As we noted earlier in the month, the International Wine And Spirits Competition is one of the most influential judging events in the industry. When they named their top-rated bourbon back in August, American whiskey fans took note. Now they have revealed their highest-rated entries within the scotch category and those selections are already garnering buzz. But sadly, almost all of these bottles are barely worth mentioning except to say you can’t have them—they’re either grievously allocated or just flat-out unavailable in the US. So today we’ll be focusing on the one glaring exception: Dewar’s 25 Year Old Blended Scotch.
IWSC scores out of 100. From the hundreds of liquids it evaluated this year, only 10 scotches earned a 98. It’s enough to place such labels in the elite echelon of ‘Gold Outstanding’. Widely available and typically retailing at under $250, the inclusion of Dewar’s 25 alongside this grouping might come as a surprise to some. Consider the almost comically-esoteric nature of its company. The Finest Solera release from Glenfiddich is an exceptional dram. But it was released as a travel retail exclusive back in 2015. Housed in Baccarat crystal, you could travel to Australia for the privilege of purchasing it for just under $3000. Similarly, only 732 bottles of The Last Drop’s 56-year-old blended scotch were produced—ever. Glory Leading 1972 is a 45-year-old blend available only in Taiwanese markets. As is the 23-year-old bottling of Royal Salute.
By comparison, any popular online retailer will have that bottle of Dewars 25 to your door in a matter of hours if you live in a major city. No plane ticket necessary. According to descriptions provided by IWSC, the lightly-peated blend offers a touch of creaminess in its body and tempers those smoke notes with hints of sandalwood and vanilla in the finish.
I tend to generally agree with their glowing assessment—although I would stop short of calling it the best whisky in the world. What I can say with confidence, however, is that this particular expression has been flying under the radar for far too long. For that we can thank the many stateside whisky connoisseurs who fail to give blended scotch its due. Thankfully, those days might soon be coming to a close.
At any rate—or rating—the financial success of Dewar’s is impossible to debate. It is one of the top-selling scotches on the planet. Though perhaps it is even a victim of that success. The only thing a high-end drinker seems to scorn more than blended scotch is one that appeals to a broad audience: aka affordably-priced. And the brand’s entry-level White Label is ubiquitous at around $20 a bottle.
But it would be foolish for any whisky fan to dismiss what this historic blending house is putting into the glass these days. The most recent critical recognition from IWSC is no fluke. Earlier this summer, a 32-year-old sherry-finished whisky from the brand took home the highest prize at the International Whisky Competition in Colorado.
Do with this information what you will. Maybe you take all of these scorings and judgings with a grain of barley—err, salt. But if you’re at least curious to see what the fuss is about, you’ll want to snag a bottle from liquor store shelves while you still can. Pretty soon it might become as elusive as every other 98-rated label from the IWSC hit parade.