This week's review brings us to the Southern Highlands region of Scotland and to a distillery which has been gaining momentum and a reputation for fine whiskies over the last decade: Deanston.
The distillery is currently owned and operated by the Distell Group of South Africa, which owns parent company Burn Stewart Distillers (and also owns Ledaig/Tobermory and Bunnahbhain distilleries as well as the Scottish Leader blended Scotch whisky brand).
Deanston distillery (Picture credit: www.thewclub.co.uk)
Today's review focuses on the 15 Years Old expression of Deanston, which has been bottled for The Single Cask as part of the bar's collection and actually represents one of the most popular offerings in bar.
But before we delve into the review, first a bit of history.
The distillery was founded in relatively modern times (1965) when a weavery dating back to 1785 was transformed into a working distillery by James Finlay & Co. and Brodie Hepburn Ltd. Incidentally, Brodie Hepburn Ltd was also the owner and operator of Tullibardine distillery for a few years before the company was taken over by Invergordon Distillers.
The single malt whisky produced at the distillery was named Old Bannockburn and this name continued until 1971, when Invergordon Distillers took over Tullibardine and Deanston and renamed the whisky that was produced after the distillery itself in 1974.
Invergordon Distillers ran Deanston until 1982, when the height of the whisky crisis due to overproduction and a lack of demand caused them to close the distillery. It must be added that as many as 30 distilleries closed during this time, some even for good.
The distillery remained closed until 1990, when it was purchased by Burn Stewart Distillers from Glasgow for a relatively reasonable price of £2.1 million, with production resuming the following year.
The distillery remained under the ownership of Burn Stewart Distillers until 1999, when C L Financial initially acquired an 18% stake in the parent company, eventually assuming full control of the company and its assets in 2002.
The ownership allowed for a greater level of flexibility and the distillery released a 30 Years Old expression in 2006, followed by a relaunch of their 12 Years Old offering in 2009. The distillery also inaugurated a brand new visitor centre in May 2012, thus helping them to further build the brand.
The sign which leads towards the visitor centre (Picture credit: www.tripadvisor.co.uk)
In April 2013, ownership of Burn Stewart Distillers and its assets was transferred to the Distell Group from South Africa after they reached an agreement to purchase the company from C L Financial for £160m. Distell remains the owners of the distillery and other assets and has assisted in further creating awareness of the brands within its portfolio.
In terms of equipment, the distillery sports an eleven ton traditional open top cast iron mash tun, eight stainless washbacks with an average fermentation time of 80 hours and two pairs of stills with ascending lyne arms. The distillery has been operating 24/7 since 2014 and is able to produce up to 2.6 million litres of pure alcohol on an annual basis.
The stills at Deanston distillery (Picture credit: www.liquor-store.ch)
Since 2000, the distillery has produced a small amount of organic spirit on a yearly basis and this was released in 2015 as Deanston Organic – 15 Years Old. The single malt whisky produced at the distillery has no added colouring and is bottled without any chill filtration whatsoever.
So, let's get to the review!
Colour: Bright gold
Nose: Initial entry presents summer fruits (apricots, peaches) and a noticeable alcohol note which is not unpleasant in any way. With time, grassy notes and a hint of menthol appear alongside barley sugar, whisps of cinnamon, malty notes and oak. There is also a hint of soapiness to this dram, which is rather unusual.
Palate: Sweet, fruity and slightly spicy on initial entry, with the apricots and peaches from the nose making an appearance alongside some cracked white pepper. The maltiness of this dram is almost beer-like in some aspect, which adds an interesting character to the dram when paired with the fruits. Grassy hints and just a touch of bitterness which seems to come from the oak interaction at the very end.
Finish: Medium on the finish, with the apricots and peaches, barley sugar and white pepper rather dominant from start to the end.
Balance: A fairly well balanced dram which showcases the sweet, fruity and spicy elements in equal measure and with each of them retaining their own character. The mouthfeel is slightly oily initially, but becomes rather drying over time and especially towards the end.
The Single Cask bottling of Deanston 15 Years Old is available for purchase at the bar by the bottle for $312 (with an additional 10% service charge levied on top) and can be purchased by the dram for $27 (with an additional 10% service charge levied on top).
The bottle is also available for retail/takeaway purchase and retails for $218.40 each. For those who are looking for an alternative option, the bar also sells a 100ml sample bottle version which is available for purchase for in-bar consumption as well as retail purposes. Please approach one of our friendly staff for more information on these sample bottles.
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