Dewar's Scotch Whisky

Dewar’s Scotch Whisky – A Drinking Man’s Guide

A little while ago, we were approached by Dewar’s Scotch Whisky asking whether we would be interested in writing about their product in a sponsored post. Considering our fondness for Scotch, and Dewar’s presence as the number one selling Scotch in the US, I accepted the proposal contingent upon a personal review of their products, and they happily obliged. So, today I would like to introduce you to Dewar’s, talk about their witty campaign,  review their whiskies, and giveaway one  $100 and one $50 VISA giftcard (Sorry this time U.S. residents or citizens over 21 years only).  Just fill out the  under 2 min survey here, and here are the obligatory giveaway terms. Contest ends Dec 13, 2013 midnight CST.

Introduction

When it comes to Scotch, there are two basic categories – blended whiskies (all grain, all malt or a mix of grain and malt) and Single Malt whiskys. Neither of them is per se better, but interestingly Single Malts only attained popularity in the last 50 – 60 years. Nevertheless, the 90% of scotch whiskies sold today are blended and at the end of the day, all that matters is the taste you enjoy. Dewar’s was founded in  1846 by John Dewar Sr. and has produced blended whiskies of distinction. They are blended from hundreds of different types of whiskies, all of which are produced in Dewar’s own distilleries in Aberfeldy, Speyside, Macduff, Aultmore, Craigellachie, and Royal Brackla in the Scottish Highlands. It requires a skilled master blender with a refined nose and palate to balance the naturally inconsistencies of whisky, because there are so many factors that affect flavor. The whiskey itself can have fruity, peaty or grassy flavors, which are then influenced by the cask wood, aging, and even the location in the room! Like wine, or bourbon scotch has a seemingly endless number of flavor profiles. That’s why single malts often have consistency issues, while a blend will stay the same for years.

Claire Forlani & Glasgow

Claire Forlani & Glasgow

Dewar’s Drinking Man’s Guide – The Importance of Character

A few years ago, Dewar’s advertised with Sean Connery and the  slogan “some things age, others mature.” While this certainly still applies, the company recently hired Opperman Weiss to revamp their campaign. Surprisingly, they have taken the classic scotch advertising from tweed, tufted club chairs and idyllic Scottish highland estates to the industrial East End of Glasgow, paired it with a series of characters and the face of British Claire Forlani, who impresses with a Scottish accent, Bond girl sex appeal and some seriously jocose expressions.

To me, the most important message is delivered at the very end of the video when Claire Forlani concludes “the most interesting blends make for the strongest character”. Clearly she is referencing the blended Dewar’s Scotch as well as “one man gang” but if you think about it for a moment, true characters often do things that may seem contradictory at first, however upon a second glance you realize that this is what makes them special. For example, I have a friend in Germany that I always enjoyed spending time with. We went together on a trip to Paris, stayed at great hotels, enjoyed copious amounts of foie gras and enjoyed life to the fullest. When things weren’t going so well, we just had some Indian takeaway food at his small apartment. Even though we always had a great time, we rarely talk over the phone, which seems odd, but when we meet again, it is if we never lived apart. This gentleman loves luxury cars, yet he never got a driver’s license. That hardly makes sense, but his explanation was that he would not want to get a driver’s license until he can afford a Rolls Royce. A special reasoning indeed, but nevertheless a unique character.

One Man Gang

One Man Gang

Whenever he had a friend that chauffeured him, he would likewise have no problem to attend the St. Moritz winter polo game in a rented Ford Fiesta, the smallest car in the line-up! However, his love for luxury did not end with cars or horses. Instead he had a very refined taste for suitcases from Goyard, silver from Buccellati, manicure sets in croc leather from Hermès and Reversos from Jaeger-LeCoultre. Now, that in itself seems anything but contradictory, however in regard to politics he was a true socialist. So how can luxury and socialism go together? For him it meant that everybody should be entitled to luxury. Of course, you could raise the question: if everybody dwells in luxurious goods, is it still luxury? The other interesting trait was the fact that he loved animals, yet in order to get a pair of glasses he really liked, he was able to source a tortoise shell t0 be made into real tortoise glasses! Of course, he also bought a beautiful vintage nutria fur coat on eBay that he would wear frequently, and when a PETA activist approached him on the street, he thanked him for not throwing paint at him and expressed his respect for fighting for something that one believes in. Obviously, he is full of traits that would seem contradictory to some people at first, yet all of these made him a true character that stands out from the crowd because he is different, unique, sometimes difficult – but always honest, generous and amiable. A perfect example why the most interesting traits make for the strongest character.

Dewar's Selection - White Label, 12, 18 & Signature

Dewar’s Selection – White Label, 12, 18 & Signature

Blending Dewar’s Whisky

It all starts with the recipe for each individual Whisky. It may contain X percentage of whiskies of a fruity category, Y percentage of a grassy category,  Z percentage of a peaty category etc. Then it is tested on the palate as well as in the Dewar’s lab complex, where they not only have state of the art chemical analysis equipment but also red light to minimize color differences and tasting rooms with all kinds of different bottles. At the end 40 whiskies or more end up in one blend.

Dewar’s Scotch Whisky Reviews

Interestingly, all Drinking Men in the campaign drink the Dewar’s white label scotch with ice. To be honest, it looks so much better with ice but more often than not it is too overpowering and hence most scotch drinkers skip the ice and use just a few drops of water to enhance the flavor of the whisky. Of course, a scotch review is always subjective and some will despise what others love, though it can help.

Dewar's 12 year old

Dewar’s 12 year old

Dewar’s White Label

Dewar's 18 Blended Scotch Whisky

Dewar’s 18 Blended Scotch Whisky

At a retail price of around $23 per 750ml 80 proof  bottle, Dewar’s White Label is the least expensive Scotch in the Dewar’s line-up. It is unknown how long the whisky has stayed in the cask but based on the taste, I suppose it is somewhere between 3-4 years, I suppose. Generally, a Scotch in this price category is not really meant to be drunk straight but much rather as a cocktail. So let’s see how the White Label stands up.

Nose

A bit of lemon, ripe pears, a hint of butterscotch but overall light and fruity with a hint of grain spirits.

Body & Palate

A bit of creaminess, not mouthcoating, with notes of lemon, honey and just a very sight hint of peat. In addition, there was a hint of vanilla when I added a  few drops of water.

Finish

Very quick finish and a bit of honey, which means it is better suited to cocktails or with a cube of ice rather than drinking it at room temperature with a few drops of water. If you take a look at the cocktail section of Dewar’s you will notice that they only suggest the 12 and 18 year old on the rocks and the white label for cocktails. Overall, it is neither a bad nor a great whisky but a light one and for the price you simply cannot expect more.  It is versatile in the sense that you may drink it straight, though it is definitely not its strong suit. It is better suited to punches, mixed drinks or cocktails in my opinion. For a recent party my wife and I hosted, we made Dewar’s Black Tea Punch and it was a hit with scotch and non-scotch whisky drinkers alike.

Dewar’s 12 year old

Dewar's 12 year-old Scotch Whisky

Dewar’s 12 year-old Scotch Whisky

At a retail price of $29, Dewar’s 12 is just a bit more expensive than the White label but offers a blend of 12-year-old whiskies producing a superior result to the White Label. One of the big differences compared to the White Label Scotch is the process of double-aging. After carefully blending a combination of grain whiskies and single malts, the composition is ripened in oak barrels for an additional six months. In order to prevent the wood of the casks from impart their flavor on the already blended whisky, only very old, previously used barrels are utilized during that process. During that time period, the different levels of esters in the components of the blend can interact and marry. Although not measurable with conventional instruments, consumers appreciate the improved mouth-feel.

Nose

Sweet lemon curd, honey, light vanilla and a bit of fruit, but light overall.

Palate

Light cream not heavy, a bit of burn on the tongue but smooth and some caramel sweetness with a touch of smoke and peat. A few drops of water round out the flavors noticeably, so you should definitely give it a try.

Finish

Smooth, on the thinner, short side with slight lemon aftertaste. Definitely a step up from the White Label and considering the price, I’d always pick this one over the white label. We had this on hand at the same party to offer to the more sophisticated drinking men amongst the group.

Dewar’s 18 years old

Dewar's 18 Blended Scotch Whisky

Dewar’s 18 Blended Scotch Whisky

Ever since 1955, the John Dewar’s & Sons Ltd has held a Royal Warrant from Queen Elizabeth II for their blended Dewar’s 18. Of course, it is also double aged 80 proof / 40% abv. but this time 18 year old whiskies serve as the base. Nose Honey, toasty vanilla and well balanced. Palate Creamy and toasty with honey and light smokeyness, maybe a bit of marzipan, but definitely rich and luscious . All around very good flavors. Finish Full finish, warm and toasty with a touch of biscuits and oak. Overall, the Dewar’s 18 outperforms the Dewar’s 12 and White Label in every respect but for almost 3 times the price of the 12 year old version, I would not expect anything less.

Conlclusion

Altogether, for cocktails I’d say that White Label is a good choice, though if you go for value the Dewar’s 12 is slightly better, with Dewar’s 18 offering the best overall quality of the trio but also being the most expensive one. As I mentioned before, just because I like something, does not mean you do. Just give it a try and in the end, all that matters is what you like. Cheers – to Drinking Men!

This post is brought to you by Dewar’s. Drink Responsibly. Enjoy Responsibly.

8 replies
  1. w. adam mandelbaum
    w. adam mandelbaum says:

    All the copywriting in the world, all the obvious ripoff of other ad campaigns, all the phony baloney models in the world, will not make a good scotch. (although it might sell a bunch of it). Dewars a drinking man’s scotch? It maybe one step above Old Smuggler, but not much of a step. There are far better blends, and many better single malts. While there is no disputing the concept of de gustibus non disputandum est, I have never seen a drinking man with a sophisticated palate, that drank this haggis soaked in goat urine.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider
      Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Adam,

      When it comes to taste there is no objective better. Everyone’s taste buds are different. That being said, there are of course differences in how things are made and blended and some user better ingredients, have a better process or a specific character.
      Sometimes, they also have to go with the taste of the masses to make it work. For example Beringer White Zinfandel is more popular than their other wines, although I personally wouldn’t want to drink it because I don’t like it. On the other hand their Knights Valley wine is excellent in my opinion.

    • A. Niewenhous
      A. Niewenhous says:

      Agreed, A brand virtually unseen in Scotland. Does not rate as bar scotch there. Hyped for American market. Outclassed by The Famous Grouse and The Black Bottle. Sometimes seen in tourist hotels in London.

  2. Lucian Lafayette
    Lucian Lafayette says:

    I am afraid that the actual retail prices are somewhat higher than presented. Here, in a northeastern state, White Label runs to nearly $40 a bottle and the prices only go up from there. I still am searching for the really good bottle of scotch that can be purchased for less than $35.

    • Duncan King
      Duncan King says:

      You will never find a really good bottle of Scotch at that price, just like you’ll never find a really good Bordeaux for less than $10, or a really good suit for under $200. Good whisky is expensive stuff.

  3. Alexander Cave
    Alexander Cave says:

    When my grandfather died (now more than 30 years ago) it was discovered he had kept a decent supply of whisky from before the ’39-45 war, some of which was blended, and all had purchase dates written on the labels in pencil. I was presented with a few bottles which included Black & White and White Horse, whose current blends are not wildly different from Dewar’s.

    The flavour and character of these old blends is comparable with some of the better single malts of today, but that is to be expected. The current fashion is not to drink the spirit as it once was, to fully appreciate its merits for what it is, but to serve with ice, with coke or some other mixer, or even straight from the freezer! In other words, not to taste the whisky at all.

    Whisky producers fully understand this, and their blended output is intended to have a predictable flavour and character, but is not something for the discerning. Marketing and promotion is only for desired volume sales, and the retail price of blended whisky reflects both its quality and availability.

    Dewar’s is fine, but unexceptional. There are many far better and more interesting Scotch whiskies, particularly the single malts, on which your money would be better spent – the difference in price is worth the result. But if even if blended is your preference, try to drink it neat at body temperature, or with a drop of warmed spring water. Never mix it.

    Slainte-mhor!

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