By Kurt Maitland
Deanston Distillery is a located on the banks of the River Teith, eight miles from the historic town of Stirling (yes, that Stirling from Braveheart), and is the largest of the distilleries owned by South Africa’s Distell Group via Burn Stewart, whose properties also include Islay’s Bunnahabhain Distillery and Tobermory Distillery on the Isle of Mull. Deanston is currently the only distillery in Scotland to be self-sufficient in electricity, with its power generated by an on-site hydro-energy facility.
Deanston Distillery began as a cotton mill, and remained one for 180 years until it was transformed into a distillery in 1966. Less than a year’s time separated the closure of the cotton mill from the opening of the distillery. The story then becomes a familiar one to the Scotch industry: the distillery was closed for several years in the 1980s, acquired by Burn Stewart and reopened.
This Deanston release is bottled at a strength of 46.3% ABV, and differs from most Scotch whiskies in being aged entirely in new bourbon barrels. That is to say the very same new white oak barrels used to make bourbon, rather than used first-fill bourbon barrels typical to many single malts.
Color: Pale Gold
Nose: Lemon crème, hints of white wine, with a note that comes off as almost vinegary at first but appears to be the Virgin oak of the name.
Taste: Sponge cake, with hints of lemon, vanilla and a spicy/spiky oakiness. The texture is silky for a second, before turning semi-dry with the astringency of the namesake virgin oak quickly kicking in.
This isn’t a complicated malt. The use of new white oak seems to add a bit of depth to the Deanston, and it is a decent starter whisky, especially at its current price point. There are a lot of flashes of flavor in this but nothing really lingers. No real depth to what this whisky offers but again but if you are on a budget you could do far worse.
Finish: Lemon citrus turning sweet then turning oaky and a little astringent. The finish isn’t long but you will notice it.
A little water cleans this up a lot. It peels back a lot of the flavor spikes, especially the oak and astringency and helps evens out the presentation of this release. Those few drops almost gets this release to the “sipper” category.
In the US, this release is around $25 dollars. Even for a NAS Scotch, that is a pretty good price and worth a taste. If you want an upgrade, seek out the Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old. It’s $20 to $30 dollars more but it’s one of my favorite single malts and well worth the price bump.