Dewar's Ilegal Smooth is an eight-year-old blended Scotch whisky that has been finished in casks previously used to age Ilegal Mezcal. Officially unveiled on 5 March 2020, it is the distiller's second cask-finished whisky extension and follows the successful launch of Dewar's Caribbean Smooth last year, which is finished in rum casks. Ilegal Smooth is set to hit shelves in the USA in April, before a global launch on 1 May.
It follows Chivas Regal's unveiling of its Extra 13 collection on Tuesday, which included a Tequila cask-finished whisky alongside expressions made using American rye, rum and sherry casks.
Brian Cox, vice president, Dewar's, North America, said: "We've been considering experimenting in the Mezcal space for a while and are thrilled to partner with Ilegal for this exciting project. It's a fortuitous collaboration as there are many parallels between Tommy Dewar, one of the Dewar's founders, and John Rexer, founder of Ilegal. They both have grit, wit and passion for creating something new on an ambitious scale."
Tequila, Mezcal — What's the difference?
By Christopher Coates
Traditionally, the colloquial name mescal or mezcal [may be spelled with an ‘s’ or a ‘z’, lower-case ‘m’] is given to the parent category encompassing all Mexican agave spirits and derives from a word meaning 'cooked agave'. Tequila is a specific category of mescal regulated by a Geographical Indication known as a Denominación de Origen and produced to strict guidelines regulated by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila — so, strictly speaking, all Tequila is mescal but not all mescal is Tequila. To put that in more familiar terms, think of how all Scotch whisky is whisky, but not all whisky is Scotch whisky.
The loose parent category of mescal also includes Bacanora and Raicilla, but not Sotol (because it’s not made from agave, but the ‘Desert Spoon’ plant) or Pulque (because it’s brewed, not distilled).
Mezcal [with an upper-case ‘M’] refers to the GI-regulated category of agave spirits produced in accordance with the Denominación de Origen Mezcal. Confusion regarding mescal/Mezcal largely stems from the fact that Mezcal was only recently regulated (1994) and certified (2005) in Mexico. True Mezcal bears a holographic seal of authenticity from the Consejo Regulador del Mezcal and, as the Consejo’s website states, ‘Si no tiene holograma, no es Mezcal’ (If it doesn’t have a hologram, it’s not Mezcal). Though it should be said that this new regulation is considered controversial by some traditional producers, especially those in Mexican states not named in the GI.
For the reasons above, in English the word mescal is slowly being replaced by the term ‘agave spirits’ to avoid confusion with Mezcal. Mezcal is known for often having a 'smoky' flavour caused by the cooking of the agave in stone-lined pits. However, by definition, Mezcal does not have to taste smoky to be classified as such and its flavours can range significantly.