The story of John Dewar & Sons began in 1846 in Perth, Scotland, when John Dewar Sr. established a wine shop that employed him and ten of his children. After 14 years of running the shop, John Sr. began blending whisky. In 1880, two of his sons, John and Tommy, took over the business and worked to expand it significantly. At the age of 16, Tommy became the marketing manager and traveled the world for two years to promote Dewar's whiskies.
In 1891, Andrew Carnegie arranged to send a barrel of Dewar’s to President Benjamin Harrison at the White House. Although it was a great honor, it displeased American distillers, who felt the president had turned his back on their industry. Then, in 1893, Queen Victoria issued a royal warrant to the Dewars – the first for a blended Scotch - which led to a significant increase in business.
As demand grew, the small distillery exceeded its capacity, and in 1898, John established the Aberfeldy Distillery. Soon after, production of its White Label blended whisky commenced. Tommy was eventually knighted by King Edward VII for his contributions to the whisky industry.
Unfortunately, World War I broke out, and the distillery was forced to close. It reopened briefly but was shuttered again due to the declining demand caused by Prohibition in the United States. In 1925, John Dewar & Sons merged with Distillers Company Ltd to survive these events. Tommy passed away in 1930. The brand changed hands several times. In 1980, something amazing happened – Dewar’s outsold J&B and became the best-selling Scotch brand in the United States!
Guinness acquired Distillers in 1986, renamed it United Distillers, and, in 1997, it became Diageo. Bacardi picked up the brand in 1998 and remains its current owner.
Recently, I received a sample of Dewar’s 19 Year Old Champion’s Edition. It is the third release of an annual special edition blended Scotch whisky.
“This year’s edition was created by Four-Time Master Blender of the Year Stephanie Macleod in partnership with the USGA. To honor the site of the 2023 Tournament at the Los Angeles Country Club, the 2023 19 Year Old Champion’s Edition is double-aged and finished in Napa Valley red wine casks.” – John Dewar & Sons
A portion of the proceeds from bottle sales goes to the USGA Foundation, which since 2017 has been working on initiatives to improve ways to maintain more environmentally friendly courses, address inclusiveness, and foster playability.
Dewar’s 19 was developed from up to 40 grain and malt whiskies. If you’re curious what the term double-aged means, that’s something that Dewar’s has been known for since the beginning. The whiskies used in the blend are all aged separately. Then, they’re married and go in for a second round of aging. Dewar’s suggests it is what creates the smoothness of its whiskies.
The Napa Valley first-fill casks are unique for Dewar’s as it is the first time the distillery has used non-fortified wine casks in the finishing process. Packaged at 43% ABV (86°), it has a suggested price of $79.00 for a 750ml bottle.
I thank Dewar’s for providing me with this tasting opportunity in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s #DrinkCurious and taste what makes this whisky special.
Appearance: I poured this Scotch into my Glencairn glass and sipped it neat. The whisky was the color of a tarnished copper penny. It formed a thin rim with wide, fast tears.
Nose: The wine influence was apparent on the nose. I smelled raspberries, boysenberries, and plums, joined by cooked peaches, pineapple, and chocolate. Inhaling it into my mouth revealed raisins and boysenberries.
Palate: The creamy texture coated every crevice of my palate. The front tasted of cherries, strawberries, and plums, while flavors of milk chocolate, toasted coconut, and vanilla hit the middle. The back featured leather, oak, and black pepper.
Finish: Long in duration, the finish consisted of black pepper, plums, toffee, chocolate, smoked oak, brine, and old leather.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Landing a 19-year-old Scotch for only $79.00 seems like quite the bargain. Sure, it is a blend, and too many sneer at the idea of a Scotch that’s not a single malt. Ignore them. They do themselves a disservice because plenty of tasty blends are out there. Dewar’s 19 hits the right spots, and what I tasted is heavier malt and only a hint of grain whiskies. It has enough depth and character to hold your attention, allowing the Scotch to shine through the finishing process. I’m happy to have this one in my whisky library, and I believe you’ll find it worthwhile, too. It takes my Bottle rating. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you to do so responsibly.