This week we’re rolling through the higher end line of Dewar’s offerings, trying to see if a little bit of age helps to improve on their “standard edition” white label offering. We recently tried the 12 year aged spirit, which left us a little disappointed… but we’re still hopeful that the few additional years this 15 year bottle spent in the barrel improved the flavor and mellowed out any bitterness that might be lurking in the shadows.
As with the majority of other popular Scottish whisky brands, Dewar’s started out life as a wine and spirits merchant in Perth, Scotland. Founded in 1846 by John Dewar Sr., the shop employed his two sons and was in the business of importing wine and blending whiskey into their own store brands.
Relatively quickly, the brand gained worldwide acclaim and success. Dewar’s built itself into a market leader by 1896, when it decided to build its own distillery in Aberfeldy. The business continued to do well and joined the Distiller’s Company, a conglomerate of Scottish whiskey businesses, in 1925. That conglomerate would be purchased by Guinness in 1986; however, when Guinness eventually formed the massive British spirits company Diageo in 1997, Dewar’s was actually kicked out of the group and sold to the Caribbean-based Bacardi company along with Bombay Sapphire gin.
Dewar’s remains a wholly owned subsidiary of Bacardi, which is one of the largest privately owned family run spirits companies in the world.
- Learn More: What Is Scotch Whisky?
Despite the recent single malt craze, blended scotch is actually the more common and traditional expression of the spirit. But while blended scotch existed before Dewar’s, this company added something unique to their approach.
As with most scotch whisky, this spirit is distilled and matured within the borders of Scotland. Some of that spirit comes from malted barley grains, and some come from other cheaper grains like wheat. Once the whiskey has matured, it is purchased by Dewar’s who then blends it together with the product from other distilleries to create a flavor profile that they prefer.
The trick that Dewar’s introduced was the idea of “marrying” the whiskey in a cask after the blending process, which is what the packaging on this bottle is referring to in terms of the “double aged” aspect of this spirit.
Normally, blended whisky is put together and then immediately shipped out the door, but Dewar’s decided to spend some time letting the final mixture mature in an oak cask before bottling it for sale. This process is thought to improve the quality and balance of the flavors. At the bare minimum, it certainly sets Dewar’s apart from the competition.
For this 15 year version of their spirit, Dewar’s selects varieties of whisky that have been matured for a minimum of 15 years and blends them together before spending an additional six months in an oak cask prior to bottling. All of the maturation is done at the source distilleries before Dewar’s buys it, with only the last little bit of aging done in-house.
This is a fairly typical whiskey bottle shape. It’s cylindrical, with a flared base for greater stability and a gentle slope as you move up from the waist to the shoulder. There’s a Scottish knot (the Dewar’s logo) embossed in the glass on the front of the shoulder. From there, the bottle finishes off with a medium length neck and is capped off with a plastic and cork stopper.
The bottle is transparent and clear, which is a welcome change from their 12 year aged version that has a tinted brown bottle. The idea behind opaque bottles is theoretically to protect the spirit inside, but I personally like this better as it lets people see the color of the spirit that they are drinking and really helps to show it off. Around the bottle are two large labels: one is the typical Dewar’s label with the age statement and a rather bland design, the other is the more certificate-esque design but in this case it is printed on metallic gold paper. It does give the bottle a bit of a presence and makes it seem special.
As with most Scottish spirits, this comes shipped in a protective sleeve — but rather than the cheap cardboard that you usually get, this one actually comes in a metal sleeve. The outside is painted and shaped to give the impression of a copper riveted construction, just like the copper stills that produced the spirit (although I think it actually is made from aluminum). It’s a nice touch that helps to accentuate the spirit as well as protect it during transit and storage.
The spirit looks beautiful, with a golden amber color that is clearly visible in the bottle as well as the glass. The aromas coming off that glass have a richness and a saturation that I haven’t seen in other editions of Dewar’s; specifically, a delicious smelling mixture of vanilla, melon, banana, apple, and orange. There’s even a bit of floral blossom in the background to keep things light.
Taking a sip, the flavor is smooth and enjoyable — but still doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of the aroma. I can taste the usual malt whisky components of sourdough bread, butter, vanilla, caramel, and honey, but the fruity aspects that were the star of the aroma are having trouble making an appearance. Near the finish there’s finally a hint of apple and melon, but that’s about the extent of the flavors.
Just like we saw with the 12 year version, the aromas in the glass are still as strong and delicious as ever even when we add a few ice cubes. That’s remarkable, as you don’t normally see that kind of perseverance for lighter and fruitier aroma components with single malt or other kinds of spirits. It’s a neat trick.
Also interesting is that the fruit takes much more of a starring role in the flavors too. There’s the melon, apple, banana, and even a bit of orange citrus all mingling together with some sourdough bread and honey that makes for a light, fruity, and honestly delicious flavor profile.
At the risk of being sacrilegious, I might actually prefer this bottle of scotch on ice.
Credit where credit is due, this blended scotch whisky does a better job of integrating the components from the aroma into the actual flavor profile of the spirit than many other similar products on the market. And especially on ice, the flavors that manage to come through are still delicious and interesting. It’s a good showing from Dewar’s.
There’s some stiff competition at this price point, though. This bottle is definitely worth the time and the cash to try it out, but there are other spirits in this same general price range and category that edge it out. In my opinion, Monkey Shoulder is probably the biggest competition for this bottle, and I feel like they do just a slightly better job with the actual flavors of the spirit.
|Dewar's 15 Year Old Blended Whisky
Classification: Blended Scotch Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $30.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
A fruity, well constructed scotch that might actually be better on ice than it is taken neat.