A 12 year old Troika

At the moment of writing this, it’s been exactly a week since the enhanced quarantine in Luzon has been implemented. I am running out of ideas to attach to reviews. Luckily, I remembered someone asking for more reviews on official whiskies, when Malt asked what its readers wanted more of before the year started. So, here I go with three less recognizable official bottle 12 year old single malts.

I don’t really know anything about the Spey single malt. I first encountered my 1st bottle a few years ago. I initially thought it was some kind of single malt whose source, or different sources, couldn’t be disclosed. Something like Port Askaig or Smokehead to be clearer. But it turns out this single malt is actually from the Speyside distillery and not just a Speyside distillery. One of my cousins left the bottle in my house when we were celebrating the Moon Cake Festival last year.

Anyways, this is apparently a limited release of 8000 bottles for the Asian market. This was aged in ex-bourbon casks and finished for 6 months in virgin oak casks. Disappointingly bottled at 40% abv and chill-filtered, but at least has no added coloring.

Glen Grant and its parent company, Campari, seem to have been picking up these past 3 years. They’ve been acquiring more brands. They’ve also started being more active in Asia. Yet, I think their gin (Bulldog) and Glen Grant still have a long way to go in terms of fame. Which is odd since brands that usually win Jim Murray awards often pick up overnight fame. Glen Grant has been in Jim’s top 3 whiskeys since 2017, yet the brand has yet to explode in fame. This is odd and perplexing, so I’ll see what a younger version delivers.

Deanston first caught my attention years ago when Glenmorangie’s Ealanta was crowned the world’s best whisky by a certain award. Scotch aged in virgin casks seemed like a new and hot topic for a while because of that. Deanston’s Virgin Oak was one of the few readily available single malts out there which could be compared to the Ealanta. But I never got the chance to acquire a bottle. This 12 year is my first Deanston. Ralfy’s making it his most recent whisky of the year has also given it more attention.

Spey 12 year old – review

Color: bourbon.

On the nose: Very mild and mellow scents of oak, coconut sugar syrup, coconut jam, vanilla, maple syrup, hints of lemon and orange peel and hints of cappuccino. Some unexpected scents of varnish and sulfur come out at the end.

In the mouth: Watery tastes of mocha, sulfur, varnish, raisins, supermarket maraschino cherries, vanilla, nuts, maple syrup and coconut sugar water to round it off.

Score: 3/10

Glen Grant 12 year old – review

Color: pale lager.

On the nose: An upfront astringency mixed with hints of green apples, orange peel, chardonnay, oak, nuts and hints of cacao. Some sweet citrus, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, hints of coconuts sugar syrup and honey.

In the mouth: A lively and full-bodied symphony of lemons, cinnamon, coconut husks, vanilla, orange peel, honey, hints of almonds, hints of roasted barley and mocha.

Score: 5/10

Deanston 12 year old – review

Color: hay.

On the nose: Sharp but pleasant notes of honey and oak. They’re quickly followed by ginger ale, stewed apple, coconuts sugar syrup, ginger. It’s rounded off by dried apricots, dried figs and hints of tannins with some sneaky cloves.

In the mouth: A pleasantly mellow welcome of honey and ginger syrup, banana syrup, stewed apples. Then some sharp and mildly tannic notes with cloves arise. More apple concentrate, dried apricot, banana liqueur and hints of latte come out to round everything off.

Score: 6/10


This Spey has a very pleasant nose, but falls flat when sipped. This is too watery and very easy to drink, thus it becomes incredibly boring. Uninspiring to talk about. This is something for people who prefer a smooth drink. Luckily, I didn’t waste money on this. Can I stop talking about Speyside now?

The Glen Grant 12 is very shy on the nose. It was hard to pick out the different scents. It made me think it was going to be the same in the mouth. But sipping this was a delight. The flavors are lively. There was enough body, texture and complexity in this whisky to keep it interesting. It has a good assortment of fruits and spices that take their messy turns.

The shy and muted nose will give the drinker a certain amount of uncertainty. This is the first official Glen Grant I’ve had. I’m mum about this brand. I’m not too excited about trying more from the range, but I’m not too against the idea either. Had the nose been more expressive, I would have given it a 6. This makes me curious if an extra 6 years of aging really does wonders for Glen Grant. By looking at this 12 year, I don’t see how the 18 year can be in Jim’s top 3 for 3 consecutive years.

I like the Deanston 12 a lot. It’s sweet and full of tropical fruits. If the 46.3% scares you, then don’t be scared. It hits more like a 43% spirit but has the body and mouthfeel of a 46% whisky. This lacks some depth and complexity though, but that’s expected for a 12-year-old.

I haven’t been following Ralfy lately. So, I can’t say if this is really the best whisky, he had for 2019. But I can see why he would make this his whisky of the year for 2020. It’s a straight-forward and easy to drink, but not interesting 12 year old, non-chill-filtered, bottled at 46.3%. What you get on the nose is what you will get in the mouth. For something that’s about $60, this is a great deal and a great everyday sipper if you’re sick of bestselling brands. The label is also pretty nice as it acknowledges the different steps and people responsible for making the whisky.

CategoriesSingle Malt

John is a cocktail and spirits enthusiast born and raised in Manila. His interest started with single malts in 2012, before he moved into rum and mezcal in search of malterntaitves – and a passion for travel then helped build his drinks collection.

  1. Greg B. says:

    Back around 2013 Ian MacMillan, who was at the time running Bunnahabhain, Tobermory and Deanston for Burn Stewart, was brought to a whisky festival I attended and held a “master class” tasting session on a few examples of each of those brands. He was very good at it and quite personable. At the time I was totally unfamiliar with Deanston because it had not been in this market. There was only one style available at Ian’s session, which was this same 12-year old as produced at that time. He was quite honest in discussing it with the group, indicating that it previously had a bit of a poor reputation in its home market that he was trying to improve via some changes that he had made in what was being bottled. He told us that it was the entry-level malt among those we would be tasting and had no airs of being anything other than a pleasant, uncomplicated whisky. I remember he described it jokingly as a “breakfast whisky” because it had cereal, fruit, and sweetish/honey notes. I found it agreeably pleasant and simple just as he described, and bought several bottles over the years until it became unavailable locally. I also tried the Virgin Oak when it came here but preferred the slightly more expensive 12 year-old version.

    1. John says:

      Hi Greg,

      It must have been a treat to attend a masterclass held by Ian MacMillan. I remember hearing of not so good things about Deanston some 4 or 5 years ago. I guess that has slowly changed. I think breakfast whisky is a great way to describe this.

      Has the Deanston 12 remained the same over the years? If no, has it changed for the better or worse?


      1. Greg B. says:

        It seems to me that the more recent ones have been about the same as what I remember. Since it is now no longer available at our local stores I cannot confirm though.

        1. John says:

          The consistency of the product is a good thing then!
          I guess the drinkers in your area have caught up to Deanston?

          1. Greg B. says:

            Well, the liquor board here de-listed a lot of products and those got caught up in that. Many of the ones that departed were fine whiskies that didn’t sell in enough volume for their liking. Others were dropped by the manufacturer, like various Old Pulteneys. A shame, really.

  2. Ed says:

    I suppose I’d rather reach for Glengoyne 12 or Glen Scotia Double Cask in this category.

    I’ve become weary of Ralfy, every review involves a long drawn out sermon occasionally mixed with some personal philosophy on life that if you kind of double take ‘hold on a second’ you start to peel back the wisdom and see how skewed it is. I just want to skip to the damn tasting notes.

    1. John says:

      I didn’t think of Glengoyne. It’s locally available but I haven’t bought a bottle of GG in years.

      I share the same sentiments you have with Ralfy. But I will admit that I have learned a lot from him. A lot of his sermons are things can get repetitive but can also be enlightening. I haven’t been watching his videos as much as I used to anyways.

  3. Welsh Toro says:

    Hi John, good to see you and I wish you good fortune in our time. Interesting selection and let me say that Glen Spey had garbage written all over it and everything wrong with the industry. Crap whisky, make it an exclusive and flog it to the Asian market – They’ll buy anything. The Glen Grant is creaking as well. The Deanston 12 is a nice little dram. It ticks all the right boxes including, very importantly (I’m getting pissed off with this issue), value for money. (p.s…I cracked my Habitation Velier Long Pond Teca and it’s a jewel.) Cheers WT

    1. John says:

      Hi WT,

      Great to hear from you. I hope you’re doing well.

      What you’re saying about Spey whisky sounds about right. If it were better, I think I would have heard and would be hearing more about it. The Glen Grant was inoffensive but very forgettable. I’m really curious about the 18 to see if its really worth the praise someone is giving it. By creaking do you mean half standing up but half way going down the shitter?

      Glad you tried the Long Pond TECA. It’s marvelous stuff! Cheers

  4. Jhun says:

    I’m a Deanston fan… It’s underrated… Hits the spot on price ($60) and nose/taste (“What you get on the nose is what you will get in the mouth.”), can’t be beat at this age level (12yo) Highland-wise…

    1. John says:

      Hi Jhun, yes, it’s a very good whisky for the price. It’s hard to think of a single malt as good or better than this. I’ll look forward to trying the other offerings.

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