With the Royal Wedding gripping the nation last weekend, brands around Britain jumped on the regal bandwagon. Special editions, commemorative limited runs and products bearing the bearded face of Prince Harry were to be spotted across all markets. Most felt gratuitous — but one brand has years of form celebrating royal milestones.
"One brand has years of form celebrating royal milestones..."
Royal Salute, the ultra luxury whisky brand, has spent its entire 65-year existence commemorating British royal events, with their first bottle launching on 2 June 1953 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. Last week, the brand launched a limited run of 70 bottles of their ‘Royal Wedding Edition’. At $10,000 a pop, it’s not an investment to be taken lightly, but looks set to become a true collector’s item.
But why did this brand first come to be? What salute is it named after? And which other royal engagements and celebrations has it celebrated with its fine spirited spirits?
A royal start
Royal Salute is so-named for the traditional 21-gun salute, a ceremony stemming from a naval practice that shows deference and celebration to heads of state or government. And, taking inspiration from the number of guns or cannons fired, these whiskies are also all aged for a minimum of 21 years before being bottled in the distinctive ceramic flagons.
It was the brainchild of entrepreneur Sam Bronfman, who loved royalty and wished to create an extraordinary Scotch Whisky, ‘fit for a Queen’. As such, all Royal Salute variants are blended together using only the finest, more distinct and luxurious spirits in the world.
The most striking bottles
Wade Ceramics, a privately-owned potters in Etruria, near Stoke-on-Trent, are responsible for creating Royal Salute’s incredibly striking ceramic flagons. First used to create the bottles for the Royal Salute 21 Year Old — which sees these flagons bear the image of Robert the Bruce and a Gaelic motto that translates as ‘fidelity and stability since 1801’ — the company are also known for their 1930s art deco vases and the original tiles for the London Underground.
These original bottles, blue in colour, have been followed by red and green variants, with brown and white ceramics as special editions. The 62 Gun Salute, a limited edition ultra-premium release — read more on that below — was also packaged in an elegant blue glass decanter.
The brand’s expressions
Other than the 21-Year Old, the brand has released several more special editions to celebrate royal events and milestones. The 50-Year Old was launched in 2002 to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee, the 62 Gun Salute was named for the tradition of firing 62 guns for royal anniversaries in 2010, and the Diamond Jubilee, another 21-Year Old blend, commemorated the 60th anniversary of Elizabeth II’s coronation in 2011.
Other bottles include the 100 Cask Selection in 2004, the 38-Year ‘Stone of Destiny’ edition in 2005 and the ‘Tribute to Honour’ collection, a series of 21 bottles designed and decorated by Royal jewellers Garrard, studded with 400 black and white diamonds to celebrate six decades of the Queen’s reign.
Outside the royal family
Of course, it’s not all about the monarchy. Royal Salute are also international sponsors of Polo, with tournaments from Sydney to Sao Paolo bearing their name.
The whisky itself is distilled at the Strathisla distillery, the oldest working distillery in the Highlands, and one of the local malt whiskies, Strathisla Single Malt, is used in the Royal Salute blend. But these royal connections, and whiskies aged for quality come at a price. Prices start at £112 for a 70cl bottle, and rise all the way to the heady heights of £35,000.