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McDowell’s No. 1 Reserve Whisky

Review: McDowell’s No. 1 Reserve Whisky   80/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published January 25, 2017

United Spirits Limited (USL) is the owner of the McDowell’s No. 1 spirits brand which (with its sales of Whisky, Rum and Brandy) is one of the largest spirits brands in the world. The company is headquartered in India where the lion’s share of those sales take place. In 2013, the spirits conglomerate, Diageo purchased a controlling share in USL (54.8 %) and it was shortly after this acquisition that I began to see the McDowell’s No. 1 Whisky appearing on the store shelves here in Alberta.

McDowell’s No. 1 Whisky is described on the USL website as the flagship brand of the company. It is their best-selling spirit with sales of over 53 million cases per year, and is produced from a blending of both imported Scotch whiskies and selected Indian malts and grain spirits.

mcdowells-no-1In the Bottle 4/5

The McDowell’s No.1 brand identity is represented through their logo which accompanies every bottling within the brand portfolio. According to USL it is

“… a simple yet powerful and unique logo that represents how close friends ‘hug’ each other …”

I guess I can see the “hug” as the McDowell’s ribbon wraps around the coat of arms, although if nobody had told me that I would never have guessed.

The bottle itself is medium tall topped with gold plastic cap and ribs on the side to help you grab it. The neck is just long enough to help you pour without spilling and the label is attractive with its black red and gold colour scheme. Not shown is the cardboard display box which maintains the colour scheme of the label and shows us a nice landscape graphic which I assume depicts the foot of the Himalayan Mountains.

The brand logo is printed on the side of the box”


All in all this is a nice presentation for a moderately priced whisky.

In the Glass 8/10

When I pour the whisky into my glass it displays an appealing light golden hue . When my glass is tilted and twirled, a light sheen forms on the inside which gives up slow-moving droopy legs of medium thickness. The sluggishness of the droplets leads me to believe the whisky carries some addition sweetness and indeed when I nose the glass, there is a firm butterscotch scent ring within the wood and grain spices of the spirit.

I would describe the aroma as honeyed with a mixture of sweet grain spice and butterscotch, coupled with fine oak spice and hints of malt. I let the glass sit to see how the nose developed, and noticed that fine wood and dusty grain spices began to dominate the breezes. Light almond smells and hints of almond round out the whisky which is nice, although not a wonder of complexity.

In the Mouth 48/60

The whisky enters the mouth with fine oak and grain spice heating the palate. There is a little thickness to the spirit with a soft butterscotch sweetness lying under the spice As I have found with other Indian Whiskies I have tried there is a light floral component within the flavour profile with flavours which remind me of mint and licorice, some lilacs, and perhaps a little heather. Some dabs of vanilla, some heated orange peel, grassy tobacco and the nuttiness of almonds round out the flavour profile. There is though a light astringency which causes me to add an ice-cube. When the whisky chills, light milk chocolate flavours evolve which are quite pleasant.

For myself the whisky seems destined to be a mixer much more than a sipper. I found mixing with lemon-lime soda was very pleasant, and this inspired me to construct a tall breezy cocktail with fresh lemon and lime juices and fresh mint. (see recipe below)

In the Throat 12/15

The finish is relatively short with grain spice and alcohol heat providing a light burn as the spirit goes down. A touch of sweetness helps to alleviate the burn, but it also begins to taste more than a little like cane sugar. When I make cocktails the light astringency disappears and the whisky seems to be a pleasant mixer.

The Afterburn 8/10

McDowell’s No.1 Reserve is a pleasant whisky. It is not overly complex, nor does it show any apparent age much beyond three years or so, but neither does it feature sharp unpleasant flavours. My understanding is that the spirit is the number 1 selling whisky in India, and it is one of the best-selling in the entire world.I suspect the moderate price point, and the ease with which the whisky mixes into cocktails is the reason.

All in all McDowell’s No. 1 Reserve is a pleasant whisky experience from the Indian sub-continent.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe

indian-summer-2-sam_2796Indian Summer 2

2 oz  McDowell’s No.1 Reserve Whisky
1/2 oz Bols Triple Sec
3/8 oz fresh Lemon Juice
3/8 oz fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
4 Mint Leaves
1 – 2 oz Sparkling Water
Mint sprig for garnish

Muddle the first six ingredients in a mixing glass
Strain into a glass tumbler
Add ice-cubes
Complete with Sparkling Water
Garnish with a mint sprig in the glass

Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74   Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84   We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89   Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94   Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+        I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


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