Dewar’s Highlander Honey Whisky: Sweetening Up That Dry Scottish Edge
While American whiskeys are bold about experimenting with different flavors, Scotch producers have been reluctant to offer much in the way of brand extensions beyond different ages and cask types. Maybe it has something to do with America’s forgiving nature. You release new Coke, people scream like the world is ending, you bring back "Classic" Coke and everything’s hunky dory. So I don’t know how people in Scotland will react to Dewar’s Highlander Honey, the latest expression from Glasgow’s Dewar’s Scotch Whisky. After all, it takes Dewar’s White Label–a truly iconic blend if there ever was one–and infuses it with natural Scottish honey. They’re messing with a classic here. But I’d advise them to taste it before chucking it by the case into the nearest bog, even if it abandons that dignified austerity the Scotch category is known for, because it’s quite tasty.
Dewar’s isn’t the first to infuse whisky with honey. Jack Daniel’s did it two years ago with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, and other American whiskey makers followed. If you’ve got to add some kind of flavor to whiskey–and to survive and thrive in today’s spirit market, you pretty much do–you could do worse than honey. It’s an organic fit, with the natural sweetness of the honey complementing the spicy, oaky notes of the whiskey. People have been mixing honey and whiskey for years, so why not save them the trouble and stickiness of doing it themselves.
We had an impromptu tasting session of Dewar’s Highlander Honey in the office yesterday afternoon. I poured shots for seven people, and the returns were universally positive, ranging from "this is really good," to "it’s a lot smoother than I expected" to "when does this stuff come out?" As for my own thoughts, I’m a regular whisky guy, so I wouldn’t naturally gravitate to a flavored blend, but I enjoyed it. It’s smooth and velvety, and it keeps its Scottish backbone while adding the sweet, fruity notes of fresh Aberfeldy-area honey. We drank it at room temperature, but, owing to the sweetness, I’d advise adding a couple of ice cubes to your tumbler, or, better yet, shaking it and straining it into a shot glass. It would make a fine party starter.
Scotch may actually be a better fit for honey than bourbon, because I find bourbon sweet enough on its own. With the dryer taste of Scotch, there’s a bit of a yin and yang thing going. Plus it was created by Dewar’s master blender Stephanie Macleod, and she knows what she’s doing. She wouldn’t let some cloying swill escape her tasting lab. If that’s what you want, the whipped cream-flavored vodka is right this way.
While Dewar’s Highlander Honey probably won’t replace Dewar’s White Label (or my personal favorite, Dewar’s 18) in my regular whisky repertoire, it’s a fine addition for those times when you need a sweet treat to lift your spirits. A bottle will cost you about $24, and it will be widely available later this month.
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