Deanston in recent times, has experienced a surge of interest married with key changes implemented several years ago. A more authentic presentation and motivation to put to bed the legacy of old releases that are best consigned to the history books.
Chances are if you’ve arrived on this page, you’re standing in a branch of Morrisons, looking at this new release and trying to categorise whether it is worth £29 of your hard-earned cash. The answer will follow below.
Firstly, I’ll say that I am a big fan of what Deanston has done in recent times and their confidence. Things, in my opinion, have slipped a little with more lazy cask finishes appearing than gutsy releases that we’ve seen (mostly as distillery exclusives) in recent times. We can hold onto the past fondly, but we must look ahead and embrace the future, which means new releases such as this.
Hopefully, you realise that this is a Scotch and a whisky, rather than bourbon, or whiskey? When I found a bottle in my local store, it was sitting beside Gentleman Jack, which is a Jack Daniel’s whiskey. Already suggestive of a little confusion over where to place this release? The fact that the ‘Kentucky Cask Matured’ is almost as prominent as the name of the distillery doesn’t help. Perhaps Deanston is trying to appeal to a new hybrid market, or fans of American brown spirits looking for something new?
The concept itself of ‘Kentucky Cask Matured’ is limited. Pretty much all of those whiskies right in front of you, will be ex-bourbon cask matured, as this is where the Scotch whisky industry sources the majority of its casks from. We all love a bit of European sherry oak, or fine wine, but the backbone of Scotch are the casks previously utilised by American distilleries: most of whom reside within the state of Kentucky.
For fans of this distillery, the concerns around this release will centre on the bottling strength of 40% and the presence of soft-filtration. Deanston was one of the first distilleries to break away from the benchmark minimum strength of 40% that was utilised by the majority of distilleries to maximise their returns. This lower strength can have an impact on the nosing and tasting experience. It is also utilised to minimise the shortcomings in youthful whiskies that, in reality, require more time.
By bottling at 40%, Deanston has stepped away from a key strength and presence in the glass to offer a more affordable price point to an onlooker who may baulk at paying over the psychological barrier of £30. The back label suggests enjoying any damn way you like over ice, indicating that this single malt has more validity as a mixer or in a classic highball. The soft-filtration feels like a halfway house, as traditionally their whiskies don’t feature chill filtration, which removes the natural oils and compounds that provide texture and flavour.
While we can be critical as enthusiasts and experienced whisky drinkers. This reality is that within the supermarket, the majority of potential customers don’t want to know about filtration or the bottling strength. They are driven by price, quality and brands they can trust, recognise and associate with. This is the market that Deanston is looking to tap into and they see this release as the best opportunity to do so. I wish them luck as always, but for now, I have to judge this whisky on its own merits and our scoring guide. As always, our thanks to our Patreon supporters for making this review possible.
Deanston Kentucky Cask Matured – review
Colour: white gold.
On the nose: some alcohol confirming its youthfulness. Creamy, barley and cereals, apples, pears and a hint of dried pineapple, tablet and cinnamon.
In the mouth: very thin and lacking definition. A light honey, raw pastry, some alcohol and a simple palate. More apples and pears with some bitterness on the finish.
This is disappointing, or at least from my viewpoint: disheartening. This is Deanston, playing away from home: jettisoning the strengths that have served it well for almost a decade. And on the road, you’ll struggle if you lose those key strengths. Yeah, I can appreciate they want to break into the supermarket space, and need an inoffensive and affordable whisky to capture the speculative shopper.
Space on such shelves is limited and already dominated by the big brands who can call upon heritage, brand awareness and a scale of production and economy of scale that Deanston cannot muster. In essence, this whisky noses and tastes like a young Speyside whisky with its delicate and limited fruit tones. Do we need another Monkey Shoulder, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich or mixing component?
Deanston already has an entry-level concept with its Virgin Oak release, which funnily enough features 100% American oak (likely Kentucky folks) casks with a short finish in virgin wood. This Kentucky edition feels like a detour. For a mere £6 more, you can pick up a superior whisky from this distillery, that is a true stepping stone and encourages you to continue your journey.
Priced at £29 this is too expensive to take on the giants of the supermarket shelves and it feels £5 overpriced on its own merits. Even at around £24, there’s better value with many supermarkets offering their own white-label single malts that are superior and cheaper. I can walk into (queue permitting) an Aldi and pick up their Highland Black for £15, which offers so much more. Or even the consistently discounted and easy-going Tamnavulin Double Cask.
And that’s the crux of the matter. This isn’t Deanston as we know it. The pricing is off-target and the liquid won’t win many new fans or satisfy existing Deanston enthusiasts. The nose is ok, but the palate exposes the limitations. I’m a firm believer in trying and failing, rather than not trying at all. So, Deanston has tried and hit a pothole.