Deanston has become a dependable favourite of mine in recent months. It’s reliably good and I think the Deanston 12 Year Old is one of the best entry-level Scotch whiskies on the market at the moment. But what are things like at the other end of the age spectrum?
The Deanston 40 Year Old is the latest release from the Stirling-based distillery. It’s not often that I get to taste whisky much older than me these days, so I always appreciate it when I have an elder to look up to. There appears to be a lot of old Deanston around too. This narrowly beats the Deanston 1974 Oloroso Sherry Cask at 37 years of age. The interesting thing about this 40 year old is the fact that the distillery only opened in 1967. The youngest whisky in this single malt must date back to 1977 or thereabouts, so someone, somewhere, must have had the foresight to hold onto the older stocks right from the start and not sell it all.
Deanston 40 Years Old is bottled at 45.6% ABV. It’s spent 30 years maturing in refill casks before spending a decade in oloroso Sherry butts. A bottle will set you back £1,000… which I actually think is good value. Wait! That’s less than half the cost of Highland Park and Glenfiddich 40 year olds, and it’s a third of the Balvenie 40. I’d say it’s one of the cheapest proprietor-bottled 40 year olds knocking about.
Deanston 40 Year Old Review
Colour: russet. Not as dark as you’d think, especially considering it’s been in oloroso Sherry for a decade as well.
On the nose: a huge yet subtle depth. Dried apricots and sultanas, and heavily toasted wholemeal bread. Pencils and cork, old wood notes. Ink. Then baked apples, cinnamon and golden syrup. Hazelnuts and praline. Nutmeg. Seville orange marmalade. Furniture polish.
In the mouth: intensely mouth-watering, and a lovely cloying, velvety, slightly dry texture. Orchard fruits, baked apples and pears with again cinnamon. Not at all too woody, which is remarkable for the age. Mead. Orange, grapefruit, slightly oily – light olive oil. Sandalwood (unusually a ‘new wood’ note), toffee, salted caramel. Wisp of peppermint. Pencils again. A touch of pepper on the finish, but there’s a wonderfully wholesome, almost savoury note – umami, baked tomatoes – that shows on the back-end.
Complex, subtle, full of charm. Laid back and contemplative. Nothing overpowers one way or the other; there’s nothing remotely aggressive about it. The Deanston 40 Years Old is very well-balanced, and full of more unusual flavours (or rather, the overall impression is more atypical). That’s quite a feat after all these years. It doesn’t feel like poor wood that has been super-charged either.
I’m also impressed that Deanston can continue to release both younger and very old whiskies that are well-made and reasonably priced, and that they don’t just excel at one end of things. Whatever they’re doing at Deanston, they’ve clearly been doing it well for decades. Worth the £1,000? If I was in the market for such a whisky (and yes, there are people out there who have that as pocket money) then this would be a classy, mellow addition to your collection.
Finally, I think it’s worth adding that there’s some interesting stuff going on in general with Deanston’s owners, Burn Stewart Distillers, especially since they were acquired by the South African company Distell (who own the excellent Three Ships whisky brand). Both Bunnahabhain – their other major Scotch distillery, along with Tobermory – and Deanston have been releasing some good quality whiskies consistently in the past couple of years. All of these brands have been getting some proper love now, but the focus has been on putting out decent product rather than telling marketing stories – even with this 40 year old. And that is to be applauded.