March 15, 2012
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.