Simon Wittenberg catches up with Royal Salute’s Master Blender Sandy Hyslop to discuss the recent launch of the Royal Salute Coronation of King Charles III Edition Scotch whisky and what we can expect from the brand during 2023.
Luxurious Magazine: With the first royal coronation in 70 years, it must have been a special moment to be tasked with developing a whisky that marked this significant historical moment.
Sandy Hyslop: Absolutely! This is a really significant moment for me as Royal Salute Master Blender because it’s also a landmark year for the brand. The original Royal Salute 21 Year Old Signature Blend was first created as a gift for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on her Coronation Day in 1953, so this feels like a moment in time when history is repeating itself.
That Signature Blend still remains a core expression of Royal Salute, whilst the new Royal Salute Coronation of King Charles III Edition is an exclusive release of 500 decanters. Crafting this blend has been an experience that I could only have dreamt of being a part of when I started my career 40 years ago.
LM: What do you most admire about King Charles III?
Sandy: I admire many things about His Majesty, but his passion for innovation and dedication to forward-thinking ideas are qualities that really stand out for me. He has said that, as King, he wants to balance tradition and progress, and we’ve seen his impact on this already by upholding historic ceremonies with their traditional formality whilst adding a modern twist.
I resonate with this as a Master Blender because this is the same balance that I strive for in Royal Salute. We have a powerful heritage to celebrate and serious stocks of high-aged whisky in our inventory. I get to take these incredible things and bring a new, contemporary edge to them through experimentation backed by decades of experience.
This was very much the case for the special new Royal Salute Coronation of King Charles III Edition. I collected countless samples from our inventory and started experimenting with the flavours, making up new combinations and mixing them together until I was absolutely confident that I’d hit the perfect balance.
Then I selected rare sherry-seasoned Spanish oak casks to marry the whiskies together for more than two years and ultimately created a finish that would feel totally new and rich on the palate.
LM: With 53 individual blends making up this incredible whisky, how long did it take to develop, and what inventory did you use?
Sandy: I selected a real mix of samples from right across our cask inventory, covering malt and grain whiskies, some incredibly high-aged whiskies, and some at the youngest age of 21 years old, so you could say this expression has been at least 21 years in the making!
I constantly have creative ideas in my head, and so when the time is right to actually produce a new innovation, I’m hyper-ready to get started, and that was how it felt with this edition.
Because I visit our inventory so frequently and keep a tight control check on it, I have been brimming with thoughts about what formulation might work and how I could elevate it to luxurious new heights.
Every time I blend something new, it is a time-intensive process because it has to be just right. We will take no chances whatsoever, so although it is time-consuming, it works.
LM: With a $25,000 price tag, who do you think a typical buyer of this expression will be?
Sandy: There are many individually precious elements to this new expression that each bring their own appeal. For Royal Salute lovers and whisky aficionados, there is an extraordinary new taste to enjoy and savour.
For luxury collectors, there is a stunning Dartington Crystal decanter dressed in a deep sapphire blue hue, itself housed in a crafted wooden box inspired by Westminster Abbey. And with such a unique story behind its inspiration, it’s also for anyone wanting to capture this significant moment of cultural history.
LM: Do you expect to see some being sold at auction, like the Platinum Jubilee Edition?
Sandy: The Royal Salute Platinum Jubilee Edition auction lot was quite different in that it didn’t just include the whisky. For the Royal Salute Coronation of King Charles III Edition, we are super focused on celebrating the whisky itself and the wider moment in history, so there are no plans to enter into an auction.
Of course, with only 500 decanters released, and with the expectation that it is likely to increase in rarity as the whisky market grows and King Charles III’s reign progresses, perhaps it is something we should consider in a few years to come!
LM: The Royal Salute Coronation of King Charles III Edition was launched in the special surroundings of Westminster Abbey earlier this month. Was this a memorable moment as Master Blender?
Sandy: Standing inside Westminster Abbey is a memorable moment for anyone! It is such an iconic place, full of fascinating history and stories. Launching a new whisky there, just over three weeks before the coronation, went beyond my imagination!
We hosted 200 guests for a cocktail reception and dinner, and the energy and anticipation in the room were palpable from the beginning.
To stand up in Westminster Abbey and share my passion for this new expression with our guests was a real “pinch me” moment. We all raised a dram to toast King Charles III and reflect on how we were replaying the Royal Salute history from 70 years ago.
I love that my job allows me to step out of the blending room occasionally and into events and moments where I can see people experiencing the taste of a brand-new Royal Salute blend for the first time.
LM: Will King Charles III be personally receiving one of the 500 Dartington crystal decanters?
Sandy: Because our history was borne from being a gift to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the day of her coronation, we would love to be able to! Given that heritage and unique link to moments that mark the monarchy, should the opportunity arise, we would, of course, take it.
I know the King enjoys his whisky, so having this expression gifted to him would be a real honour.
LM: What are you particularly looking forward to about the coronation?
Sandy: The upcoming coronation will be an exciting moment in the UK and will reverberate worldwide! I will be watching it at home with my nearest and dearest, and a dram of celebratory whisky in hand, of course!
LM: What other launches can we expect to see from Royal Salute later this year?
Sandy: We’ve certainly started the year with a bang with the Coronation of King Charles III Edition! We are always working on creating new, innovative expressions at Royal Salute, and although I can never reveal too much too early, I can tell you I’m currently working on a lot of different projects.
I talked a little about balancing tradition and progress earlier, and Royal Salute has made really progressive strides into new creative industries, so I’m particularly excited to look at what our next chapter in these spaces might look like.
LM: Thank you for your time Sandy, and it has been a pleasure speaking to you.
Sandy: Thank you, Simon!
Royal Salute Coronation of King Charles III Edition – Where and How?
Royal Salute Coronation of King Charles III Edition is available for purchase at selected specialist retailers for an RRP of $25,000 (around £20,000). For more information, please visit royalsalute.com.
Read last year’s interview with Sandy Hyslop here.