokiness.
On the palate, I can taste smooth creamy toffee with notes of sweet fruit and spices. Later, I also get a warming hint of cinnamon and a touch of peppercorn which dances on the tongue. The finish is warm and smoky, leaving a lingering sensation on my tongue.
Which 12 year old is better?
Compared to the Chivas Regal, the Black Label is lighter and more approachable, which makes it a great everyday whisky. The 12-year maturation gives this bottles a smoothness and depth, and the modest price tag means you won’t break the bank if you fancy a dram after work. All in all, Johnnie Walker Black Label offers incredible value for money and would be my choice for the 12 year old category compared to the Chivas.
Chivas Regal XV vs Johnnie Walker Green Label
Chivas Regal XV
Nose: Orange, peach & barley
Palate: Apple, toffee, liquorice & sweet
Finish: Pear & vanilla
Age: 15 years (minimum)
Strength: 80 proof / 40 ABV%
Johnnie Walker Green Label
Nose:Earthy, fruity and floral.
Palate:Rich, woody with notes of oak & cedar.
Finish:Smoky & peaty
Age:15 years (minimum)
Casks: Muti-cask maturation
Strength:86 / 43% ABV.
A closer look at the Chivas Regal 15 year old
Straight up, this whisky is superbly fruity. Having been matured in ex-cognac casks for 15 years (hence the name) the Chivas Regal XV met my nose with a subtle sweet and fruity aroma. Nosing my glass, I get faint notes of juicy oranges, subtle peach and soft barley, which for me is a very inviting aroma. Compared to the flavour, the nose is a little weak.
On the palate however, I taste hints of crisp refreshing apples, with sweet pear and vanilla. There’s also a toffee like sweetness that comes through with a tang that reminds me of aniseed. I’m usually not much of a fan of this sort of flavour, but it brings an aromatic element to this dram which works nicely with the sweet fruitiness.
Compared to the CR12yo, the drinking experience is certainly less harsh and is packed full of juicy, fruity flavour. I haven’t had any ex-cognac matured whisky before, but this whisky really does have a brandy-like character going on. Sweet with apples and peardrops.
Finally, the finish was buttery with undertones of pear and vanilla that lingered on my taste buds. In terms of length, it’s actually a fairly short finish. Surprising and slightly disappointing as I was really getting into the fruitiness of this dram.
A closer look at Johnnie Walker Green Label
Uniquely, the Green Label by Johnnie Walker is a bit of anomaly within their range. Unlike the rest of their bottles, this edition is the only one to exclude grain whiskies using only single malts in it’s 15 year old blend.
Pouring a glass, I’m immediately hit with an earthy, herbal aroma that sort of reminds me of a florists. Trust me though, it’s actually attractively floral and slightly fruity towards the end each of each sniff. It’s inviting and pleasant.
On my first sip, the whisky has a rich woody flavour reminiscent of an empty cigar box. It’s a charming balance with distinct notes of oak and cedar, creating an intense yet enjoyably rich taste. Further in to the glass, there’s more of that earthy taste which comes from the peaty Islay malts. This gives a lovely smoky flavour that isn’t too overpowering. It really compliments the mild sweetness which comes through on the mid-palate.
The finish is smooth and smoky with a hint of sweet maltiness lingering on my tongue. It’s a long finish with smokiness and a gentle degree of honey oaky spice. Nothing too strong and nicely balanced. Overall, a cracking dram.
Which is 15 year old better?
Compared to the Chivas Regal XV, the Green Label is no where near as fruity or sweet. Frankly, it’s a totally different bottle with much peatier, smokier flavours which can be a real crowd-splitter if that’s not your thing.
For me however, I love the mild smoke and peat flavours of the Green Label. Considering the price, I think this is a great value bottle which is practically an ‘unofficial single malt’. Comparing it to the CRXV, it’s a tough decision between the two.
The XV has lovely fruity sweetness, but lacks in aroma and has a fairly weak finish. The Green Label is peaty, smoky with some oaky sweetness. If peat just ain’t your thing, I’d go with the Chivas. But for me, I’ll take the Green Label any day.
Chivas Regal 18 vs Johnnie Walker 18
Chivas Regal 18 year old
Nose: Malt, orange, custard, coconut & spice
Palate: Cinnamon, malt, more orange & oak
Finish: Warm & oaky
Age: 18 years (minimum)
Casks: Muti-cask maturation
Strength: 94 proof / 47 ABV%
Johnnie Walker 18
Nose:Rich spices, honey, vanilla & smoke
Palate:Sweet fruit, creamy dark chocolate
Finish:Long & sweet
Age:18 years (minimum)
Casks: Muti-cask maturation
Strength:80 proof / 40% ABV.
A closer look at the Chivas Regal 18 year old
At the upper end of their range is the Chivas Regal 18 Year Old expression crafted by Master Blender Colin Scott. This bottle is made with over 20 rare Scotch whiskies which have been aged for at least 18 years each before blending into this award-winning expression. Taking all the nuances of the 12yo, the 18yo is a much more refined and mature bottling.
I could almost taste this whisky before I even poured it. The slightest waft of its aroma filled my nostrils with a delicious complexity of sweet and spicy notes. There was the robustness of malt, combined with the zesty marmalade notes and a background hint of spice – I got nutmeg. Nosing my glass, I could detect subtle nuances of coconut ice and custard that added a delicious warmth to the scent.
As I took my first sip of Chivas Regal 18, I was welcomed with an abundance of oaky flavour. The palate was alive with winter spices and rich malt, followed by sweet notes of Seville orange marmalade and a pleasant oakiness. Continuing (neat) and with a little more ‘chewing’, I detected a mild hint of cinnamon that balanced perfectly with the spicy malt tones.
No surprises, the 18 year old is by far my favourite from Chivas Regal. It’s everything the 12yo promises, but with a much smoother drinking experience. The depth from the oak and fruity orange flavours are a wonderful combination that really comes to life. No water needed!
The finish is spiced and warming with oak and cinnamon lingering on the tongue for an extended period of time. Compared to the 12yo, it’s a lengthier finish which I thoroughly enjoyed. For the price and its age, the CR18 is exceptional value for money.
A closer look at Johnnie Walker 18
If you’re a Johnnie Walker fan, you’ll know that their portfolio pinnacle is the coveted Blue Label. For this review however, we’ll top-out with their 18 year old.
Previously known as ‘Platinum Label’ is blends whiskies from the Cardhu, Glen Elgin, Auchroisk, and Blair Athol distilleries. This decadent bottle is a real gem within their range, expressing the classic Johnnie Walker smokiness that weaves its way through their entire collection.
Breathing in the aroma of Johnnie Walker 18 Year Old, I’m instantly enveloped with a rich smoky smell. Fragrant spices take centre stage, mingling with hints of honey and vanilla. Nosing my glass, I also get sweet notes of dark chocolate mingle with the fragrant smokiness that Johnnie Walker is so well known for. With a little swirl around my glass, I’m greeted by a bouquet of sweet fruit.
Taking a sip of Johnnie Walker 18 Year Old, I’m immediately captivated by its intense flavour profile. The whisky has a remarkably smooth texture with a creamy mouthfeel that coats my tongue and throat. On the palate, I’m greeted first by slightly bitter notes of dark chocolate complemented by sweet dried fruit. Later comes an opulent wave of spices that create a complex burst of flavour – cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pepper, and hints of oak. As this delicious medley of spices lingers on my palate, I’m left with gentle smokiness.
The finish is long and lingering. The creamy flavours dark chocolate gives way to touches of honey and buttery vanilla before finally fading out into gentle smoky notes. It’s truly a delightful experience that’s enough to convert my single malt snobbishness. This whisky is utterly tremendous.
Which 18 year old is better?
As much as I love the JW18, the Chivas Regal 18 is a truly stunning blend. It’s got these wonderful fruity spiced flavours that really dance in your glass. For me, it’s got fantastic depth and nostalgically reminds me of my grandmother’s home made marmalade on toast. There’s a beautiful zing to this whisky but with adult-level spice and complexity.
At the same price as the Black Label, Chivas Regal 18 is my preferred option between these two bottles. It’s everything the 12 year old tries to deliver but with much more refined flavours. It’s oaky, spicy, smooth and sweet – all in one go.
Choosing between age categories
For the 12 year olds I’d go with the Johnnie Walker Black Label. Yep, it’s super mainstream and totally predictable, but it’s just smoother, sweeter and with the perfect level of smoke that makes me prefer it over the Chivas. Personally, I found the CR12yo to be a little harsh which let the bottle down.
For the 15 years olds I’m sticking with Johnnie Walker again on this one. The Chivas XV was beautifully fruity with almost brandy-like flavours of sweet apple and honey. But the floral, earthiness of the Green Label was simply lovely. Single malt depth with sweetness and peat smoke won this comparison for Johnnie Walker.
For the 18 year olds Chivas Regal 18 takes the title. It has this unique flavour profile of sweet caramel and spice, with a long warming finish that lingers on my tongue. Compared to the Black Label, it’s got a lovely malty sweetness mixed with orange which is so so tasty. For the price, I think this bottle is excellent value for money and a real category leader considering other 18 year old blends.
Both these brands are top players in the blended Scotch category. Whilst Chivas aren’t quite as mainstream, their Speyside orientated blends were a delight to sample.
The Chivas 12-18 year old range offers richness and warmth. Meanwhile the Johnnie Walker Black Label, through to their 18 Year Old bottles consistently delivers a classic smoky aroma and flavour profile.
If you’re looking for a smooth, subtle whisky with light sweet notes then Chivas Regal is the perfect choice for you. But if it’s that signature Johnnie Walker smokiness that gets your taste buds going, then stick with their amazing range of blended malt whiskies from 12 years to 18 years old.
Whichever bottle you decide on based on this post, I hope it’s been helpful.
Thanks for reading.
Chivas Regal vs Johnnie Walker FAQ’s
Which is better Johnnie Walker or Chivas?
Chivas Regal offers a smoother, subtle whisky with light sweet notes, while Johnnie Walker has a more distinctive smoky aroma and flavour profile. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference as both brands offer excellent blended Scotch whiskies ranging between 12-25 years old.
Is Chivas Regal a luxury?
Chivas Regal is considered to be a luxury Scotch whisky. It offers a smooth, subtle taste with light sweet notes compared to Johnnie Walker’s more smoky flavour profile. Chivas Regal has an excellent range of blended whiskies ranging from 12 up to 25 years old, making it a luxurious choice for whisky lovers.
Why is Chivas Regal so good?
Chivas Regal is an excellent blended Scotch whisky that offers a smooth, subtle taste with light sweet notes. Based around Speyside single malts, it has a fruity floral character with mild smoke and spice. Chivas Regal offers a luxurious range of blends from 12-25 years old, making it ideal for those who appreciate quality whisky.
Is Chivas Regal a premium Scotch whisky?
Yes, Chivas Regal is Europe and Asia’s top selling premium Scotch Whisky. Made at Scotland’s longest operating Strathisla distillery, it primarily uses Speyside single malts within it’s premium blend. Across their range of bottles, Chivas Regal whiskies are generally light, floral with mild smoke and elegant spice.
Is Johnnie Walker a true Scotch?
Yes, Johnnie Walker is a true Scotch whisky. Their blends are made from a mixture of malted barley or wheat, yeast and water in Scotland and aged for a minimum of three years. Their iconic range offers different blends, starting from their Red Label bottle – all the way up to their Blue Label bottle. (An age range of 3 to 60 years!)
Is Chivas a Scotch or whiskey?
Chivas Regal is made, blended and bottled in Scotland, therefore it is a Scotch and not a whiskey. The whiskies that make Chivas Regal are predominantly Speyside single malts, however, they do use an Orcadian malt whisky from Scapa and a wheat whisky from Glasgow. Meeting the strict regulations for blended Scotch, it is most certainly from Scotland.
Why is Johnnie Walker so popular?
Johnnie Walker is one of the most popular Scotch whiskies in the world due to its wide range of blended whiskies. From its signature Red Label bottle up to its ultra-premium Blue Label bottle, there is something for everyone. Their blends are a combination of malted barley or wheat, yeast and water and aged for a minimum of three years, giving it an unmistakable smoky taste that makes it stand out from other whiskeys.
Why is Blue Label so special?
Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky is an ultra-premium Scotch blend. Only one in ten thousand casks are selected to make Blue Label, ranging between 28 and 60 years old. The rarity and quality of the whiskies chosen for blending is what makes Johnnie Walker so special.
Is Chivas or Black Label better? ›
Chivas Regal tends to have a more complex range of flavours and aromas, thanks to its combination of malt and grain whiskies. Glenfiddich offers a sweeter taste profile but Chivas brings herbal sweetness as well as smoky notes. Ultimately, the choice between these two comes down to personal preference.Where does Chivas Regal rank? ›
Data shared by The Spirits Business shows that Johnnie Walker remains the most popular Scotch whisky label, with more than double the number of cases sold in 2020 compared to Ballantine's, its closest competitor. Grant's, William Lawson's, and Chivas Regal rank third, fourth, and fifth place, respectively.Is Chivas Regal worth the money? ›
Overall the whisky lacks depth, with the woody characteristics dominating, but is decently well rounded. The experience starts out uninspired, but finishes on a strong note. The world's 5th best selling blended scotch can be purchased for $34.99 for a 750ml bottle, and is bottled at 40% ABV.Is Chivas better than JD? ›
In comparison to Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, Chivas Regal is much more mellow with an earthy edge. Chivas Regal does not have the same smoky charred oak barrel taste that comes through in Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey. Instead Chivas Regal offers up sweet and nutty flavours backed by a smooth finish.