When it comes to exceptionally aged Scotch whisky, the name on everyone’s mind has always been Royal Salute.
An expression that is synonymous for its connection to British royalty, Royal Salute has consistently retained its reputation as a skilfully crafted, modern expression of remarkable, high-aged Scotch whisky. It’s latest addition to the range is Royal Salute 30 Year Old Key to the Kingdom, which has been brought to life by Royal Salute Master Blender Sandy Hyslop.
Since its inception, Royal Salute has always celebrated momentous occasions, having been originally crafted to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Royal Salute’s 30 Year Old Key to the Kingdom, also boasts its own unique relationship to the British Monarchy with its linkage to the celebratory spirit and grandeur of the Ceremony of the Keys.
The ceremony, hosted annually at Scotland’s Holyrood Palace is where the keys to the City of Edinburgh are presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Inside each bottle of this luxurious new expression is a blend of hand-selected fine whiskies, each aged for a minimum of 30 years, meticulously sourced from across Scotland, the enchanting home of Royal Salute.
According to Sandy Hyslop, the new blend captures the celebratory energy and classic refinement of the Ceremony of the Keys. “Each whisky that was selected to create this new expression is of the utmost quality, and from the start of production through to bottling, it was a thorough process that required constant care and attention.”
With the arrival of Royal Salute’s latest expression, August Man went into a deep dive with the Royal Salute Master Blender, to discover more about the 30 Year Old Key to the Kingdom.
When was the idea or concept of Key to the Kingdom first conceptualised?
Royal Salute has always explored innovation within exceptional aged Scotch whisky, and the source of inspiration behind this new expression is no exception. To release a new expression within the Royal Salute range always takes a number of years, and given the 30 Year Old Key to the Kingdom is a permanent expression, it took even longer.
As you know, we’re drawn on the unique connectivity to British royalty that is at the heart of Royal Salute’s heritage, and the 30 Year Old Key to the Kingdom takes inspiration from the Ceremony of the Keys – the annual royal ceremony where the keys to Edinburgh city are presented to Queen Elizabeth II.
As Master Blender what was your approach in bringing this whisky to life?
A whisky creation of this rarity and quality needs to be built up from scratch in the blending room. Drawing samples from many different casks, experimenting with different combinations and building up the blend in miniature on the bench before taking all the whiskies from the warehouses and blending them together in earnest. The balance of cask influence and distillery character is something that is of particular focus for me. At this elevated age, it is imperative to create a whisky where I have the influence of cask maturation complimenting the distillate character in perfect harmony.
Why was this year chosen for this new expression?
We have an incredible inventory of aged Scotch whiskies, and together with my team we monitor the casks on a very regular basis. This means that I know when a whisky is ready to be blended. When we were working on the 30 Year Old Key to the Kingdom, I knew it had to be special, and the time felt right. We are also changing the packaging of our 32 Year Old and 38 Year Old expressions, so releasing the 30 Year Old at that time worked perfectly.
How long did it take you to create this blend?
It took over a year to formulate this Royal Salute 30 Year Old expression.
How does it feel having your name to yet another iconic Royal Salute expression?
I started in the whisky industry in 1983 working as an assistant in the Blending Room nearly 40 years ago. At that time I could only have dreamed of being responsible for such a prestigious whisky with a rich history. I am extremely proud and honoured to be responsible for the quality and continuity of the Royal Salute family of whiskies, and the icing on the cake is to be able to introduce new and exciting expressions permanently to the Royal Salute collection during my tenure as Master Blender.
Will Key to the Kingdom be part of the permanent Royal Salute range?
Yes that’s right, the 30 Year Old Key to the Kingdom is a new permanent expression in the exceptional Royal Salute portfolio.
Age statements are tricky, are there sufficient stocks and supplies to continue producing high aged Scotch?
That’s a good question, all Royal Salute whiskies are aged for a minimum of 21 years and when producing high-aged whiskies, we have to consider that some whiskies are extremely scarce. We are also committed to laying down whiskies every year to be used for Royal Salute many decades in the future. With our extensive high aged and rare inventory, we are perfectly placed to create this magnificent 30 years old expression.
In your opinion who would appreciate this new expression?
This whisky can be enjoyed by anyone that has a passion for exceptional Scotch whisky, and it would also make an excellent gift for whisky collectors. It’s unique as the blend was crafted from a hand-selection of the finest whiskies sourced across Scotland, each aged for a minimum of 30 years. It has a luxuriously sweet and fruity profile, enriched with warming spiced notes and subtle hints of smokiness.
Will we see Royal Salute create more unique blends that are tied to long-standing celebrations or traditions related to the British Monarchy?
Royal Salute is always looking to create a wealth of new and exciting blends across the portfolio. Although we won’t be revealing future plans just yet, I will say that I’m working on a number of different projects and whisky aficionados can anticipate that there will be more high-aged collectable whiskies launching soon – watch this space!
Royal Salute has always focused on the appearance of its expressions. How was it like seeing the bottle and packaging take shape?
It is always a proud moment for me when I see the expression that I have blended housed in the intricate flagons that Royal Salute is so well-known for. I am immensely proud of this latest release and feel the opulent packaging complements the outstanding whisky perfectly.
And what about your thoughts on seeing the final finished product in its full form?
The flagon is the perfect representation of the tradition that it celebrates. The features captured within the intricate design of the outer box were inspired by the Ceremony of the Keys in the city of Edinburgh, including decorative keyholes, ceremonial horns, swords carried by the Master of Ceremonies and roses, traditionally carried by Her Majesty during the ceremony. After spending a considerable amount of time working on an expression, it’s always so satisfying to see the final result ready to be enjoyed by whisky lovers.
Speaking on packaging, both The Precious Jewel and Stone of Destiny have also been given a refresh. Are you happy with the redesigned look?
I am! The new presentation boxes and neck labels feature beautiful modern design elements and artistic illustrations that connect to the craft and creativity behind each exceptional blend. The front of the new presentation boxes for The Precious Jewel and The Stone of Destiny feature the double diamond design that is signature to all Royal Salute presentation boxes, which ties the collection together and is ideal for whisky collectors.
Last but not least, being involved in the creation of so many expressions, which one holds a special place of importance both personally and personally?
Each expression I have created during my tenure at Royal Salute has been an extremely enjoyable process and I am always intrigued to test the cask samples and bring together a new creation.
Being responsible for all the limited-edition Royal Salute Polo expressions has been a real opportunity for me to be creative and innovative with some exceptional aged whiskies and experiment with finishing in exotic casks to produce some outstanding flavours.
The Royal Salute 30 Year Old Key to the Kingdom is available at select luxury retailers now at a RRP of US$399 (SG$552).
(Images: Royal Salute)