The blended scotch whisky market is a crowded field, but there are a few giant players in the game – brand names so infamous, even a scotch novice knows them immediately. Obviously, Johnnie Walker is the biggest, most recognizable name, but Dewar’s is right on their heels. Today we’re checking out Dewar’s White Label to see how it stacks up against competitors both large and small.
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. It built itself into a market leader by 1896, when it decided to actually 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.
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 for a minimum of three years in oak casks. 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. 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.
In general, this looks like a typical whiskey bottle. The body is 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 relatively short neck and is capped off with a metal screw-on cap.
As for the labeling, this is taking a page out of the “less is more, simple is beautiful” playbook. There’s some stylizing on the edges, but overall it’s a white label with red lettering for the brand and some additional details included. No fancy pictures, no fake aging, no faux ripped / burned edges. Just a plain, clean label.
Scotch whisky tends to have a “fingerprint”: a common profile for smell and taste that can be found across all brands. In this case, the fingerprint is clearly identifiable. The aroma coming off the glass is spot on for a good scotch whisky, with sweet honey and lemon citrus being the key items I can detect. There’s also a bit of vanilla deep in the background adding a bit of depth.
That flavor profile carries over into the taste for the most part, with honey and lemon citrus leading the way. But there’s a couple additional dance partners that join the floor when the party moves indoors. I get a bit more brown sugar and vanilla, flavors commonly associated with oak cask maturation, which round out the profile.
What’s interesting is the tail end of the flavor. It starts to finish smooth, but there’s almost a hint of smoke at the end that seems to linger well after the spirit has disappeared. That smoke can sometimes turn a bit bitter, though, which is an unfortunate end for an otherwise good experience.
With a little bit of added ice, things start to change. And I’m not necessarily mad about it.
The citrus flavor is still there, but it seems to have moved into the background. Now, in its place seems to be a bit of crisp pear that has added itself to the mix. This adds some brightness and crispness to the spirit that may have been missing before, and definitely seems like it would work well in a cocktail.
Also pleasantly changed here is the finish. There’s no longer even the hint of bitterness, it just finishes smooth and delicious.
The nice thing about blended scotch whisky is that it is consistent, but that’s also the problem with blended scotch whisky. There isn’t a whole lot of deviation from the normal formula to distinguish each bottle from its competitor. That said, this is spot-on perfect for a standard blended scotch whisky.
There’s nothing inherently bad about being a solid yet unsurprising product. This is a fine tasting blended scotch available at a darn reasonable price. Definitely worth a look, and absolutely fair game for mixing into cocktails.
|Dewar's White Label Blended Scotch Whisky|
Classification: Blended Scotch Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $18.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3/5
A solid and well priced blended whisky.