We’re big fans of Deanston here at Malt and have put together a comprehensive list of reviews over the years. Yes, it’s an unlikely candidate for such a discography but we like to let the whisky do the talking and finally many out there are starting to discover this Highland distillery.
Decennary is not an everyday word. Ultimately it means a ten year period, or decade as its commonly referred to nowadays. However here it’s utilised to showcase the 50th anniversary year of Deanston’s existence as a distillery. It’s life as a mill commenced in 1785 although the site was in use prior to this date spinning flax. Eventually the industrial revolution boosted employment and prosperity in the area and a small community of houses and facilities grew up around the mill as it was.
International competition and a fall in demand for competition meant that by 1965 the mill had finally closed after centuries of existence. Then the imaginative idea to turn this mill into a distillery took root. On 30th January 1967 the distillery was opened and its new purpose commenced. Just 50 years later or a multiple clutch of decennaries and it’s an anniversary worth celebrating. Yes, we are a little tired and financially battered after the 175th Cadenhead release schedule this year. Thankfully this Decennary is just a single bottling and limited to just 1400 bottles.
Deanston were one of the first distilleries to bottle at a higher strength – this release is 46.3% – with natural colour and no chill filtration. Today these are the common features and benchmarks that whisky drinkers wish to see and experience. An aspect I always enjoy about Deanston is the various themed events they put on at the distillery to engage the local and wider community. With Christmas on the horizon it seemed apt that a Christmas fair was in order and this event also brought the reveal of the Decennary.
We just made it to the closing moments of the festival itself in what was an incredibly busy day with a special birthday that involved dashing around most of Scotland, ferrying guests and collecting a cake in Airdrie. The best plans never paid off but as nightfall began to settle at the distillery, the Christmas lights remained vibrant as did the hospitality of those within Deanston. Our small band were fortunate enough to have a try of the Decennary and this taste was enough to prompt a purchase. Honestly, I would have joined my mate in such a purchase, but with a pending week in London for my wife’s ongoing celebrations my bank account was already under siege.
Instead I was fortunate to depart with a sample of the aforementioned Decennary which in the distillery shop I thought had character and an element of roasted coffee beans. In recent years we’ve seen some disappointing Anniversary themed releases with the Tamnavulin Double Cask being particularly bland and the Lagavulin 8 year old representing an excessively priced bottling. One that was so profitable for Diageo that they’ve now decided to continue its production beyond the mere confines of the original brief. Joining the Lagavulin core range this may have come as a relief to many fans of the distillery, but not for those led by investment and collecting articles over the year that suggested the Lagavulin 8 was a solid prospect. A time limited bottling is not really that limited. Especially with a giant such as Diageo. If it’s not a single cask or features an exact outturn number on the label you might as well forget it, or drink the stuff!
Alongside the Decennary was the current bottle your own Deanston that are frankly always of interest and showcase a different side to the core releases. Now back in the currently Christmas free confines of my own home we can sit down with both of these samples for further investigation.
Deanston Decennary – review
A vatting of 1977 whisky refill, 1982 American Oak, 1996 Port Pipe and 2006 Pedro Ximénez so there’s some true age to this release. This is limited to 1400 bottles and will set you back around £115.
Colour: battered copper
On the nose: a very tempting dried orange aroma followed by a malty aspect and then those roasted coffee beans I recall from my distillery encounter. A gentle nutmeg, a buttery biscuit base, then dark chocolate and honeycomb with a hint of smoke towards the end. A few drops of water reveals a lemon biscotti, apricot and apples.
In the mouth: more of that rich chocolate comes through on the palate with a wisp of raspberry beneath the main body of oats, honey and a creamy vanilla. It’s the luxurious oozing oily texture that captures your attention – I cannot recall a similar quality in my previous Deanston experiences – and the addition of water ushers ginger, almonds and more of that malty characteristic.
Deanston 8 year old Red Wine cask – review
The bottle-your-own option at the distillery currently, this is bottled at around 56.6% volume and will set you back around £75.
Colour: cinder toffee
On the nose: initially it’s a bit of a young bruiser with condensed tannins from the cask. Time quells the flames somewhat bring out worn leather, red apples, blood orange and sweetness from the cherries. A dull cinnamon mixed in with some vanilla and dark chocolate. The addition of water delivers more fruity notes with apples and pears.
In the mouth: more restrained across the palate with subtle characteristics of chocolate once again, all-spice, black pepper and cinnamon towards the finish. Cranberries and some grapefruit characteristics arise and then you add water. It all transforms and becomes a little more refined and pleasant with red grapes, red liquorice, a dirty vanilla and the cask char coming through nicely.
A red wine cask can over power and dominate a spirit. At first, I thought this was the case nosing the whisky but time and tasting proved otherwise. The end result is an agreeable and balanced Deanston with a twist. Not hugely layered given that its just 8 years of age but fun nevertheless and a lovely memento. Whereas the Decennary is a hybrid with various casks vatted together. This often is utilised to hide flaws in certain casks but here each of the casks brings a different element to the anniversary celebration. The end result is something new for Deanston and thoroughly enjoyable. The admission price means you can join the party rather than looking on from the sidelines longingly, as is the case with many limited editions today.
My thanks to Deanston for these samples.