Dewar’s White Label Blended Scotch

The number-one selling scotch in the United States. Really, this is a surprise to me. I would have thought the honor would belong to Johnnie Walker Red Label or Chivas Regal. 311 million Americans can’t be wrong, right? Let’s find out.

Dewar’s blended scotch has a storied history going back to 1846, when John Dewar became one of the first men to bottle scotch (blended) in glass bottles for retail. In 1899, John Dewar’s son John A. Dewar unveiled the company’s new flagship product, Dewar’s White Label. The main component was the malt produced at the newly-constructed Aberfeldy distillery in the Highlands, near Perthshire. Dewar’s built the distillery to ensure a steady supply of malt for blending. Today’s White Label still retains Aberfeldy malt as its ‘heart’ or primary malt component, and also contains as many as 40 other malts and grain whiskies.

Nose: Lemony. White peach. Chloraseptic. Thin. After a rest in the glass, white peaches dominate. Lemon sorbet, and a distinct neutral spirit – something in between vodka and cleaning solution. Pale honey and a hint of hops. Luckily, the white fruit and citrus counterpoint the harshness of the alcohol in the nose, but it’s still clear this contains young grain spirit.

Palate: A bit of creaminess in the body – unexpected. The alcohol hits harshly upfront, then quickly dissipates, leaving watered-down honey, small beer, and lemon peel.

Finish: Very short and uninteresting. The lemon floats to the top, but the vodka notes win out in the end, leaving an impression of low-quality spirit.

With Water: If anything, the nose is sharper with less nuance. The palate seems unchanged, although there might be a bit of vanilla that wasn’t present before.

Overall: This is probably very nice over ice, although in cocktails I would think the light flavor would be completely overpowered by any mixer. I’m no mixologist, however. The lemon notes throughout are nice, as is the white peach on the nose. The slight creaminess of the body is an unexpected plus. Unfortunately, the ungainly presence of the low-grade grain spirit tramples over the delicate flavors, leaving you with an impression of minimum quality. You get, as the saying goes, what you pay for. This is somewhat drinkable straight (although I wouldn’t want a second glass after all that vodka-like aftertaste), but I wouldn’t consider it the best choice at this level. Try Famous Grouse, Teacher’s Highland Cream, or Chivas Regal 12 first. Of course, for a bit more money, Great King Street is better in every way, and has a very similar flavor profile.

I think America needs to expand its horizons somewhat, although I guess all a brand has to do to establish itself as the “Number One Scotch in the US” is to become the standard ‘well’ whisky at the majority of bars. I guess the slogan “Number One Scotch For Americans Who Don’t Care What’s In Their Cocktails” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Dewar’s White Label Blended Scotch
40% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $20-$23
Acquired: (50ml miniature plastic sample bottle)
Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , ,
31 Comments

31 Responses to Dewar’s White Label Blended Scotch

  1. You nailed it again. I last had Dewar’s WL on a flight from LA to NY and that was all they had of scotch. I didn’t feel like Jim Beam white – the only other whiskey in the cart. The grain alcohol’s fishy texture and nasty flavor of Dewars WL swamps the hint of malt just as you describe. It was a disappointment. Note to self: when the choice is Dewars White Label or Jim Beam – take the cheap bourbon.

  2. Mantisking says:

    I’ve had all of the Dewar’s offerings — at least I think I have — and the only one worth drinking more than once is the 18. It has great flavors and balance.

  3. Obviously with the cheaper blends, it’s a matter of expectation. Nobody ever intended Dewar’s White Label (or JW Red Label, etc) for drinking straight (unless it’s as a shot!). Most of the offensive notes are hidden by robust mixers like Coke or sour mix.

    That said, I feel that tasting even the bottom-shelf stuff straight gives a good basis for comparison. If something under $20 is drinkable straight, it will definitely be better in a cocktail. This is especially true for cocktails that let the spirit shine, like Manhattans.

    • The problem here is the taste of the coffey still grain spirits. Bottom dollar Scotch, Irish, and Canadian all suffer from its impact. Cheap bourbon, however, has none of it. Bourbon is all the same distilled stuff. What separates the good stuff is aging and barrel selection. That means, for me, that even cheap bourbon is still sippable neat – just a bit “sweet and simple” compared to the better stuff. For a great example taste Evan Williams Black ($12/bottle) side by side with Elijah Craig 12 ($22/bottle). Same distillery, same mashbill – only difference is aging and barrel selection. Then, to really drive it home, compare either of those against any $24 or under Scotch.

      I love Scotch – but I consider it a product category that only becomes remotely acceptable at above $30/bottle. At the mid and high end Scotch has few peers in the world of distilled spirits. Just not at the low end.

  4. I should clarify my previous statement. Any cheap bourbon labelled “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey” will have none of it (Coffey distilled neutral grain spirits). There do exist “bourbon blends” that do have it. I was in denial about those – so far off my radar that kind of whiskey drinking is to me.

  5. Martini says:

    I am not surprised in the least at this review. Often things are #1 simply because they are more widely available, not because they are quality products.

  6. Curt McAdams says:

    Blended whiskies can have their place, though I agree that Dewar’s isn’t at the top of the heap. Black Bottle or JW Black Doublewood both make a great Rusty Nail. But if I’m drinking something neat, Bowmore 12 and Highland Park 12 are cheap enough, or Old Pulteney 12 is even cheaper, and all are very drinkable, I think.

  7. cato says:

    I’ve always wondered why the big blends get so much attention. After reading about all of the single malts that USED to go into them, it occurred to me that most of them are just riding out their legend. I have had some Chivas, Dewars, and JW from the mid-sixties. They tasted different than their modern counterparts. Most of the big blends stopped or reduced using the single malts that made them taste great. They instead built their own distilleries (ex. Allt-รก-Bhainne & Breval)to gain more vertical control of cost and quality. Obviously, only the cost control part worked. The bottom line is that most of the standard blends of today are very much inferior to those of the pre-1970′s.

  8. jack says:

    I am a Scotch drinker…I drink it neat…Dewars white label is a decent every day Scotch…I find it to be more enjoyable and therefore superior to j&B ,Cutty Stark,and JW red….that is what it ought to be compared with…the more expensive blends and the aged single malts are superior …u get what u pay for….

  9. Matt says:

    When I was in college (circa 1984) my first real girlfriend introduced me to Dewars and soda and Etta James–all in one night. Nice memories. I still keep a bottle on hand as the house “scotch”, but I tend to drink the single malts now.

  10. Robert says:

    Thirty years ago I drank Chivas and some Dewars (NOT J&B, JW Red, or other swill). I then was introduced to Glenmorngie and never looked back. I would sometimes drink Glemlivet or Glenfiddich, if that was all that was available. Love Ardbeg, Lagavulin and other single malts. The only blend now I really like is James Buchanan’s 18yo Special Reserve. Great stuff, but not cheap. Compared to this, Dewar’s is horse piss.

    • Robert says:

      PS I get the Wild Turkey on SW Airlines,as I won’t waste money on Dewars, and it’s not bad. Two shots on the rocks and I’m ready to fly!

  11. Victoria says:

    I have just been diagnosed with gluten-free diet!! Please tell me that Dewar’s doesn’t have gluten in it!!!!

    • Sorry to hear that, Victoria. Luckily, all distilled spirits of any type are gluten-free, including Dewar’s. Just make sure if you mix it with anything that the mixer is gluten-free. Enjoy!

    • Chris says:

      Not all distilled spirits are gluten free. Theoretically if distilled properly, the spirits should be gluten; however, many distillers tend to add some of the grain mash (which does contain gluten) back into the spirit to try and add flavor and/or coloring to the spirit. If you are highly sensitive to gluten I still caution you to be safe about it. Hope this helps

      • Interesting Chris, I’ve never heard that. Sounds like a good reason to drink more expensive whisky – a high-end bourbon or a single-malt wouldn’t contain mash in the bottle. Worst case, it would contain spirit caramel, which is derived from sugar and oak.

  12. John Werner says:

    Bottom line, for me at least, is drink this neat! It is apparently blended for the masses, but when neat it rises above it’s humbleness. Extremely drinkable neat if you don’t desire smoke.

  13. John Werner says:

    drink it neat…say no more!

  14. Eric says:

    I recently saw some ads for this stuff. An aging Claire Forlani faking a Scottish accent, and trying to hawk Dewar’s White Label as a luxury item in an industrial looking building. It’s strangely appropriate.

    I’ve had this once. The overpowering sweetness of it makes it taste like it’s embarrassed to be a whisky. It’s almost like it’s a scotch for those who don’t like scotch. I drank it after having a Chivas 12, which was much better.

  15. Tom says:

    Bottom line. Drink what you like. If you do not like Dewar’s do not drink it. I like it as my every day Sootch on the rocks. I like a nice single malt like Glennlivet when I go out or when I have guests over. I do not know why anyone would put Scotch in a cocktial and try to write a review. Mixres will ruin any good whisky.

    • Tom,
      Thanks for the comment. I agree totally – I try my best (although I fail a lot) to emphasize the “drink what you like” philosophy on this blog, even though I usually give blends negative reviews. Even though I’m not a fan of Dewar’s White Label (or Chivas or JW Black), I envy anyone who does enjoy these inexpensive drams. I’m also glad comments like this pop up frequently on the blog – reminding us all that a good, reliable blend is nothing to look down on. The caveat here is that I want to encourage people who drink blends frequently to get out and try a variety of single-malts to spice up those “special occasion” sessions with friends, and to educate themselves about the wide world of malts available out there. Cheers!

  16. kate says:

    hey gentlemen i have a 1912 white label bottle bottom marked 27 etc. the original label cork etc. all excellent condition full bottle too i have two friends who have offered me 3000 dollars and up but i think i need more value info any suggestions?

    • Hi Kate,
      Unfortunately, it’s difficult to price “old” bottles, since their market price is largely determined by their value as antiques, not as desirable liquid – whisky does not age in the bottle like wine does. I don’t have any way of determining the value of such old bottles, so your best bet is either to check with a whisky forum (whiskymag.com’s forum, or whiskywhiskywhisky.com), or to contact an auction house that deals with whisky – Bonhams, for example. Good luck!

  17. Matt says:

    Wow…u guy’s have kicked me in the groin. I’m doubled over, and can barely breath. I can only wheeze out:

    this forum should be called “The Scotch Snob…s”

    • Matt,
      Thanks for your opinion. If discussing the relative quality of one product versus another qualifies as snobbery, then absolutely. We’re all snobs. I presume the same logic would apply when choosing a car to purchase, right? Any old one will do – don’t compare their relative virtues or levels of quality, because that would be snobbery. Heaven forbid.

  18. John says:

    The scotch snob is so appropriate. You all are snobs. I love Dewars, all of them. I have been drinking Dewars for over 40 years, neat, with water, or soda, or on the rocks, and it’s never let me down. I have tasted many blends and single malts, yes many of them are good, great even, but I still prefer my Dewars. We all have our opinions, but I’ll stick with Dewars as my go to scotch, any day!

  19. Ken says:

    He isn’t being a snob! I started drinking Glenlevit 12 and I love bourbons so I thought I would try some blended scotches and the first one I bought was Dewars WL. I couldn’t even drink it neat, and it is barely tolerable with soda. I will stick to single malts and bourbons if this is one of the best blends.

  20. Ed says:

    This is an extreme tangent, but I had a choice of getting a free bottle of Glenfiddich or another single malt, and as someone who had never had Scotch aside from tasting in Scotland, I went with the Glenfiddich solely on the packaging. It was in a hunter green carrying box/tube. It’s almost as if some Don Draper like ad man had figured something out. Still, I was not let down and after sampling a Dewars white and Johnny Walker red tonight, think I’ll be going back to the Glenfiddich. I will be in Scotland next week. Any recommendations?

    • Ed, Enjoy Scotland! My only recommendation is to find a pub with a bunch of single-malt bottles behind the counter and try a few things! Ask the bartender for recommendations, or try some of the standards: Balvenie DoubleWood 12 year, Macallan 12, or even Glenfiddich 15. Maybe check out http://scotchnoob.com/2012/02/23/picking-your-first-single-malt-scotch/ for other things to try. Most whiskies you can get in the UK are also available in the US. One exception is called “Glenfiddich Toasted Oak” – I don’t know much about it, except that it’s apparently available at Tesco grocery stores in the U.K., and isn’t sold in the US.

  21. Mike Oxlong says:

    I never liked Scotch from my few experiences with it.

    I think raiding my elder’s liquor cabinets at a young age created this ‘eww’ response

    which burned an impression in my tongue that has lasted all this time! xD

    I’m training to be a bartender. I’ve been taught Ratios & Recipes but still have ZERO

    idea what I just gave the person.

    So, I’ve taken it upon myself to be my own guinea pig. Liquor by liquor, I buy a bottle

    and experiment with my mixes at home.

    This week was Scotch’s turn. I picked Dewars because I’ve read it’s the ‘best selling’

    in America. (I get what that means, so please dont explain Scotch Snobs) :P

    Anyway. I decided to try Dewars White Label ‘neat’. (room temp.- no ice)

    Outside of the obvious heavy grain element, I liked it. I’m not qualified to write

    snooty descriptions. but I appreciated the Dewars alone at room temperature. I can see

    why people drink Scotch like this, but I cant see myself doing this daily, weekly or

    even monthly. But, if someone offers a dram of something expensive or unique, I’d likely

    say yes.

    Next I tried the Scotch & Soda… Maybe I put too much soda, but I cant see why anyone

    would order that drink.

    Next were variations of the Rob Roy (Scotch Manhattan)

    I found a recipe on DrinkOfTheWeek_._com that called for being Shaken not Stirred.

    Manhattans with Bourbon or Rye are better stirred (to me), but I followed directions and

    the frothy drink turned out pretty good. It was not a better Manhattan than my beloved

    Bourbon or Rye can make, but it was a pretty good drink overall.

    Next, I tried the Rob Roy recipe on Dewars’ website. This time, Stirred not Shaken.

    Slightly less Vermouth and no foamy froth from being shaken. Another good drink, but

    between Shaken and Stirred, I preferred Shaken.

    I’d never consider bruising my precious Bourbon or Rye by shaking, but it seemed to work with Dewars WL. :/

    Perhaps the air bubbles altered the way it hit the tongue? Not sure.

    I’m going with ‘Shaken’ Rob Roy’s from here on.

    I have yet to try a Dry Rob Roy. (dry Vermouth)

    I cant imagine adding one liquor i dont like to another I dont like and getting something good. But who knows?

    I’ll deal with that later tonight. :P

    My opinion.

    Scotch seems to be a “Smoker’s” drink. Old men with cigars sitting around drinking. That’s what I picture when Scotch comes to mind.

    The ‘Buzz’ I got from the Dewars was unique. It created a good and different

    ‘atmosphere’ if you will.

    Not only that, after a few drinks, I got a slight tingly numbness on my lips that

    reminded me of Spiced Rum experiences.

    So, in conclusion. I preferred Dewars White Label ‘neat’ over mixing it in a drink.
    BUT.
    For the foreseeable future, Scotch will not be a part of my daily life.

    After my experience with this modest Scotch, I am now convinced that Scotch in-general, is a key component of Old-Man Stink.

    • Mike, thanks for sharing your experiences. I don’t think you should generalize to the entire world of scotch after experiencing only one type. Dewars White is on the bottom end of the blended scotch category, and (I think) a particularly lightly-flavored (i.e. doesn’t add much flavor to a mixed drink, unlike bourbon or rye) one at that. Repeat your experiments with a single malt like Macallan 12 year and you’ll have an entirely different experience. Try it with Laphroaig 10 year and you’ll have an entirely different one again. I personally drink very very few mixed drinks with scotch – I prefer it all, even the cheaper blended ones, at room temperature with a little water or maybe an ice cube. The better ones I prefer neat. I’m sure there are many excellent cocktails that employ scotch to great effect, but I am not familiar with them. As far as your conclusions go, I am 31 and I do not smoke. Most of the people I know personally who enjoy single malts enough to talk about them are under 40. Very few of them smoke.

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