Icons of Whisky: Tommy Dewar

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Tommy Dewar was born in Perth in 1864. He was one of the biggest shapers of the Scotch Whisky industry in the 1800s.

As his name suggests, Tommy Dewar is the son of John Dewar, the founder of John Dewar & Sons.

Business Beginnings

Tommy first started off in his father’s business in 1881. Back then it was under the leadership of his older brother John. He was made a partner and turned out to be an impressive leader. Tommy had plenty of personality to do the job.

In 1888 he was sent to London to improve the sales of Dewar’s in the capital. He saw great success, despite the fact that his first contacts were either dead or bankrupt.

Tommy turned his misfortune into opportunity and was soon selling his blends to some of the best restaurants in London.

Within 5 years he had sold his products to the Savoy. Eventually he even became one of their longest staying guests, occupying an apartment from 1904 until 1930.

Tommy Dewar: King of Developing Ideas

Tommy Dewar was nothing if not an ideas man. He played a large part in making Dewar’s one of the best selling Whisky brands both during his lifetime and today.

He had a sharp mind for marketing and was keen to embrace new things to promote his product.

To capture the attention of both the crowd and the media at the Brewer’s Show in Birmingham, Tommy employed a bagpiper in full Highland dress. If that didn’t draw attention, then nothing would.

He did not stop there either. Tommy went on to design a 68-foot, fully lit advert in London that featured a Highlander pouring a glass of Dewar’s.

His plans proved successful. Dewar’s became one of the biggest selling brands in the UK, as well as across the globe.

International Influence

Tommy Dewar took his business acumen right around the world, travelling for two years non-stop, visiting countries like South Africa and America to make his brand international.

He was savvy and smart about developing the brand international, and made contacts along the way, as well as setting up a Dewar’s office in New York.

He soon succeeded in his mission, and Dewar’s became the biggest selling blended Scotch in America, a title that it holds to this day.

Tommy was also very successful outside of his Whiskey travels, and even released a book titled A Ramble Round the Globe that documented his journey.

Political Connections

As well his fantastic business skills, Tommy was very well connected. He counted such names as the Prince of Wales and Thomas Lipton, famous for his tea, amongst his friends.

Tommy was not only a successful businessman, but was also greatly involved in politics.

In 1900 he was elected as a Tory in the constituency of St George’s, where he remained for six years.

As well as this, he was knighted in 1902 and made a Baron in 1919, giving him a peerage in the House of Lords.

Business Mergers and Distillery Openings

Dewars was thriving under Tommy and his brother John’s leadership and in 1915 they merged their company with James Buchanan’s.

In the years previous to this, Tommy and John had also been collecting a few distilleries under the Dewar’s name.

They opened the Aberfeldy Distillery in 1898, near their father’s hometown.

After this they absorbed several other distilleries, most of which live on to this day. These include Glen Ord, Aultmore, Parkmore, Benrinnes, Old Pulteney and Royal Lochnagar

Ten years after their initial merger with James Buchanan, Dewars was bought over by Distillers Company Ltd, the company that we know as Diageo today.

This was not the end for Tommy however, as he remained on the board for DCL for the next five years, up until his death in 1930.

Tags: Dewar'sDiageoJohn DewarJohn Dewar & SonsTommy Dewar
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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