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Issue 7 - Sweet juice of success

Whisky Magazine Issue 7
December 1999

 

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Sweet juice of success

Tom Bruce-Gardyne wades through the archives to discover the extraordinary story of two young brothers who spawned the great whisky dynasty of Dewar's

A clutch of whisky bottles huddle together in my local supermarket in Angus. Their well-known names are proudly displayed across their chests; venerable yet vulnerable. Around them swirls a sea of vodka and gin, of mixers, breezers and all manner of novelty drinks concocted only yesterday. Across the aisle sits the smug, bulging shelves of wine. For the would-be whisky barons of today times are tough. But when they return bruised and battered from the market they should perhaps seek solace in the past. When it comes to tales of derring do, of brands built and countries won, there are none better than that of Dewar's.

Our story begins right in the heart of Scotland in the city of Perth, where John Dewar worked as a cellarman and then partner in his uncle's drinks business, before setting up on his own in 1846. According to one legend, he had walked the 25 miles from his home town of Aberfeldy having abandoned a career as a joiner. Using a limited range of malts from what would now be Speyside, he began blending and bottling his own whisky – the first to bear the name Dewar's. On his death in 1880, he left a prospering local business with annual profits
of £1,231. Over the next 50 years his eldest son John Alexander and his youngest, Thomas, had built the family into one of the greatest whisky dynasties of all time, on the back of Dewar's White Label.

Unlike their arch-rival Jimmy Buchanan, the Dewars were a double-act from the word go. John was the shrewd, but dour Scot ...

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