Review: Dewar’s White Label, 12 Years Old, and 15 Years Old
In 14 years of Drinkhacking, we’ve enjoyed plenty of drams of Dewar’s, but somehow have never put pen to paper when it comes to reviewing the most essential whiskies in the lineup. If you don’t know Dewar’s by now, we can’t help you: According to owner Bacardi, Dewar’s lays claim to being the top-selling blended Scotch in the U.S.
While each of the three bottles reviewed below is available as a standard 750ml, you’ll find the trio also available as part of the new Variety Collection (pictured at right), which includes 200ml bottles of each whisky for about 30 bucks. Not a bad way to experience some of the most accessible blended Scotches on the market.
All three are 80 proof.
Dewar’s White Label – No age statement. One of the great value labels in Scotch, White Label is as reliable as they come and rather a bargain given its generally solid quality. To be sure, there’s nothing fancy here — it’s called “white label” after all — with a nose that offers gentle waves of grain, some turned earth, the lightest hint of chimney soot, and some gentle fruit notes — though more apple juice than orange peel. The palate is moderately sweet and oh-so-gentle with applesauce notes, brown butter, and some brown sugar. The finish is barely there, but what does stay behind is pleasant and comforting like a fleece blanket. Altogether it’s as straightforward as they come, drinking like a a Scotch and water, even if you don’t add any water. Because why would you? B+ / $20 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Dewar’s 12 Years Old – The youngest Dewar’s with an age statement on it, Dewar’s 12 doesn’t exactly capsize the boat from White Label, though it has much more depth, and a rounder, more urgent earthiness to its construction. That doesn’t exactly work to its favor, though: The nose is more immediate and less ephemeral, and it hits the nostrils with a stronger sense of petrol-driven booziness — though it’s still just 40% abv. The punchy notes of gravel and dried grasses don’t do the delicacy of the underlying spirit any favors, and the fruit element of the whisky finds itself driven a bit too far out of town for my taste. The finish is dry and a bit too toasty, though fans of a more savory malt may find this more to their liking than White Label. B- / $30 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Dewar’s 15 Years Old – This 15 year old, aka “The Monarch,” is intended as a sweeter expression of Dewar’s, but it’s actually more complex and richer all around. Quite nutty on the nose, there’s a sense of baked apple pie and thick-cut toast here, both riding alongside a more savory mushroom aroma. The palate is indeed on the sweet side, bright with apples and pears and winding its way toward a finish that melds toffee with a gentle note of white flowers and some baking spice, which pairs beautifully with the fruitier notes further up front. It’s not a mind-scrambler, but it is an insane value, coming in at about a third the price of today’s typical 15 year old single malt. A- / $40 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]