Dewar’s is a brand steeped in pride, innovation and acclaim. They are the consummate creators of Scotch whisky and their blends run rich with the highland magic of the Pitilie Burn. In 1884 an industrious young man named John Dewar took it upon himself to walk from Aberfeldy to Perthshire (a 30 mile trip) to start global whisky empire. He immersed himself in the geography of the highlands and saw the waters of the Pitilie Burn the lifeblood he would imbue his whisky with.
The woodland stream and its surroundings make for fairy tale scenes and was often frequented by poet Robert Burns whenever an amorous mood struck him and his romantic interest. To this day, visitors are sifting gold and joining houses with the matrimonial bands gleaned from its banks.
Of course there were a few minor footnotes between John Dewar’s pilgrimage and the prestige his brand commands today. He was a pioneer in the distilling of whisky and, by perfecting his art, set a solid foundation for his two sons – John and Tommy – to etch the Dewar name into the history books.
Dewar’s two heirs encapsulated and built upon the two business tenets he had harnessed to such great effect. John jr. inherited the industrial acumen and fastidious attention of his father, whereas his left-brained younger sibling ran wild with creative flair. Tommy served as chief salesman and conjurer of ingenious advertising ploys.
He spent his days living lavishly in London and proclaiming the glory of his product through many and innovative mediums.
Tommy famously said, “if you do not advertise, you fossilise” and he was anything but static. He would fit bicycles with stamps so the grimy streets of London were imprinted with Dewar’s slogans and guarantees. During his many voyages, he would drop signed messages in bottles and the finder could trade the letter for casks of whisky. He even stopped traffic in New York City with the first ever cinematic motion picture advert for a drinks product – three dancing Scotsmen projected onto the wall of a building.
During 1891, Andrew Carnegie, a USA steel magnate of Scottish decent, ordered a small barrel of Dewar’s to be presented to President Benjamin Harrison. The US press were livid and vilified Harrison and, in turn Dewar’s whisky. Tommy thrived on the publicity and quipped, “it was the best advertisement I ever had and certainly the cheapest… inquiries and orders flowed from all parts of the States.”
A long-established supplier to the Royal Household, Dewar’s has held a royal warrant since Queen Victoria first granted one to the family in 1893, more than 120 years ago. From that year on, Dewar’s has received a prestigious royal warrant from each successive crowned monarch, up to and including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Dewar’s even hold warrants from kingdoms that have since dissipated.
The whisky itself is a source of great pride for Dewar’s and they are uncompromising in their setting of standards. They believe in age-statements for all bottles, with the figure pertaining to the youngest whisky found within the blend. This allows for absolute surety of knowledge about the time-honoured taste of the drink.
Dewar’s first official Master Blender, A.J. Cameron, pioneered a vital process which is now called ‘double-ageing’. It simply means that once the whisky is blended, rather than bottle it as most distillers do; their blends are placed in oak casks, so the whiskies are reacquainted with wood and aged for a second time. Each blend then lies in its warehouse for up to six months, allowing its different malt and grain whiskies time to mingle together and mellow further. This extra step provides a greater degree of balance and smoothness, which is tangible when the whisky is tasted.
With four core blends to sip through – Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie and Royal Brackla – it is imperative to understand that each exists with its own character and soul. Each blend is representative of its idiosyncratic pocket of highland, yet they can all trace their ancestry back to the crystalline waters running through the Aberfeldy landscape. It is the perfect origin for a drink as mythical as whisky and for any fledgling Scotch enthusiast wondering where to start – look no further than the Pitilie Burn.