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Issue 98 - The Theory of Evolution

Whisky Magazine Issue 98
September 2011


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The Theory of Evolution

Dave Broom talks to the man behind Dewar's revival.

Bacardi's UK offices are easily missed, a discreet plaque on the wall outside a building next to London's Marylebone station. You'd think that the world's biggest rum would have something, well, flashier, but on reflection it seems to suit the firm's whisky brand Dewar's, the major blend that people forgot.

I'm here to meet with its senior category director (i.e. the boss man), Iain Kennedy, who, like his brand, like the surroundings is soft spoken, quiet, understated – apart from his taste in shirts.

Once in his office, him behind his large black desk, framed quote from Tommy Dewar, the legendary whisky baron who built the brand into a global force, on the wall I suggest that Dewar's is the George Harrison of the blended world. It sells 3.4 million cases a year, but is the brand people seem to overlook.

He smiles ruefully. “For the brand with the most flamboyant history, it's a bit strange that it's been quiet for such a long time.”

But why has it been so quiet?

“Maybe it's because when it was in UD (Dewar's was sold to Bacardi when UD merged with IDV to become Diageo) it was No.2 to Johnnie Walker and since it's been with Bacardi it's ploughed its own furrow. I think it has always had enough around it to do a reasonable job and that's the worst of all worlds. I think it's been stuck in average land for a very long time.” That's a startling admission for a brand owner to make.

What exactly do you mean by ‘average'?

“I mean, it's just...” he searches ...

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