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Issue 6 - Fit for kings

Whisky Magazine Issue 6
October 1999

 

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Fit for kings

Noble qualities created Chivas Regal, the 'Chieftain's Tipple' and royals' favourite. Charles MacLean explores the history of the Chivas brand.

What's in a name? Plenty where Chivas Regal is concerned, one of the world's top selling whiskies whose label hints of royal favour and intriguing Celtic ancestry.

The figures speak for themselves – three million cases of Chivas are sold every year. A classic case of a superb product, developed and marketed to its maximum potential. But that makes it sound too easy. The Chivas saga is primarily one of hard work and heroic attention to detail.

It begins in Schivas, a barony and medieval castle in north east Scotland, some 15 miles north of Aberdeen, on the bank of the River Ythan. The name derives from the Gaelic seimh as, pronounced 'sheev-as', meaning 'narrow place', and indeed the castle stands by a ford on the river.

In 1308 the famous warrior king known as Robert the Bruce won the Battle of Inverurie. One of his prizes was the Barony of Schivas, which he awarded to one of his supporters. King Robert's seal decorates at least one of Chivas's current
packaging.

Over time the families living in the hamlet of Schivas took the name, and adapted the spelling to 'Chivas'. They kept it even when they moved on as with the case of one family who started to farm near Peterhead, on the north east coast. In 1800, a branch of this family took the lease of a farm six miles to the east of Schivas. There were 12 children, including James, born in 1810, the sixth child, and John, born in 1814, the seventh. These were the Chivas Brothers.

They remained on the farm until their twe...

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