Timing is everything and the timing couldn't have been better this past weekend for the launch of the latest brand made by Royal Salute, the award-winning Scotch whisky company with roots deeply tied to the British Royal family. Royal Salute was created by parent company Chivas Regal in 1953 as a tribute to the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Indeed, the launch this past weekend in London of Royal Salute's Tribute to Honour, considered to be the most expensive, luxurious Scotch whisky ever made, concurred during the same weekend as many important festivities celebrating the royal family - from Prince Phillip's 90th birthday and the new title of Lord High Admiral which was bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth II to the anniversary of the Queen's coronation. Topping off the weekend was the historic Sentebale Polo Cup, sponsored by Royal Salute, in which HRH Prince Harry played against his brother, HRH Prince William, also known as the Duke of Cambridge.
At a retail price of $200,000 per bottle, and with only 21 bottles made, the limited edition Scotch whisky pays special tribute to the Honours of Scotland, which are the Scottish Crown Jewels and the oldest crown jewels of the British Isles. "This has been almost three years in the making," says Neil Macdonald, Royal Salute's Global Brand Director (seen above). "It is not like a commercial extension as such - it is a labor of love. This is the richest, rarest whisky and we needed a worthy way of presenting it."
To create the bottle for the luxury Scotch whisky, Royal Salute turned to Stephen Webster, world-renowned jewelry designer and Creative Director of Garrard, the oldest royal jeweler, which was founded 275 years ago. Once a design was settled upon, each bottle was painstakingly decorated with more than 22 carats of flawless black and white diamonds (413 diamonds in total).
The diamonds were handset individually in gold and silver - with a design that depicts the three symbols of Scottish power - the Sceptre, the Sword and the Crown. The manufacturing process of the opulent black porcelain vessels was a complicated one as aeronautical engineers were consulted so that it would be possible to adorn each one with jewels. French porcelain maker Revol needed to produce 400 bottles to find 21 perfect examples, according to Macdonald.
The Scotch whisky was blended by Royal Salute's master blender, Colin Scott (seen to the right with Stephen Webster), who used only the most exquisite, precious and scarce whiskies, all aged for a minimum of 45 years, which were found in the Royal Salute Vault at Strathisla. The Scotch whisky blend is so rare - only Scott has actually tasted it - that nearly all of it was used to fill the 21 bottles.
Only a token amount was left over to create sample sizes that will be distributed to the collectors around the world who buy the 21 bottles. "To represent the enthralling past we have in Scotland, I had to think about creating a whisky that would reflect all that honor, richness, history and heritage," Scott says.
Fortunately, Royal Salute has a long history of setting aside casks of its finest whisky each year, including the 45-year-old malt and grain whiskies that Scott used to blend the few precious liters of whisky found in the limited edition bottles.
"This is a Scotch whisky in a presentation that is truly worthy of royal accolade," adds Scott. "Behind this sumptuous presentation, there is this great craftsmanship that reflects the Honours of Scotland, that reflects Garrard, the oldest jeweler in the world and it reflects the craftsmanship of Royal Salute."
The launch of Royal Salute's Tribute to Honour brand began with a cocktail party on the terrace of the Ritz Hotel in London, followed by a sumptuous luncheon. During the cocktail hour, the Traditional Royal Air Force fly-past could be seen (and heard) during the Trooping the Colour parade going on at nearby Buckingham Palace. After lunch, the first Royal Salute Tribute to Honor bottle was unveiled for the press at Garrard in the very room where Queen Mary was fitted with her royal coronation crown in 1911.
That evening, a black-tie dinner befitting a queen hosted by Royal Salute and its brand ambassador, the Duke of Argyle, was held in the Grand Hall within the historic One Mayfair. The bottle was officially unveiled before a spectacular setting (seen to the right). After dessert, guests were invited to blend two single malts selected by Scott, which closely depicts the rare whisky found in the limited edition. Indeed, the Tribute to Honour blend is so limited that there isn't enough of it for it to be tasted by non-buyers.
On Sunday, Royal Salute sponsored the Sentebale Polo Cup on the grounds of Coworth Park Ascot in Berkshire. Founded by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, Sentebale helps the neediest and most vulnerable people in Lesotho, specifically children who are HIV positive and orphans. Prince Harry played against his older brother, Prince William, whose team was raising money for his own charity, the Tusk Trust, which protects African wildlife.
Prince William's team prevailed with a score of 1-0 in a closely fought contest. A dinner followed the polo match where Prince Harry delivered a moving speech about his charity. "Weve helped hundreds of children, giving them hope and health, where there was none," the prince said. "But there is far more we can do for them."
Photo Credit: Carrie Coolidge & Royal Salute
Prince William with Prince Seeiso at left
Prince Harry with his teammates
Prince William and Prince Harry at Royal Salute's Sentebale Polo Cup
Sentebale Polo Cup players and sponsors