Dewar’s (12 year) Special Reserve Blended Scotch

Read my review of the bottom-shelf White Label from Dewar’s here. I wasn’t impressed. So, I snagged a miniature of the 12-year aged version of Dewar’s house blend to see if a little age improves the dram. As with White Label, the 12-year is a blend of many components with Aberfeldy single-malt at its heart. It says “Special Reserve” on the label which, as we all know, is not special, and the only thing ‘reserved’ is a marked quantity of barrels set aside for longer aging. I could leave a few M&Ms from my bag out on the counter overnight and call them “special reserve” too.

Note: As discovered by the commenters, below, Dewar’s appears to have dropped its 12 year-old from 43% ABV (the one I tasted) to 40% ABV sometime in the last few years. It appears to have also dropped the “Special Reserve” on the label. This review is for the older, possibly no longer available, 43% ABV bottling with “Special Reserve” on the label.

Nose: Lemon curd on buttered scones. A bit of paint-thinner – a lot more nose tickle than I like to see in a 43% ABV. A clear quantity of grain whisky – light vanilla, unripe fruit, and fresh hay. Definitely on the “light and airy” side, but with an unpleasant amount of burn.

Palate: Light cream – not very heavy-bodied despite all the grain. Potent, and the 43% ABV comes through nicely with just the right amount of tongue burn. Hazelnut skins, brown sugar cookies, and lemon peel.

Finish: Short, but not unpleasantly bitter. Some lingering pastry notes and a hint of bitter lemon. A suggestion of wood. Final note is just bitterness – oh well.

With Water: A splash of water releases a hint of anise and tames the nose tickle somewhat. It also improves the sweetness of the dram, and rounds out some of the off flavors. It doesn’t do a whole lot for the finish, and the bitterness remains. Nevertheless, this is a whisky that benefits greatly from the addition of water.

Overall: On the upside, it’s only slightly more expensive than the White Label, so if you’re getting an inexpensive blend anyway, it’s worth the upgrade. It has all the hallmarks of the “mid-range” blend: light in style, heavily “watered-down” with cheap grain whisky, and that telltale bitter finish. Sure, the malt component is 12 years old, and I’m sure it’s lovely, but it’s marred by 12 year-old grain whisky, which needs another 6 or so to mellow out. Yes, it’s better than White Label, but it doesn’t stand up to even the cheapest single malts. I’d take Glenlivet 12 over this any day. Another blend bites the dust.

Note: Remember that I’m reviewing these whiskies on the basis of drinking straight, at room-temperature. I’m sure Dewar’s 12 goes nicely in a Rob Roy, but that’s just not what this blog is about.

Dewar’s (12 year) Special Reserve Blended Scotch
43% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $23-$28
Acquired: (50ml miniature glass sample bottle)

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  • I don’t know ei this ei the same Dewars I had (12yo double aged), but ei was good. Maybe one no the best budget non smokey/ peat blends. Your should try ei ei full size bottle.

    • Sorry. My android device “autocorrected” every “if”, “is” and “it”.

      But like I tried to write. Dewar’s double aged 12yo was suprisingly good. Muich better then Chivas 12yo, Red Label and Cutty Sark.

  • I like this whisky even though it doesn’t really taste malty or amazingly, like whisky much at all. It has sherbet fruit flavours and black tea flavours. I also actually don’t mind the White Label and find it to be a very different drink and although it has distinct (cheap?) grain flavours, they are clean and simple. The White has a sea salty burst with a little smoke at the end.

  • It’s 40% alcohol – not 43%. Well at least the bottle I am drinking it purchased in Melbourne Australia. Reading it right off the bottom right hand corner of the label -40% Alc/Vol.

  • All the bottles of Dewar’s 12 that I’ve seen here in southeast Florida say 40% ABV. I’ve been unsuccessfully looking for a good, inexpensive blend that is at least 43% so I’m certain about this.

  • Yo he probado diferentes whiskies y para mi dewars 12y es uno de los mejores y suaves del mercado, mucho mejor que JW Black label and Red label.

  • Noob, the regular bottle is 40% abv and it’s a really good whisky, it actually better than what Glenlivet 12yo tastes like these days. The malty and orangey tastes mesh very well, no burn, super smooth, Lord Dewar himself would be proud. Invest $20 in a full bottle at Trader Joe’s and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. They may even give you the money back if you don’t like it…

  • I actually like this scotch. I’ve had many of everything. Mccallen 35 or 37, can’t remember it wasn’t my place, and on to the best cognacs. You don’t like. I do. What I don’t like is any company watering down there drink. Too many do it. I know the ins and outs of the laws. This stuff that’s going on isn’t good for the e thusiast. Please provide me cask wiskey

  • Nah….the Glenlivet 12 is $60 and has no trace of smoke. It actually tastes like woody floral water. Dewars 12 actually has more flavor and half the price or cheaper. Dewar’s 12 all day over Glenlivet 12. If you want less flavor, go with Glenlivet 12.