Royal Salute’s master blender Sandy Hyslop on why whisky cocktails are making a comeback
Sandy tells Tempus: “There’s no right or wrong with whisky… People don’t realise just how versatile it is.”
Sandy Hyslop first began blending whisky in 1983 on the east coast of Scotland. Since then, his expertise has seen him become one of the foremost master blenders in the country, working as a master blender for Chivas Brothers’ Ballantine whisky and now director of blending for Royal Salute scotch whisky. Now, he is joining polo star Malcolm Borwick in unveiling the brand’s latest limited edition – the Royal Salute 21 year old Polo Edition.
Bright in tone with sweet notes of honeydew melon, blackberry and toffee, Sandy described the blend as a robust, sophisticated whisky perfect for daytime. Launching the Polo Edition in the UK, Sandy took part in a polo lesson hosted by Malcolm. “It was a special treat as I don’t usually get to go to these events,” he told Tempus. “It was great to see the fruits of my work come to fruition.”
The edition perfectly compliments the brand's relationship with the sport of polo – Malcolm has been an ambassador of the brand for more than six years, and played alongside Prince Harry in the Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup. Tempus spoke to Sandy about how best to experience whisky, and where this new blend is taking the brand...
Tempus: How pleased are you with the response to Royal Salute Polo Edition?
Sandy: “I’m really pleased with the response we’ve had. The Polo Edition is something very different to our other blends. It still has that intensity of flavour that Royal Salute is so well known for, but the citrus notes make it much more delicate and versatile.”
Do you think there are misconceptions about whisky?
“I think people really don’t realise just how versatile whisky is. Something like Royal Salute Polo Edition can be drunk neat, with water or ice, and it also makes fabulous cocktails. You need a whisky with lots of flavour to stand up in a cocktail and give it that bit of depth. This edition is perfect for that. For me, on the nose, it’s got that sweet honeydew melon flavour, blackcurrant jam, rand citrusy notes coming through. To taste it’s amazing, orange and marmalade with a toffee finish. It’s superb.”
What kind of cocktails would you recommend?
“We had it with a champagne spritz at the launch event – add a little bit of orange, or even the bitterness of orange rind. I like to drink it in a high ball glass with loads of ice, a generous measure of whisky and then fill the glass with soda. It’s something you can drink all night and the flavour is luscious and sweet.”
How does this blend compare to the rest of Royal Salute’s range?
“I wanted to make something that was discernibly different, and that might take our whiskies in a different direction. I wanted to blend something that was really sophisticated and had a bit of sparkle to it.”
What are the important things you’re looking for when blending a whisky like this?
What you’re looking for in a great blend is the balance of delicate malt and grain whiskies that have been matured in really good quality casks. The quality of the whisky you make from the distillery is really important, that’s where you get your fruit flavours, but a close second is the quality of your cask – especially after 21 years. The cask gives lots of flavour and influence, and in royal salute that balance is probably about 50/50. There’s a length of finish on the polo edition – its flavour takes a long time to dissipate on the palette – and a lot of that comes from using high quality American oak barrels. The oak is charred on the inside, and you get natural wood sugars released under the char, which is where you get a lot of the toffee notes, vanillas, delicate flavours that you can taste. All that comes from the barrel.”