John Dewar

John Dewar

John Dewar

Distiller & Spirit Merchant, 1856-1929

The whisky-loving world owes a huge debt (and more than a few sore heads, no doubt) to John Dewar. Unremarkable though it may now sound, he was the first spirit merchant to recognise the potential in selling whisky by the bottle to the general public. Until that pivotal moment in alcohol marketing, the sale of whisky had been limited to wooden casks, bought by hotels, pubs and other licensed premises.

And so it was that the Scottish "carry-oot" was born. By such simple, but effective means, John Dewar and his brother Tommy transformed their father's local whisky supply business in Perth into one of the giants of the world spirit trade.

The brothers made a formidable team, were confident in their combined abilities and certainly weren't afraid to noise up the industry to get themselves noticed. Never was this better, or more noisily, demonstrated than at the 1885 Brewer's Show in London when Tommy gained sensational publicity for the firm by playing the bagpipes, much to the disapproval and earache of the Show's organisers.

John was made Lord Provost of Perth and served as Liberal MP for Inverness-shire from 1900 to 1916. As Lord Forteviot he became the first of the "Whisky Lords" and his brother Tommy, not to be outdone, also became a Peer, as Lord Dewar.

Their company was instrumental in finding new markets for Scotch whisky outside of Scotland and helped to build the international image and universal acceptance that Scotch now enjoys. They merged with rival firm Buchanan in 1915 and joined the giant conglomerate Distillers Company Ltd in 1925.

Dewar's (or Doo-ers, as our American cousins prefer to call it) White Label is now the best selling whisky in the USA.

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