A Q&A with Dewar’s National Brand Ambassador Gabe Cardarella

By  January 07, 2013


Dewar’s is a legendary brand in the world of Scotch whisky and Dewar’s White Label is arguably the most popular blended Scotch whisky in the United States. With a reputation like that you need someone who can not only represent the brand on a global level but truly convey the passion and care that goes into creating some of the finest whisky in the world. At the helm of this powerhouse brand is Dewar’s National Brand Ambassador Gabe Cardarella: a whisky connoisseur at heart and a world traveler by day. We recently sat down with Gabe to talk about the brand, his role, and the wide variety of flavors that Dewar’s has to offer.

Q:

How did you get into the world of spirits and bartending? Was it always something that you wanted to do or did you fall into it?

A:

It’s funny because when you’re in college you dream of a world where you can travel the world and the country and talk about whisky, but you never really knew that there was a position about there called National Brand Ambassador that travels the country and talks about whisky. Turns out there was [laughs]. It wasn’t something I had planned for to be honest with you. I started out as a mobile marketing major. That was what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to travel, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to live in a world of the traditional nine to five. I knew I wouldn’t thrive in that.

I’ve done multiple things. I’ve tour managed for the MTV Jackass guys, I’ve done some tours for bands that I managed. It really started as something that was a love for travelling and then when I got into the spirits category, getting surrounded by and educated by a lot of different whiskies, that passion and that spark really began from there. Here I am going on my 4th year with Dewar’s as their national ambassador. I’m very lucky to be working for such an amazing brand with a true heritage and history. That’s what I love the most, I would say, about what I do, that this brand has an actual story and I love sharing that. That’s my job not only to share the quality of our brand but our beautiful portfolio.

Q:

What does a day in the life look like for you?

A:

My job is to really bridge the communication gap from our distilleries in Scotland, and our brand team which is out of Miami and really take our plans for the brand, the story for the brand, and our liquid all over the US and bridge that gap. That’s speaking to bartenders, bar managers, mixologists, or just people sitting at the bar. The truth is, my job is not a job it’s a lifestyle. You have to be a scotch connoisseur, whether I’m sitting at the airport bar drinking a glass of whisky watching ESPN or the news and the guy that sits down next to me is drinking a whisky. I want to talk to that guy because my job is my lifestyle and it’s my hobby. It’s kind of tough to say my job begins or ends anywhere. I don’t sit at a desk everyday but I’m always working at the end of the day. The beautiful part about that is that I get to see the trends from all over the country.

To be honest over the years I’ve become more or less kind of a traveling physical version of a Frommer’s because there’s not a major city out there that I haven’t been to and can tell you where to get the best cocktails or the best food. My friends all call me Carmen San Diego these days because they’re always trying to find out where I am and catch up but they’re also calling me while they’re traveling asking where they should go eat, where they should go get some drinks.

Q:

What is your favorite drink at the moment?

A:

Well it depends, that’s always tough because people always ask me what’s your favorite whisky or what’s your favorite drink? And to be honest with you it depends on a number of different things. It depends on the weather outside, what we’re eating, my company coming over. All of that factors into what I decide to drink. Right now it’s a little bit colder out, my scotch is going to be neat and more often than not right now I’m picking Aberfeldy 12-year that stuff is amazing, it’s a nice and sweet honey whisky from the highlands. It’s delicate, you don’t really need to mess with it. That with a dash of water is beautiful.

Q:

What do you think is the best drink you’ve ever made or a drink that you just nailed and said this is the perfect drink?

A:

That’s a tough question because I like a lot of different drinks. To really answer your question best, rather than what I nailed is more what I’ve been surprised of at how well Dewar’s works in multiple levels in different drinks. We made a Dewar’s smash, which is our version of a mojito. Now, nobody would really think off the top of their head [laughs] Dewar’s as a light mojito but if you’re looking for a refreshing cocktail, that is one cocktail that we’ve absolutely nailed.

Q:

Whisky making, especially overseas relies a lot on the regions like wine making. Which regions does Dewar’s actually source from and how do you think that plays into the characteristics of the different blends?

A:

That’s an awesome question. It’s a number of different things. To start off: Dewar’s has its roots in a small town called Aberfeldy. I mentioned Aberfeldy before when talking about that single malt. We built that distillery in the late 1800’s and we built that distillery to maintain control of the single malt whisky that was at the heart of the Dewar’s blended category. Since that time, that single malt whisky has always been at the heart of all of the blended whiskies that we’ve created since then.

Aberfeldy is actually a very beautiful town and most single malts are named after the town that they are made or distilled in. Aberfeldy is known as the heart of Scotland, it is smack in the heart of Scotland in the highland region. The highland region, that particular area, is really known for making a honey style whisky. Aberfeldy is really one of the more honey styled single malt whiskies that you’ll find in Scotland. What’s great about that is if you, after this conversation were to go and taste Dewar’s white, 12, 18 or signature. What you’ll notice is at the end of that, the finish that is lingering on the back of your palate is always this residual honey sweetness. That’s Aberfeldy coming through because that’s at the base of all of our blends. Stephanie Macleod, our 7th master blender does a process, which we call double barrel aging. What she does is she takes up to 40 different single malt grain whiskies, (of course Aberfeldy at the heart of them) blends them together and rather than bottling those whiskies at that point she puts it back in the barrels and ages it for an extended period of time.

Q:

Last but not least: can you take me through the Dewar’s portfolio, giving the characteristics of each bottle and how they differ from each other for someone who has never tasted Dewar’s?

A:

Let me start with Aberfeldy again just briefly, Aberfeldy is a beautiful whisky from the highland region. We do a 12-year and a 21-year. With the 12-year and the 21 you’re always going to get a nice honey sweetness coming through. They are aged in both sherry and ex-bourbon casks and what you’re going to get with that is a nice sweetness, you’re going to get that honey character coming through, you’re going to get a little fruity characteristic with those two. With the age on the 21, you’re going to get just a bit more of that wood smoke as well.

Next we have Dewar’s White Label, which is the first of our blended category. That, again has Aberfeldy at the heart of it so it’s quite honeyed in character. Now with this one it’s very light bodied, very delicate. You do get a little vanilla and honey but you’re also going to get peat smoke with this one. This is the only blend in our category that has some peat whisky in it. This whisky is beautiful on the rocks and makes fantastic cocktails as well.

Dewar’s 12 year, that’s the first of our double barrel aged blended whiskies. So now you’re talking about liquid that’s at least 12 years old with Aberfeldy at the heart of it. You’re going to get some older whiskies (in the bottle) so you’re talking about a nice oak characteristic in this blend, A little bit more medium bodied so it’s going to linger on the palate a little bit longer, you’re going to get some nice fruitiness coming through and you’re going to get that nice caramel & vanilla characteristic. I actually like this one neat or with one or two ice cubes. I don’t want to dilute this one too much because I don’t really need a whole lot because of double barrel aging. If you’re a cocktail person it makes great sidecars, great Rob Roy’s, I love it as a rusty nail too.

Dewar’s 18 year: now we’re starting to get to some whiskies that I don’t really mess with a whole lot. With Dewar’s 18 we’re talking about at least an 18 year old whisky, Aberfeldy again at the heart of that. This one is a really full-bodied whisky. A lot of people think that when you get to an 18 year old age statement that you get a really woody smoky whisky. But what’s great about this whisky is you get a little bit more sherry sweetness coming through with this one. What I really love about this whisky is that you take a taste of this whisky and it hits every receptor on your palate and then it just changes and sits on your palate and grows.

Our ultimate expression is our Dewar’s Signature. This is really to show you the skill of the master blender, the process of double aging and that it does play such a role. Dewar’s Signature is really special to Dewar’s because there’s no age statement. We took a big risk here because a lot of people think older is better. That’s not true at all. Maturity plays a role based on a number of things: the barrels you’re using, where your whisky is aging, and a number of other things. What our 7th master blender Stephanie does is continue the work of our sixth master blender Tom Akin. Stephanie continues to do this by choosing up to 40 different whiskies and by making sure that these are the most mature whiskies that we can find throughout those 40 different distilleries. She uses these peak mature whiskies to make the ultimate blended scotch. For this blend we don’t just take Aberfeldy and place it at the heart of it we actually take Aberfeldy at three different ages and place that at the heart of the blend so you get a layer of the Aberfeldy honey characteristic coming through. With this whisky, you don’t need to mess with perfection a whole lot. I suggest that you try it neat and add water to taste because you get some really robust oakyness upfront. This is one that is meant to be savored.

What’s beautiful about the portfolio is that they are all quite different in their own regard and that’s what is awesome about the Dewar’s portfolio, we have something for everybody.

For more information about Dewar’s whisky please visit www.dewars.com.