Review: Dewar’s Ilegal Smooth Mezcal Cask Finish 8 Years Old
I’m already on record as being not a fan of the use of “Smooth” in a product’s official name (or, for that matter, as a descriptor of any spirit), but I will say that Dewar’s Caribbean Smooth Rum Cask Finish Blended Scotch was at least a credible product.
Buoyed by that product’s success, now Dewar’s is back with a second release in the “Smooth” lineup, a unique blend that is finished in barrels used by the Ilegal mezcal brand. As with the Caribbean Smooth bottling, this is a blended Scotch with an 8 year old age statement. Some more back story:
Hitting shelves in the U.S. in April, this invigorating blend of two distinctly different cultures, Scotland and Mexico, is Dewar’s second cask finished whisky extension, following the successful launch of Caribbean Smooth launch last year. Ilegal Smooth dispels myths around what’s possible between whisky and mezcal. The liquid’s flavor profile has subtle notes of caramel, sliced green pepper and a wisp of smoke; offering brown spirit drinkers a refreshing new go-to and unique pairing for entertaining or epicurean gatherings.
Ilegal Smooth breathes new life into the whisk(e)y and mezcal categories by bringing together unexpected cultural flavors from Scotland and Mexico to create something uniquely richer. The fortuitous partnership also highlights the shared traits of both founders, Tommy Dewar (Dewar’s) and John Rexer (Ilegal) – their grit, humble humor and passion for creating the best ultra-premium, smooth spirits on an ambitious scale.
How will these two come together? Let’s give it a whirl.
For starters: Yes, it’s smoky, but less than you might think, with a mild to moderate smokiness that is cropdusted atop the more classic elements of a blended Scotch — gentle cereal, caramel, and dry hay. Notes of black tea and underbrush give the whisky a slightly heavier density, but it’s quite mild on the whole. On the palate the smoke takes a back seat, with some lemon, sesame, caramel, and vanilla notes all hitting their stride. The whisky sweetens up on the palate, revealing more of a marzipan and sweet custard character — though none of this is unusual for Dewar’s. As the finish builds, that smokiness makes it strongest appearance, but it’s never overwhelming nor is it ever really identifiable as driven by mezcal rather than, say, peat. This could easily be imagined as a blend with a light touch of Islay malt in it — though I guess there’s at least an interesting story to tell from having to travel all the way to Mexico for the casks.