February 6, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
John Dewar

For centuries whisky, a Gaelic word meaning “Water of Life,” was hardly the liquor of choice in Great Britain. First brewed by cloistered monks in the 11th century the grain alcohol was enjoyed mostly in tiny enclaves scattered across Scotland and Ireland. Early distilleries seldom marketed outside their little towns and most Englishmen continued to enjoy rum, gin and brandy and seldom, if ever, tasted whisky.

It was extremely unlikely that John Dewar would be the man to change all that. Born in 1806, Dewar’s early life was distinguished chiefly by a succession of failures in whatever venture he tried around his native Perthshire, Scotland. He moved to Perth and took a position with a firm or wine merchants called Macdonalds. Here Dewar blossomed and he was soon promoted to partner.

In 1846 Dewar took his liquor-selling experience and staked his future on the fledgling scotch whisky trade. At the time the only way scotch was sold was in kegs and bottles. Dewar not only put his whisky in accessible labeled bottles but he brashly pledged the quality of every bottle of scotch he sold with an unconditional guarantee printed right above his signature on the bottle.

The people of Perth quickly took to Dewar’s scotch in small glass bottles. Before long he hired a salesman and Dewar secured a national reputation for his whisky and when he died in 1860 he was a legendary figure in Scotland. Under his sons John, in management, and Thomas, in marketing, Dewar’s scotch spread around the world. It reached America in 1894 where it gained the endorsement of President Benjamin Harrison, virtually ensuring its success. Today, Dewar’s sells two bottles of scotch whisky for every one its top rival sells.

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