Honestly now, what is it with all these convoluted flavorings that are appearing in nearly every spirit distilled today?  Bourbon has gone sweet.  Vodka comes in so many flavors I can’t keep track.  Why even beer comes in dozens of flavors.  Gins ingredient list keeps growing with more botanicals being added almost daily; there’s no end to it.  If you ask me, I think it’s the marketing departments at all those distilleries that want to push their product lines into more markets that are forcing the issue.

It’s like the gateway theory of drug abuse.  If you start smoking marijuana, you’ll eventually end up hooked on heroin.  These flavored spirits and lower alcohol spirits are the gateway liquors that get people started by drinking say a sweet scotch and then progressing to normal unflavored scotch.  It must be working; otherwise every distiller in the world wouldn’t be doing it.

However, the Scottish folks have raised more than their eyebrows at all of this hanky panky.   The Scotch Whisky Association has come out with a ruling that in part states:

“There is no law preventing the production of new products based on Scotch Whiskey. The important thing is that they are labeled and marketed in a way that clearly distinguishes them from Scotch Whisky…. Under EU law it has to be sold under the sales description ‘Spirit Drink’…. Promotion of the product should also not suggest it is Scotch Whisky.”

And so after close examination of the Dewar’s Highlander Honey labels I noted that the spirit is described as “Dewar’s blended Scotch Whisky infused with natural flavors” on the front label.  On the back label it clearly states, “Spirit Drink”.

Since Dewar’s Scotch is really good Scotch, I couldn’t wait to see how this “spirit drink” stacks up against the original so here goes.

The nose is definitely sweet honey backed by the smoky aroma of scotch.  There is also a whiff of alcohol but that dissipates quickly.  It actually smells so nice that if this were a candy I’d pop it right in my mouth.  It tastes like a smoky candy on the palate.  I mean this stuff is sweet straight up. The scotch takes a few steps forward but the honey is still out front.  You definitely get a sense of the scotch and it does taste nice and smooth and smoky with a hint of oak.  The finish is warm and pleasant and coats the throat like honey would and it lasts a while. On the rocks, the honey mellows out and the scotch flavor comes out a bit more.  It seems much more balanced on ice.  It’s still pretty sweet though.  This might make an excellent after dinner drink or a dessert substitute.

To try out my gateway theory, I took the Dewar’s Highlander Honey and a bottle of traditional Dewar’s scotch over to a friend’s house whom I knew didn’t drink or like scotch.  She tried the Highlander honey and liked it well enough to end up having three drinks on the rocks.  When she tried the traditional Dewar’s she scrunched up her nose and said she didn’t care for it.  Now, I know that’s a rather small sampling to provide empirical scientific proof, but it certainly upholds my gateway scotch theory, enjoy!


By George Brozowski

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