Dewar’s has been on a bit of a tear lately under the stewardship of Master Blender Stephanie Macleod. From the extra-aged Double Double line to back-to-back The Champions Editions and a continuous march of awkwardly-named “Smooth” releases. With the recent revamp of the standard “white label” 12-year-old, it now appears they’ve begun to tinker with the core lineup, as well. Per Ms. Macleod:
Curiosity has been at the cornerstone of the Dewar’s brand since John Dewar created the first whisky in 1846. And that sense of curiosity has carried through to how my teams and I develop our whiskies today. It was only natural to experiment and craft a new element to the maturation process, which has resulted in a distinctly different tasting experience. Having been experimenting with the influence of cask types on flavor and texture for the last ten years, we knew the time was right to bring some of what we have learnt to our core range of whiskies. We wanted to take Dewar’s 12-Year-Old to the next level and bring the joys of quality Scotch whisky to a new generation of drinkers. Dewar’s whiskies have a characteristic floral and honeyed-style and we knew we could add a richer and more complex dimension through the use of first-fill American Oak Bourbon casks.
Double aging is nothing new for Dewar’s. In fact, it claims to have used the maturation technique for the last 125 years. And this is still the same Dewar’s DNA, which can include as many as 40 Scottish single malts and grain whiskies in the blend. But barrels can play a huge role in a whisky’s flavor, arguably the biggest. So, let’s see how the use of first-fill bourbon casks changes the equation for Dewar’s.
The nose is certainly different from the old 12-year-old with a more rounded alcohol presentation that pulls the former’s grassy punches in favor of a gentle complexity and airy sweetness. Notes of shortbread, vanilla pudding, and honeyed malts mix with a bit of stone fruit, heather, and very subtle smoke to create an engaging aroma for such a modest proof. The palate showcases a velvety mouthfeel and a balanced sweetness and offers up plenty of toffee, vanilla bean, honey candies, and mild pepper to chew on. The clean, malty finish lingers with a bit of drinking chocolate and buttery biscuits. It’s still a very toasty whisky, but the fresh casks have clearly added layers of welcome flavor and depth and transformed this one for the better. A very nice blend at a fantastic price point.