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2-min read

The Tippling Point | When a Young Chap Hit All the Right Chords to Take Dewar's Whiskey to the World

Thomas Dewar visited almost every bar in the island, used his personal charm to convince barmen about the quality of his product and followed up with repeated visits. Soon all the fashionable restaurants in London began to serve Dewar’s blended scotch to their customers.

Manu Remakant |

Updated:May 5, 2019, 4:46 PM IST
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The Tippling Point | When a Young Chap Hit All the Right Chords to Take Dewar's Whiskey to the World
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News18 Tippling Point Thomas Dewar arrived in London in 1885 to try and develop his family business back home in Scotland. He was only 21.

His father was already dead leaving behind the charge of his whisky business to his children — Thomas and his elder brother John Alexander.

The latter was an introvert. He decided to remain at home running the business, while Thomas roamed around the world knocking at the right doors.

It was then that someone dropped before the brothers the names of two men living in England. If Tommy could get to England and meet them they would take the boy up to right people in the government. In short, a trip to England will be a giant leap for their business.

But what awaited Tommy in England was hardly good news.

One of the men who would help him was dead. The second had already become a pauper. Anyone else would, in such a circumstance, pack his bag and return home.

But not Tommy was not one of them.

Gregarious and a risk taker, Tommy knew how to persist with his whiskey. So he visited almost every bar in the island, used his personal charm to convince the barmen about the quality of his product and followed up with repeated visits.

Soon all the fashionable restaurants and hotels in London began to serve Dewar’s blended scotch to their customers.

Thomas Dewar saw opportunity in places where others read only trouble.

In a brewery fair organised in Birmingham, he was asked to set up his stand in a remote corner. Did that dampen his spirits! No. Tommy rented a Highlander equipped with bag pipes and regular outfits.

The resulting music was too deafening for the organisers' ears and temper, but it bagged the right kind of attention that Tommy sought. The bagpiper we see on a bottle of Dewar’s today had its origin there.

"Keep advertising and advertising will keep you," Thomas said.

The young man knew advertisement is the backbone of any product. So he launched a volley of hitherto unseen methods to publicise his whiskey.

Near the Waterloo Bridge in London, he set up an eye-catching billboard using 1,400 coloured bulbs, six miles of electric cable and a programmed circuit.

The advert displayed a Highlander in full traditional outfit ladling Dewar’s whiskey and drinking glass after glass of it.

Traffic slowed down near the bridge as people peered out of the vehicles to watch the spectacle, which was said to be the largest in Europe.

Soon, the first motion picture advert, featuring Highlanders was screened in New York around 1898 before an astonished audience. America fell for it and Dewar’s became its most popular whiskey.

It was at that time that Dewar’s decided to build its own distillery in Perthshire to guarantee supplies to meet the growing demand.

And it was also time for Tommy to embark upon an epic two-year world tour to promote his brand. When he returned home, he had made links to 26 countries through his agents. Dewar's became one of the most famous whiskeys in the world.

All this happened due to the determination of one man, who decided to take the world by his heels, and also his brother, who stayed at home and took care of the business and accounts.

(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)
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