By Richard Thomas
After looking at the title of this review, some readers may be thinking “DYC? Spanish whiskey? What?”, and I can’t really blame them. Although it is now owned by Jim Beam and is at the part of their big market expansion push in India, most whiskey lovers remain unaware that they even make whiskey in Spain, let alone that Spain has a major distillery like DYC. Don’t let the Iberian origin throw you, because like some Japanese distilleries, DYC is proof you don’t need to be from an English-speaking nation (America, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, etc.) to produce a decent dram.
Destilerías y Crianza del Whisky (DYC) was opened in 1959 by Nicomedes Garcia Gomez, a Spanish entrepreneur, with the idea of creating a local, Castilian alternative to Scottish and Irish imports, as well as to the brandy that was the choice of many Spaniards at that time. Mr. Gomez wasn’t starting from scratch, however, since his family operated a small distillery prior to his foray into the whiskey business. For me, the whole notion evokes images of Franco and import substitution, which was an international economic development fad back in the 1950s and 1960s.
Unlike many such schemes, Gomez succeeded. DYC is a major producer and widespread in Spain, so much so that I’ve sometimes seen bottles of basic DYC (covered here) taped together with 2-liter bottles of Coca Cola and put on sale in supermarkets. The last statistics I saw indicated that DYC had roughly half of the Spanish whiskey market under its thumb, due to a mix of generally good quality and super low prices. The distillery produces an entire line of whiskey, ranging from the basic blend to single malts, and curiously these whiskeys remain largely unknown outside of Spain. I have trouble finding it, even in neighboring Portugal!
By “Scottish and Irish imports” I mean mostly Scottish, as you can probably judge from the use of the word “whisky,” so the principal grain here is barley. Later on, DYC acquired up quite a bit of Scottish know-how when it bought Lochside Distillery (near Montrose) in 1973, and this Scottish product continued to make its way to Spain until the mid-1990s.
The basic DYC is a blended scotch-style whiskey, aged for three years in American oak, and bottled at 40% alcohol. That clear bottle is topped with a metal screw cap, and bears a nondescript label, so it looks as a run of the mill whiskey should.
In the bottle and in the class, entry-level DYC has the pale gold color of Budweiser, albeit without the foam or carbonation. The scent is very light, but what is there is sweet with a tinge of vanilla. The flavor is light and sweet as well, mostly with vanilla notes, but with a dash of fruitiness and a stab of moderate spiciness. The finish is short and slightly astringent. This is a young whiskey, and it has the character that a straightforward, young and malty whiskey ought to have.
Everyone I’ve ever talked to about DYC tells me this entry-level version is not the sort of thing to drink neat. Instead, it’s a mixer-class whiskey, much like J&B or Johnnie Walker Red. Keeping that in mind, and that the stuff is famous in Spain for being taped together with Coca Cola and put on sale, I decided to try it on ice and with Coke.
Because it is so light, DYC is well-suited to ice, although ice does little for the flavor. Mixing with Coke, on the other hand, makes for a nice refreshing Coke and whiskey drink, and I can see why the Spanish supermarkets bundle the two things together. On a hot, dusty late afternoon on the Iberian plateau, DYC and Coke must make for a cheap, refreshing happy hour.
DYC is what it is: a mixer-class, D-grade whiskey. That said, as a mixer it is equal to or slightly superior to Johnnie Walker Red, the supposed king of this type of whiskey, and a damn sight cheaper to boot. I think this is because it is lighter than JW Red, but has more flavor than something like J&B. If you see some on the shelf in Spain or India, don’t be shy about picking it up with a bottle of Coke.
In Spain, you can find 1-liter bottles of DYC for as little as €8, and the standard 70cl bottle is even cheaper. I’ve seen internet retailers in the United States offering it for less than $18, not including shipping and handling.