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This spring, American devotees of Dewar's Scotch will start to get a taste of its ultrapremium 18-year-old, which was created in 2003, but until now only available to the U.S. market via duty-free. The new issue will roll out in earnest across the country in June.
Dewar's master blender Stephanie Macleod says that while this expression has the smooth, floral character common to all the company's whiskies, it distinguishes itself with fruit notes. Markedly sweet, it shows lots of honey, butterscotch and caramel, making it a good partner for cigars.
The Dewar's 18 Founders Reserve resides in the upper echelon of the company's portfolio, in a niche above the superpremium 12-year-old ($28), but (at $80) economically more approachable than the hyperpremium Signature ($200). By our lights, it delivers a fair estimation of how high this blend can soar. Dewar's will also be introducing a Discovery Gift Set ($100), which includes 200-milliliter samples of Dewar's 18, Dewar's 12 and Signature in a leather pack.
Macleod emphasizes the importance of the Dewar's double-aging process that is used for its whiskies that are 12 years old and older. After mingling a combination of single malts and grain whiskies, the blend is left to marry in oak barrels for about six months. The casks used for this process are chosen because they are very old and will not impart flavor on the whisky, but rather provide an environment in which the contents can meld. "There are different levels of esters in the components of the blend," she says. "This lets them have time to chemically interact, to get to know each other."
However, the effect of the second aging is not measurable with the various instruments used to access whisky, Macleod says. "It doesn't show up on machines, but most people can recognize it when they compare them. It is in the smooth mouth-feel." She also points out that the second maturation brings a lot of additional expense. "We wouldn't do it if we didn't believe it had this smoothing effect." Like Signature, the Founders Reserve takes the brand into a rather rich, full-flavored arena when compared to Dewar's standard White Label, a much lighter whisky. Clearly the percentage of single malts is amped up in the blend.
Dewar's created the Aberfeldy distillery, which bottles 12- and 21-year-old expressions, and its whiskies are a major component of the blend. It also owns and utilizes the Speyside distilleries Aultmore, Macduff and Craigellachie, as well as Royal Brackla in the Highlands. Macleod credits the whisky's honey character to Aberfeldy and its lighter, more floral notes to Craigellachie and Royal Brackla. Macduff, she says, gives it its backbone. The blender does not comment on the identity of other nonproprietary whiskies in the 18-year-old.
Dewar's, now owed by Bacardi, was one of the earliest blended Scotches, first created in 1846. Masterfully marketed by the founder's son Tommy Dewar, who developed a number of innovative advertising techniques, it became an international brand especially popular in the United States. It has only been in the last decade that the company has begun focusing on higher premium brands than the White Label, which was introduced in 1899.
Appearance: Rich amber color, not particularly leggy.
Nose: Flower and honey with blasts of maple and oaky vanilla.
Palate: Starts out on the first sip with a hint of sharp Stilton cheese, then quickly moves to butterscotch candy, cherry, oaky vanilla, caramel or toffee and slight anise. Exhibits the same intense rock candy sweetness as the Signature, without as much peat smokiness.
Finish: Fruity sweetness plays on and on before turning to a meaty ripe banana and anise back taste.
Note: Is particularly good with a cube of ice, which opens the flavors—especially the peat element—as it melts.