Saturday, September 19, 2015

Dewar's Highlander Honey: Why Just Adding Honey to Scotch Whiskey Sounds Like a Good Concept.

 When someone offered me a taste of Dewar's Highlander Honey, I thought I was tasting another version of a traditional, blended Scotch Whiskey. I was wrong: I was wondering into a minor controversy among traditional Scotch drinkers. Nothing is simple in the world of Scotch drinkers.

"The market for flavored whiskey has seen some significant growth and attention recently with a number of products of varying quality hitting the market. Many of these flavored products have come from American Whiskey producers including Tennessee Honey from Jack Daniel’s, Red Stag from Jim Beam, Wild Turkey American Honey, and Fireball from Buffalo Trace.
Honey is one of the flavors that is naturally apparent in some whiskeys: it comes through the interaction of the spirit with the barrel, which is also where you get vanilla, caramel, and many of the spices in whiskey like cinnamon. Honey is a natural choice for spirit companies when they’re looking at adding flavors to their whiskey.Combining malt whiskey along with honey and other flavorings isn’t anything new – Drambuie has been doing this in the liqueur space since the 1800’s. "

 So?  What went wrong?

"While there are many honey and whiskey options on the market, Dewar’s Highlander Honey is the very first modern honey flavored whisky to come out of Scotland. Whisky in Scotland is highly regulated and even though there’s a historical basis for flavored Scottish whisky, it isn’t something we’ve seen on the modern market.  This is one of the reasons why there was a bit of a stink around the announcement and release of Dewar’s Highlander Honey from the Scotch Whisky Association (notice that whisky isn’t in the name). The final labeling reads like a complex legal explanation: “Dewar’s Highlander Honey – Dewar’s blended scotch whisky infused with natural flavors, filtered through oak cask wood.” The whisky in the Dewar’s Highland Honey is Dewar’s White Label, a blended scotch featuring up to 40 different malt and grain whiskies, and flavored with honey from Aberfeldy, Scotland, as well as a few undisclosed “natural flavors.”
Dewar’s Highlander Honey (40% / 80 Proof, $23.99) – still smells very much like Dewar’s White Label. The nose has light lemon, orange, peach, malt grain, and honey with an undercurrent of oak. The notes in the nose aren’t very well integrated and there’s a slight artificiality to it. The entry is very flavorful, leading with the classic bright citrus that is a hallmark of Dewars, with an undercurrent of lush honey flavor balanced by a nice oak spice, orange, and peach. Things get kind of hot and spicy in the midpalate where Dewar’s shows off its youth and grain whiskey content. It’s this midpalate that’s always turned me off from Dewar’s, and the addition of the honey and flavors don’t really mitigate it much. The extra oak in the equation actually serves to enhance the spirit’s existing heat. The finish is medium and dry with the lemon and honey notes carrying on. While the finish starts in an interesting space, it ends poorly as the honey dissipates and the impact of the young whiskey really is apparent."

 Look at the label closely by clicking on the label photo above.
 What angers Scotch Drinkers is that it is NOT Scotch.

"Dewar’s Highlander Honey. Just fucking don’t. Seriously. I will write this whole review, and tell you all about this war crime of a spirit drink, and their process, and their website, and what we thought it tastes like, and all the rest of it, but it’s extremely important that you never fucking drink or buy this. Not even, don’t. Do fucking not.  We last saw Dewar’s during the post-holidays cheap-off, where we hated their blend right in its face and it lost badly in the subsequent BattleScotch! Royale.  Maybe we just don’t like Dewar’s, we didn’t really like Aberfeldy either, so at least we’re consistent. Or Dewar’s is. Or we both are. Whatever."  ..."And that’s where we start to truly have issues with these flavoured whiskies. It’s not sobbishness about the idea of flavouring whisky. It’s that they’re not flavoured with anything but chemicals. They’re pop. They’re junk. No judgement, but know what you’re drinking, right? Looking up the ingredients of natural flavouring sends you into the tinfoil-hat-wearing end of the internet with suggestions of everything from alcohols and esters etc to MSG and aspartame. And the category “artificial flavours” might as well say “anything”. Honey is the last ingredient on the list, which I think means legally it only had to be seen by a woman named Honey on its way out of the building." ... "