Deanston Distillery has not been covered on Malt since my huge vertical tasting following a visit to the distillery visitor centre and Deanston Village. Whilst I was very critical of the prices at Deanston back then, they have stabilised and appear much more reasonable in the current market. In this article, I’ll focus on what is available on the Deanston Warehouse 4 tasting experience, which costs £35 for three whiskies straight from the cask.
I draft this article in the week that Falkirk Distillery released its inaugural bottling: £190 for a three year old whisky. The owners – non-whisky drinkers, apparently – tried to buy the Rosebank site and settled on Falkirk for their distillery investment. The new building is something that looks like a CALA home appended with faux pagoda roofs. Although the whisky is only three years old, it has taken 17 years since the original plan for the distillery was agreed. An interesting feature is that a pair of the original Caperdonich Distillery stills have been reused at Falkirk; the other pair have been used at Belgian Owl distillery. The classic Caperdonich pear flavours are noticeable in Belgian Owl but are not recorded on the tasting notes for this inaugural release. Belgian Owl whisky is a strong recommendation instead of Falkirk.
Returning to Deanston, which has a more interesting history covered in my previous article. More recently, Deanston is owned by CVH Spirits, spun off from Distell in 2023 along with Bunnahabhain Distillery and Tobermory Distillery. The trio of distilleries remains intact. The Master Blender Julieann Fernandez is representative of new female power in Scottish Distilling, as distillery after distillery recognises that many women have the superior palates to deliver exceptional high-level blending coupled with great academic credentials (Julieann is a forensic scientist by education). The Chronicles Release previously reviewed was a superb example of a complex blend.
Whilst the reviews that follow are mostly single casks, these exemplify the house style of CVH Spirits’ Scottish distilleries, where flavour is forward and subtlety is not the name of the day. This is common across the warehouse tastings and certainly helps when a cool 5 degrees is encountered mid-winter in Scotland, where shy retiring drams would appear flat. These flavour bombs also appeal to newer drinkers, and the modern whisky drinker who demands higher power and more arresting flavour than the subtleties of a 43% soft Speyside as was predominantly marketed from the 1970s to 2000s. Warehouse 4 is a more than a tasting; for budding enthusiasts it also is a good introduction to cask types, sizes storage, and warehouse practices.
As for the team at the Visitor Centre at Deanston Distillery: some of the best I have encountered around Scotland. Thomas led our recent Warehouse 4 Experience and was a fantastic host. Brian was super helpful in the shop as we perused an incredible array of exclusive bottles at generally reasonable prices. Most of the exclusives and limited releases can be bough in 70cl, 20cl and 3cl sizes, so there is something interesting for all budgets. I really appreciate this approach and never leave empty handed, whereas many distilleries’ shops these days seem to anticipate a minimum spend of £500, between the three-figure exclusive bottlings and merchandise.
The Distillery and Visitor centre is at Doune, situated between Glasgow and Edinburgh international airports. Any trip North towards the Scottish Highlands or Speyside should stop in. I recommend the Warehouse tour when time is short, but I know that with more time the distillery tour itself is very interesting especially, as it’s been squeezed into an old cotton mill rather than being a purpose made site.
Now, turning to the treats we discovered on our visit…
Deanston Single Cask Organic Fino Sherry Cask – Review
7 years old (23/08/2013 to 6/1/2024). Distillery Exclusive Bottle-Your-Own. 53.6% ABV. £75.
On the nose: Thick toffee, treacle toffee, charred sugar, stewed fruit, vanilla cream, a hint of balsamic vinegar, caramel chocolate digestive biscuits, Maltesers, Chocolate ganache.
In the mouth: Lively, with sweet alcohol heat demanding water, afterwards Cartmel sticky toffee pudding and extra sticky toffee sauce, a slightly floral apple blossom note develops with some time, dates, hot roasted nuts, some more stewed fruits, roasted plum, charred sugar, coffee and praline.
Find me many distilleries offering a bottle your own for under £100? Glen Moray is one of the few. The flavour of the cask is modern seasoned Oloroso sherry, but at the top end of that spectrum, full on like being hit by a barn door. The young spirit brings life to those flavours and shines out like sunlight through cracks in a barn door. Had it not been January and my budget constrained I’d have taken a bottle home. My fellow visitor did.
Deanston Single Cask 1993 – 2024 – Review
30 year old (1993 – 2016 Bourbon refill, 2016 – 2023 Manzanilla Sherry). Hand-filled for customers and exclusively available at the distillery (a lucky bonus dram on the day). 51% ABV. £500
On the nose: Smoked cheese, apple chutney, Swarfega and engine oil, bonfire, vanilla yoghurt, apple strudel and lightly pickled brambles.
In the mouth: Equally sweet and savoury, slightly sour and wafts of oak smoke, the peat gives a consistent effervescent spicy note, Brazil nuts in chocolate the savoury aspect continues, a ploughman’s lunch eaten under a hedgerow, earthy dunnage, dusty vanilla and worn leather seats on a barn-find car. Spicy finish with smooth toffee and lingering spice.
There are rich sherry notes and industrial funky notes in this reminiscent of Springbank, a cheese note more closely associated with Jura, but also a sophistication of age. It’s a fantastic conversation whisky but at £500 for 70cl, I have to knock off a point.
Deanston Single Cask 2004 – 2024 – Review
19 years old. Amontillado Sherry Cask hand-filled for customers and exclusively available at the distillery. 50.5% ABV. £165.
On the nose: Prickly spirit, sweet and nutty, crisp malt notes with a fruity backbone, bright apple, perhaps a little simple.
In the mouth: Sweet and sharp arrival with a nicely interesting funky overripe note becoming nutty and salty. Roasted pistachio nuts. Dunnage, ripe white fruit and bruised apples. Macadamia nut brittle, a lingering wood spice on the finish.
A sherry forward dram in the house style, the Deanston spirit character is hard to find, however there are layers of flavour on the palate that makes this delicious, morish, and satisfying.
Deanston Single Cask 2012 – 2023 “Spanish Oak” – Review
Spanish Lepanto Brandy Cask. 59% ABV. £120.
Colour: Pale gold.
On the nose: Bright fruity apples, eau de vie, perfumed fruits, crisp malt, malty yeasty apple juice, buttery toasted brioche, spicy mulled cider notes and toffee.
In the mouth: Rich fruity ripe apple and toffee, spicy spirit and cask influence compete for your attention, with sweet fruit notes alternating with richer brandy notes. Ground almonds, dusty vanilla. Rich butter caramel, some young aromatic almost floral eau de vie on the medium length finish.
A super interesting dram with lots going on in the mouth and layers of complementary flavors from both the cask and spirit, this was memorable and my pick of the day in the cold warehouse and my favourite overall tasting in a warm home.
Deanston Single Cask 2012 – 2023 – Review
Red Wine Cask (Rioja style from the Douro Valley Spain). 58% ABV. £100
Colour: Pale gold with a slight blush or rose gold.
On the nose: Boiled sweets, sweet confectionary, red apples, malty notes, pink foam shrimps, strawberries and cream gummies, Cairn O’Mohr Strawberry Wine.
In the mouth: Oily body, sweet sugary vanilla whipped cream, spicy tannic oak, cracked black pepper, Haribo Strawberries, dusty vanilla and a drying finish.
In the warehouse this was presented as an atypical wine cask with more of a raw wood, than wine influence however warmed up at home rather than in a cold warehouse this is quite a standard wine cask. It lacks the deeper darker flavours that makes a good wine cask and, whilst I can understand why it was picked for the experience, I’d have preferred a super active first fill bourbon cask in its place. Interesting but not compelling.