Finally, everyone seems to be catching up with Deanston
including Serge who was recently impressed. I’ve lost count of the enjoyable
whiskies I’ve experienced from this distillery in past couple of years. Yes, its
proximity to my own home does allow me to make a convenient journey and check
out the latest distillery exclusives. This is where the magic was truly
residing with memories of departed bottles such as the Deanston Toasted Oak remaining vivid.
Since being acquired a couple of years ago by South African
giant Distell, they’ve brought a much-needed level of investment to the trio of
distilleries in Scotland. Tobermory is currently closed for refurbishment,
Bunnahabhain recently announced a substantial investment for Islay and Deanston
continues to grow in popularity. The future looks promising and the distillery
team has already achieved the most difficult aspect in creating an enjoyable
whisky. Now it’s all about getting the bottles out there and spreading the
Amongst several enthusiasts the mere mention of Deanston
would have some reciting their Axis of Evil list. Distilleries go through rough
times or have to produce what is demanded by their owners. For some this is
mere blending fodder or just quantity, or even a lack of patience during
maturation. Deanston for many years produced whisky and did not cultivate or
really have the confidence to step up, or it seemed that way to onlookers.
However since the turn of the millennium the curve has been positive and rapid,
one full of commitment and hard endeavour. For us mere enthusiasts we’re now
enjoying the fruits of such labour.
Pausing for just a moment, we all have our preconceptions
when it comes to whisky. Jura has several running for the hills and Highland
Park is letting standards slip with its Valkyrie release. Yet such experiences
won’t stop me from trying further expressions or seeking out ones that really
deliver what I’d hope to experience from a distillery. There has been a good
Jura with the 30 year old Cadenheads released in 2016. A joyous release it was
worth celebrating and then questioning why is the official range so poor in
comparison? The point being, that things in whisky change and a distillery that
you once wrote off or dismissed without a second thought, could now be a
totally different proposition. It pays to keep tabs on current expressions
which is easier said than done with the onslaught of releases.
Many tend to forget that Deanston was one of the first
distilleries to transform their range with the core features we hope to see
nowadays. We’re talking about natural colour, non-chill filtered and a level of
strength that encourages more flavour i.e. in their case 46.3%. Back then,
these were brave decisions, but time has validated the approach and then
everyone else cottons on.
The road is long to establish a brand in the mind of
consumers. Deanston to many will be an unknown quantity or a lesser malt from
previous decades. However it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. Part of its
transformation comes with the visual revamp of the core range and this
12-year-old hit the shelves in its new clothing towards the end of 2016. Yes,
it’s taken me that long to get around to reviewing it; take a look at the main
page and you’ll see how busy this place is!
The new packaging highlights its growing confidence. There’s
also an underlining of the hands on traditional ethic. I cannot recall the last
time I picked up a bottle with the signatures of the mashman, stillman,
distillery manager etc. all prominently on the front together. If you’ve
visited the distillery then you may have seen the staff pictures that adorn the
walls and underline the team spirit and history that Deanston holds dear.
Overall it’s a prominent revamp and a step up that should encourage others to
explore the range.
This 12 year old will set you back around £35-£40 and this
seems a fair price nowadays for such an age statement. This release is likely
to be your initial destination or the Virgin Oak, if discovering Deanston for
the first time. It has been a while since I sat down with the 12 and upon my
last visit to the distillery I purchased a bottle to explore. Then this weekend
consulting my sample mountain revealed that I also have the current distillery
exclusive that comes from a brandy cask. Both should make for an interesting
comparison with the widely available standard expression and the more
experimental visitor experience.
Deanston 12 year old
Colour: a light honey
Nose: more of the honey but matched with a gentle sweet cinnamon, a malty vibe and a twist of orange. There's shortbread and a touch of ginger, some hops and raisins. With water a maple sweetness is revealed and cream soda before the vanilla comes through more strongly.
Taste: a vanilla cream is my first impression, then oat biscuits with an array of nuts. Beyond there's chocolate, more malty flavours and a sugary sweetness with caramel and apples. On the finish a hint of cinnamon before the addition of water delivers fudge and marzipan.
Overall: an excellent 12 year old, I'd actually forgotten how tasty it is. A well balanced nose and just enough detail on the palate to prompt you to pour another. You really cannot go wrong with this release.
Deanston LePanto Brandy cask
Nose: very nutty arrival and spicy with all-spice, cloves and ginger. There's a decadent honeycomb combined with walnuts and brass rubbings. A touch of ginger, a rich caramel and brown sugar.
Taste: gentle arrival lacking the malty or common characteristics of your traditional Deanston's. Instead there's a dark chocolate bitterness with a long sugary progression and cloves. Some butter cream with a emphasis on caramel towards the finish and dare I say peanut butter? Water brings out more brown sugar and resin-like qualities.
Overall: a very interesting comparison to the stable 12 expression. It highlights the power of the cask in the maturation process. This being bottled at 53% volume is very drinkable without water. An interesting cask experiment albeit far from the best distillery exclusive I've tried from Deanston. It may grow on me when I purchase a bottle.
In summary then you cannot go wrong with the 12 year old and its well worth seeking out. With many distilleries hiking up prices and withdrawing age statements you have to look around nowadays for quality and value. In the 12 year old you have the best of both worlds.
Labels: 12 year old, deanston, whisky review