Putting honey into alcoholic things has a bad rap. It’s effeminate, it’s weak, it’s a cop-out. The parallels to shitty, girly strawberry-kiwi-whipped-cream-lip-gloss vodka are overwhelming. But everyone’s doing it. Now Dewar’s (a Scotch!) has joined in. We’re here to tell you: their take isn’t wrong. It’s just different.
Dewar’s Highlander Honey ($24) is the brand’s White Label blended Scotch whisky infused with natural Scottish honey. The Scotch Whisky Association has been keeping a stern eye on the labeling of the product — it can’t be called a “Scotch whisky” if it has flavoring agents, only a “spirit drink”. Dewar’s may be toeing the line on branding rules, but their product is undeniably something that only slightly resembles the kilted’s favorite sipper. It’s like Scotch in the flowery dress of a very sweet liqueur.
The nose reeks of honey. It’s actual honey though; none of the fake, shiver-inducing medicinal flavoring crap that we’re all so used to in these sorts of things. It’s dark, earthy, incredibly sweet, and with even a touch of fruitiness.
On the tongue it’s much of the same. If you don’t like very sweet drinks, you absolutely won’t want to sip it straight, but it really does taste natural, like a 50/50 mix of liquor and one of those honey sticks you used to squeeze into your mouth with your fingers when you were a kid. There’s little burn. It closes with just a tiny hint of toffee. Unfortunately, there is also hardly any of the nuance that makes Scotch a great drink. No smoke, no raisins or fruits or brown sugar. No vanilla. No oak. It’s singular, which is a death knell for any normal Scotch, in our book.
But we have to judge this for what it is, not for what we’re used to. Among honeyed whiskeys, which you should almost exclusively mix, it works as well as any. It certainly makes for an intersting whisky soda or whisky coke; adventurous mixology types should be able to find plenty of use for it among citrus flavors like orange juice, lemonade, Triple sec or Cointreau.
Which is to say, those who aren’t into mixing their Scotch can be entirely content to scowl, grouse, and bitch at their leisure. We’re not saying we won’t join you. Just consider us open minded — and slightly sweetened.