Deanston occupies many chart positions on my list of lists.
Namely the distillery I’ve visited most and some of my memorable
whiskies that have been under the radar and off the grid. It’s
a surprising statement, not only because I’m the Victor Meldrew of whiskies,
but also Deanston for many years didn’t receive much love from the wider
The tide has started to turn in recent years, as the new
found confidence I’ve discovered via the small batches has transferred into the expanding core range. There’s been a noticeable
uplift in sales, interest and appreciation. No longer to do they snigger when I
include a Deanston bottling on my best of annual round up.
Virgin Oak is a dangerous arena for any maturing whisky. The
power and rawness of this pristine cask can overpower and brainwash its
contents. Ok, it may not fully win the battle and convince its contents that
it’s now Cotton-eyed-Joe moonshine from Alabama, but you appreciate the minefield
ahead. Thankfully, whilst there is Virgin Oak present within the mix, the
journey of this whisky commences in more traditional ex-bourbon casks, which apparently come
from a family owned Cooperage in Kentucky. It’s then finished in brand spanking
new oak casks that provide the twist.
If I was a betting man and I’m in reality not; the nearest I
get to going a bit wild and chucking my cash away is on a bottle of Jura. And
literally then, I still get to chuck the bottle away. I’d say the whisky here
is 5-6 years old and we know it’s a finish rather than a double maturation, or
acing. Short finishes, and by these I mean weeks, are extremely dubious and are
often used to gloss over evident cracks in a whisky or a benign cask. In terms
of finishing here, I’d say we’re in the realms of 6 months or so. I could be
totally wrong (as always) but I have total confidence in Deanston
and their focus on quality and the brand they are building.
This Virgin Oak is the gateway into the core range.
Affordable and offering hints at the characteristics you’ll discover if
you step up. The next obvious step here is the recently revamped 12-year-old
that I’ve purchased to review shortly; I also have an exclusive soon to be
released bottling in the mount Rover pile. Having experienced a few Deanston
verticals, I find that the 15-year-old Organic release is often the most
suitable expression after the Virgin Oak, it delivers that little bit more
complexity and character before you set onto the robust and malty 12-year-old.
I need to return to Deanston this year, whisky on this site
is becoming rather time consuming but the content keeps coming and hopefully
you enjoy these meandering dialogues. Currently, I’m sitting on a train pulling
in Haymarket station with the spectre of the Caledonian distillery-hanging
overhead. It seems like the perfect moment to pull up and jump into the tasting
notes. This Deanston Virgin Oak will set you back in the region of £35, its
natural coloured with a higher strength of 46% and non-chill filtered, which
they were doing before many other distilleries. As a release it is widely
available and time to wrap this up before I miss my station.
Colour: light auburn
Nose: light and floral with Deanston characteristics of
honey, almonds, barley and rich tea biscuits. A resin-like oiliness, more sugar
with white chocolate and lacking the wood dominance you may have expected from
virgin wood. Yes, there are elements of vanilla, fresh wood chippings and a
touch of ash from the charred cask, but its balanced.
Taste: the resin-like appearance transfers onto the palate
with a light syrupy nature. Vanilla cream, ginger, apples and a herbal note
right at the end, prior to a barley sweet finish.
Overall: the nature of virgin oak releases will not appeal
to everyone and the misconception is a limited presentation with a heavy wood
influence. To a certain extent the wood has unleashed its powers of persuasion
but in a subtle nature. This is an ideal starter dram for an evening opener, or
for someone looking to step into the wonderful world of whisky.
Labels: deanston, featured, virgin oak