Today marks a long overdue return to the familiar territory of Deanston. For several years penning as the artist formerly known as Whisky Rover, this distillery was a regular haunt. A weekend destination for the tour, café delights and then the exclusives. Looking back, these were exciting times with numerous distillery exclusives that showed an experimental and evocative side to the brand.
Times change, whisky is consumed and confidence grows. Deanston now is riding the crest of a popular wave. The whisky is always interesting, if not very good and ticks all the boxes nowadays with a restrained hand to create the final product. No artificial colouring, poxy this or that. Let nature, the cask and the spirit take us on that journey. Wherever the final destination awaits in Deanston terms, the ride always worth holding on for.
Malt keeps me very busy. Friends look on in disbelief when the Huawei P20 Pro is taken out. Just gotta check Patreon. Just looking for some news for our Twitter feed, or even there’s a typo I’m just logging in backstage. It is the way of life nowadays. The 24/7 cycle. We’re all connected in ways never seen before. The whisky community is more than just your local pub or community whisky club. Now there are virtual channels on YouTube, various strands on Instagram and the humble website that we’re the fine purveyors of since, whenever it was Mark and me made that crazy decision to pool our resources. There’s so much information out there and even less informative critiquing of the matter at hand.
Generally, the consensus whatever the medium you follow is that Deanston is doing things right. This is incredibly refreshing and gives me hope that the good whiskies and producers who are taking care and paying attention will receive their due rewards. History shows us countless distilleries that have become greedy, taken their status for granted or rested on their laurels will eventually be found out. Take Bowmore for instance that really went through a bad period. Even now the official releases fill me with a certain dread, being laced with artificial colouring and reduced to 40% strength; everything that Deanston isn’t about.
Eventually, the cream rises to the top or from a more practical perspective as consumers become more educated, informed and find resources that they can rely on. They become more demanding. More attuned. Able to see flannel for what it is and dismiss the message that companies want to pedal us.
Distilleries rather than just trotting out the same old should deviate and rebel more. Try different casks and techniques. Take a punt on a new direction with the liquid and bring along enthusiasts for the ride. Break from the norm and truly experiment. I’m not talking about a safe and sterile attempt like Glenfiddich, but something truly bonkers and extraordinary. Aim high and see where the whisky journey lands. Let’s bring some fun back into the whisky realm.
Thankfully Deanston has a current distillery exclusive that brings a twist. A whisky 5-6 years in age that’s been finished for a 6 month period in an American Craft Ale cask. Available at the distillery for a reasonable £55 or online in the UK; extending that reach of something different. Bottled at 50.5% it won’t be around for long. My concern was whether this would be timid as seen in the Glenfiddich IPA Experiment or more bonkers like the Chichibu IPA Cask Finish that really unleashed the hops. Time to find out.
Deanston American Craft Ale Finish – review
Colour: squeezed lemon flesh
On the nose: a subtle vanilla, icing sugar, white grapes; certainly not a young forceful whisky. The cask finish seems to have restrained and subdued the contents. Lemon peel, pineapple cubes, oats and golden syrup. An element of lime gives a hoppy freshness. Adding water brings out a warming caramel, grapefruit and a fresh clean vanilla vibe. Given the time it goes a bit butterscotch.
In the mouth: a blast of sugary sweetness gives way to delicate citrus notes, barley sweets, lemon peel. A hoppy drying finish is not massively forceful, but you can just taste the cask influence on the brief finish. Water reveals a buttery oily aspect, vanilla, cookie dough and flapjacks.
Happy. The purist in me would have liked this Craft Ale cask to be pushed a bit further. Really bring out more of those hoppy characteristics – maybe the next release? As it stands it’s a fun and engaging Deanston that is accordingly priced for the experience. A thumbs up.
Lead image provided by Deanston distillery.