The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2013

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SCOTCH REPORT Sweet Move NEW DEWAR'S HIGHLANDER HONEY BREAKS WITH SCOTCH WHISKY TRADITION—AND OUR SCOTCH CORRESPONDENT SAYS "HOORAY!" by Ian Buxton I Bacardi is breaking new ground with Dewar's Highlander Honey, the first flavored Scotch whisky. Suggested retail price is $23.99/750ml. rarely dedicate the whole of this column to just one story—there are so many good things coming out of Scotland right now it hardly seems fair—but this month I'm making an exception for something I personally feel is not only a good thing, but also very important. Curiously, it's not actually Scotch whisky, but you will recognise it. This is Dewar's Highlander Honey, a lavored whisky based on the classic Dewar's White Label blend but with an infusion of Scottish honey. Now a honey-lavored whisky may not seem that radical. After all, we have similar offerings from Diageo (Bushmills Irish Honey, Crown Royal Maple Finish, Seagram's Seven Crown Dark Honey and Stone Cherry), Beam (Jim Beam Black Cherry and Jim Beam Honey) and Brown-Forman (Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey) to mention just a few. All appear to be doing well. As Dr. Nicholas Morgan, Diageo's Head of Whisky Outreach, told me, the American consumer loves this type of product. Crown Royal Maple Finish has been "astonishingly successful" he says. So why has no one done something of the kind with Scotch whisky? It's a combination of several factors: innate conservatism in an industry that's UPDATE FROM IRELAND The Teeling family's whiskey heritage dates back to distilling in Dublin in 1782. Now, acting as an independent bottler, the Teeling Whiskey Company has launched its flagship premium Irish whiskey brand, Teeling Whiskey. Founder Jack Teeling reports that he is in discussions with potential U.S. importers. "We hope to have some product on the high seas by the summer, he " says. Teeling is also conducting a feasibility study on bringing distilling back to the heart of Dublin with a new distillery. Stay tuned. —Ed. 26 / the tasting panel / may 2013 Jack Teeling with new Teeling Whiskey. globally "doing very well thank you" with a well-established product, and strict laws that prevent any product with additives or lavorings from using the tightly protected Scotch whisky tag. For years the industry's feeling has been that a lavored Scotch whisky would damage the category. Indeed, Diageo has already come out against this type of innovation, stating categorically that the company has "no plans for 'lavored' variants of any of its Scotch brands," with Morgan going on to add that Scotch whisky is "a global category built over 100 years and based on integrity and authenticity. While the consumer views American and Irish whiskies as more 'relaxed,' that latitude is not extended to the Scotch whisky category." So Bacardi, Dewar's parent, has broken a very big taboo here in their search for new drinkers. Whether they call it "spirit drink" (as they must in the EU) or infused whisky to comply with U.S. legislation, the consumer won't be in any doubt about what's in the bottle. In the words of the old saying, "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it's probably a duck." I say "Hooray!" While Scotch whisky is doing well, it could do a great deal better in terms of attracting new drinkers. Flavored varieties have worked for vodka, rum and, lately, American whiskies, so why shouldn't Scotch come to the party. Let the market decide. Single malt purists will decry this, but no one is forcing them to drink it, and if it helps boost sales then it can only help their favorite distillery. And look out: The Dewar's press release hints at more Highlander expressions to come. If they work, expect some longstanding shibboleths to be rapidly abandoned. Dewar's rivals will be watching Highlander Honey very carefully and success will breed imitators at top speed, tradition or no.

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