Deanston is one of those distilleries that isn’t hugely fashionable at the moment. Not sure why. I’ve looked at the Toasted Oak and a festival whisky, as well as a monstrous 1974 Oloroso Sherry Cask. And you know what? They’ve all been really very good.
But finally there seems to be a bit of a buzz around the brand at the moment. (I typed this sentence before Leonardo Di-Bloody-Caprio visited the place.) They’ve recently rebranded their bottles and packaging to reflect the “local area and community”, and their authentic craft heritage. The labels include signatures from most of the staff including the distillery manager, stillmen and warehousemen. People are clearly important to this distillery, which is always good to hear in the modern era.
I think trying to put out an authentic product (whatever that really means) in this day and age is remarkably difficult. There are so many whisky brands out there saying essentially the same things and using precisely the same words, that I imagine consumers are going to get very confused one day – if not already. This will result in a few brands not doing anywhere near as well as they’d expected. The answer to making your whisky brand stand out these days is quite simple: make very good whisky, and don’t birch consumers to within an inch of their lives with outrageous pricing and empty words. The rest will fall into place because there will always be people who will shout about how good it is. There are forums and hidden Facebook groups aplenty where this kind of thing is discussed all the time.
Anyway. Before I get carried away, back to two whiskies from Deanston. They’re both non-chill filtered (so all the flavour compounds remain at the expense of potential cloudiness), no colouring is added, bottled at a decent ABV and cost a reasonable price. The Deanston 12 Year Old will cost around £40 and is bottled at 46.3% ABV. The Deanston Oloroso 20 Year Old was a limited edition cask strength whisky that costs £110 and was bottled at 55.3% ABV.
Deanston 12 Year Old Tasting Notes
On the nose: heather honey and a very attractive maltiness. Creamy vanilla custard. A gentle oak note. Perfumed and sweetly floral – old roses. Then that malted barley quality comes back. It really is a lovely balance between the sweet and savoury aromas.
In the mouth: fantastic oily texture, and ever so slightly waxy. A lighter honey than the nose. Milk chocolate. Hazelnut praline. Huge toffee notes in the middle, with a spot of golden syrup, and then that gorgeous malted barley quality from the nose becomes more apparent. The finish is long and warming, without the oak being too dominant. A wonderful bit of blending.
I suppose the flavours described here might not be off the wall, but it’s the way these all combine to make a fantastic, tasty offering. The best entry-level single malt on the market? Not as good as the Kilkerran 12 Year Old, but it’s certainly up there in my book… Very good spirit, very well blended. Well done Deanston.
Deanston 20 Year Old Tasting Notes
On the nose: if you like sherry matured whisky (and I do) then this is a heavenly nose. Nutmeg. Leather. Prunes, figs, damson chutney. Old cellars. Elderberry sauce. Quite gamey. Dried raisins. There’s still a slight acidity, which again is chutney-like – perhaps balsamic vinegar mixing with muscovado sugar.
In the mouth: it’s a bruiser, a rush of dried fruits and dark sugars held in check with that balsamic tartness. Nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Burnt toast and blackcurrant jam. Note of rum even. If I was to find a flaw in it, then the old wood mustiness and sandalwood tends to muddy the back-end rather than make it work. A lot of ginger on a hugely warming finish that goes on as long as the end credits of a Hollywood blockbuster.
The 12 Year Old is a must for an everyday dram. Works best as an aperitif, something before dinner rather than after. This is simply a very good whisky for the price. Newcomers and old scrotes will find much to enjoy here. And the 20 year old? Well that would certainly do for after dinner. It would give Glengoyne, GlenDronach, Glenfarclas or Macallan a run for their money at similar ages. Honestly.
Deanston may not yet be fashionable, but who needs fashion when you’ve got style like this?