Showcasing giants

This edition we look at two great performers
By Hans Offringa
Alto saxophonist Julian Edwin Adderley was born in Tampa, Florida on 15 September 1928.
As a little boy he was nicknamed ‘cannibal’, later to be transformed into ‘cannonball’, perfectly suiting his rather portly posture as a grown man.

In 1955 he moved to New York with the intention of attending graduate school. The intention was good but died instantly when he sat in with the Oscar Pettiford Band in Manhattan’s Café Bohemia. It propelled him into a musical career on the jazz stage. With his younger brother Nat, who played the cornet, Julian formed his first quintet. It wasn’t a success commercially, but Miles Davis noticed his playing, and in 1957 he would become a member of the trumpet player’s legendary sextet, for the next two years.

In 1959 Cannonball formed his second quintet, again with brother Nat, and became an overnight success at San Francisco’s Jazz Workshop. His musical approach shifted to soul jazz, and in the one-and-a-half decades to come, the quintet was regularly enlarged to a sextet, featuring musicians who would rise as giants of jazz on their own accord, like keyboard players Joe Zawinul, later to become a member of the famous jazz rock group Weather Report, and George Duke, who joined Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention in the early 1970s for a couple of years.

Cannonball would continue to play funky jazz for years to come and scored a great hit with Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, composed by Zawinul. To broaden his approach, he also started to play the soprano sax. Late in life he returned to straight jazz, obviously remembering his first influences, Benny Carter and Charlie Parker.

Apart from being an outstanding jazz musician, Cannonball Adderley was an eloquent speaker. He developed the habit of explaining during concerts what his band actually was going to play and engaged in highly enjoyable commentaries in front of his audiences. He was also an important jazz ambassador and was invited on television shows and as a guest speaker at universities. With his untimely death on August 8, 1975, caused by a sudden stroke, one of the most entertaining and educated jazz musicians in the world sadly disappeared from the stage. His body was flown back to Florida, where his remains rest at the Southside Cemetery in Tallahassee. Fortunately, he left us a great musical heritage.

In studying the history of Aberfeldy Distillery, one should take a close look at the Dewar dynasty first. Born in a poor crofter’s family in 1805, John Dewar saw farming from the moment he entered this world. Coming of age, he decided that was not the job for him and became a joiner’s apprentice. He worked with his brother in the town of Aberfeldy until 1828 when he changed jobs and moved to Perth where he was employed as a cellar man by his uncle Alex MacDonald, a wine merchant. It took him nine years to prove to his uncle he was worthy to become a partner, and in 1837 the company changed its name to MacDonald and Dewar.

Eventually, wanting to be on his own entirely, John founded a company in 1846, selling wine and spirits and blending whisky from 111 High Street in Perth. Being an innovator at heart, he started to sell whisky in glass bottles that carried his own name. At the time it was customary to sell straight from the cask, or even the whole cask to the lucky ones who could afford that. After a while John thought Perth not big enough for him, so he hired a travelling salesman who would push Dewar’s whisky throughout Scotland.

In 1871 his oldest son John Alexander joined, and would inherit the small but sound liquor and wine business when his father died in 1880. Four years after that, John A.’s younger brother Thomas joined the firm and would become a legend in his own right. John A., the serious businessman, now had his ideal counterpart, since ‘Tommy’ was outgoing and very creative in attracting attention to their whisky. In 1885 Tommy moved to London, expecting to work with two seasoned salesmen recommended to him. Upon arrival he found out that one of them was dead and the other bankrupt.
This would challenge Tommy even more to make a success of his mission to conquer the world. It took him another six years to get Dewar’s introduced in the USA, with the voluntary help
of legendary Scotsman Andrew Carnegie and the involuntary help of the US Press. In 1891, Carnegie ordered a small cask of Dewar’s to be delivered to President Harrison, whereupon the
press attacked Harrison for not supporting the indigenous Bourbon. This surge of free publicity helped
Tommy in quickly marketing Dewar’s whisky throughout the USA, where it remains a top selling
blended Scotch today.

In 1896 the Dewar brothers took a giant step forward and built their own distillery in nearby Aberfeldy, the birthplace of their father, to make whisky for their now world-famous blend Dewar’s White Label. The thought might have occurred to them that they didn’t want to become too dependent on distilleries they couldn’t control.
The company prospered until 1917 when the distillery was closed due to World War I. Two years later production restarted. In 1925 the Distillers Company Ltd (currently Diageo) bought the company. In 1972 the still capacity was doubled to four.

In 1991 the first official single malt distillery bottling was launched, a 15-year-old expression. The label featured a red squirrel, now an endangered species in Great Britain. They can be spotted in the woods behind the distillery.

In 1998 the company changed hands. Diageo sold Dewar’s to Bacardi, together with five other malt distilleries. Bacardi built the beautiful visitor centre Dewar’s World of Whisky in 2000. To commemorate this event, the distillery launched a 25-year-old expression of Aberfeldy.

Tommy Dewar, the whisky marketing genius of the early 20th century, lives on in his many witty one-liners, called Dewarisms by his contemporaries.


Do right and fear no man;
don’t write and fear no woman.

Golf is not necessarily a rich man’s sport;
there are plenty of poor players.

The biggest lies are told on gravestones.

Fish stimulates the brain,
but fishing stimulates the imagination.

If we are here to help others,
I often wonder what the others are here for.”


Mercy, Mercy, Mercy

Aberfeldy 12 Years Old
The Golden Dram