Monday, March 18, 2013

Slummin' It with Dewar's White Label

Dewar's White Label
NAS, 40% ABV
$20 - 25

Though I make no claims to be an expert of any kind, I often get asked for advice pertaining to whiskey. At work, I've gained a reputation as the "whiskey guy," and I cheerfully go along with it, advising that Evan Williams is a cheap, reliable place to start if you're interested in bourbon, and that you need to spend, well, at least a little if you plan to drink Scotch. The latter was in fact in reply to a younger guy who told me, I don't get how you can drink Scotch, I had some this weekend and it tasted like gasoline! What kind, you ask..? Well, Dewar's White label. So then, Dewar's is perfect fodder for a Slummin' It review. Bottom shelf blended Scotch, purported to taste of gasoline, oh my, could this be the worst Slummin' It entry yet, worse even than J&B?

I purchased my Dewar's in a very "classy" half pint bottle from behind the counter at my local liquor store, and sampled it a a crystal Glencairn, appreciating the ironic juxtaposition, not really, I like half pint and pint bottles, they make a great way to sample stuff, even if the staff at the store do sometimes look at you kind of askance. When I lived in Massachusetts and went regularly to my local liquor store, I only ever got carded if I was buying "hobo bottles" from behind the counter.

Three or four Slummin' It reviews in, I don't have big expectations. Johnnie Walker ended up being better than I remember, but everything else has been fairly rough stuff. Still, these reviews are fun to write, so off we go. The nose is ok, some sweet malt and a bit of rough grain. A cautious sip rolled around on the tongue...and hey, this stuff isn't that bad!

The principal malt in Dewar's is Aberfeldy, a Highland I've never had, but it's fair to say that there's a fair bit of Highland malt in here. The notes are sweet malt, with stewed apples and honey. Although it's not a distinctive profile, it's a nice one, and strong enough to offset the expected grain whisky taste, at least for a bit. The grain wins in the end, as we knew it would, with a somewhat off-putting sour note. Right at the end there's an unexpected mild splash of peat smoke. Although it's not strong, it's actually pretty well done, maybe because it's not so much "integrated" as with Johnnie Black, for instance. The finish is short and rough, as with all young blends, but still, better than some. Dewar's has some body to it, and escapes from that thin, flat feeling of Cutty Sark or J&B.

A few drams in and the sour note and grain build on me, though at no point does this taste like gasoline. Dewar's White Label is not terrible for a Slummin' It blend. I'm not exactly going to throw it in the back of the cupboard as a Tuesday dram, but it was well worth the try. I hear that the 12 year old version of Dewar's is actually pretty nice. I'd like to try to come if I can get my hand on it for cheap! Score: 70 (C-)


  1. My only near encounter with DWL was at a distant in-law's baby christening. An uncle (one of those guys who seems to be an uncle to everyone there) arrived, grinned, and loudly announced, "Hey, I got Scotch!" He held up White Label like it was a trophy.

    I spent most of my time swinging my son in the back yard so I did not actually get to try it.

    1. It makes me smile that a lot of folk think of stuff like this as "The Scotch!" But it could be worse, it's at least in the Johnnie Walker league, and if not as "high quality" as the Black, definitely more interesting.

      I'm surprised at the variety in quality, even among really entry level stuff. I had some Teacher's this weekend, and still find it pretty good stuff, even at only 36 months. Yet this stuff is only drinkable, and J&B is utter swill.

  2. If you can try the 18. It's fantastic.

    1. I'd love to do a vertical tasting, the White Label, the 12, then the 18. As always, though, my prejudice against paying single malt prices for blended Scotch gets in the way. =/ However, I must say this whole series has been a nice eye-opener as to what blends can be, both bad and good. If I can get a hold of the 12 or 18 for not too much money, though, review to follow for sure!

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