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Sunday, 4 February 2018

Deanston 12 Year Old Whisky Review!

My first Deanston, and another distillery ticked off the list! This brand hasn't been particularly high on my list of priorities in the past, and we're about to find out if that was a mistake...

Deanston is a relatively young distillery, but the site dates back to the late 1700s when it was a cotton mill. Which is why the buildings look very much like the factory that they once were. It was converted to a distillery in 1965, with malt whisky production began in earnest in 1969. After a couple of changes of ownership the distillery was closed down in 1982, and was then rescued in 1990 by Burn Stewart, who also own Tobermory and Bunnahabhain distilleries, and Burn Stewart is now owned by South African drinks company Distell. The distillery is located in the Scottish Highlands, around an hour's drive north-west of Edinburgh on the banks of the River Teith, next to Deanston village which was originally founded by the mill owners as accommodation for their workers. Interestingly the distillery has its own hydro-electric turbine power generators that were installed in the mid-20th century, which means Deanston distillery produces its own electricity! Those turbines actually produce much more power than the distillery needs, and the excess is sold back to the Scottish national electricity grid, which is a nice little side-venture for a business to have!

Deanston had a few minutes in the spotlight in the 2012 movie "The Angel's Share" when the main characters toured the distillery, although the distillery's visitor's centre didn't actually open until the month after the film premiered. The vast majority of Deanston's 3,000,000 litre annual production capacity goes into blends, and only around 15% of the distillery's output is bottled as single malt. Those single malt whiskies are naturally presented without chill filtration or added colouring, are bottled at 46.3% and above, are traditionally made without any computer assistance or automation, and all are made from Scottish-grown barley (albeit sourced from commercial maltings). Deanston were also among the first of the Scottish distilleries to produce a certified organic whisky, along with Benromach, which is a very complicated and painful process.

The Deanston expression we're looking at today is their entry level 12-year old bottling, which is matured in ex-bourbon casks, and bottled at 46.3% without chill filtration or added colouring - like the label says, "as it should be". There's not a lot of other useful information on the packaging, and I don't really like the little marketing tidbit that they've added to the front label: "nothing added but hard work and determination". Maybe I'm nit-picking here, but if that were true it'd be bottled at cask strength, wouldn't it? Still, kudos must be given for the 46.3% bottling strength and lack of chill filtration or added colouring, that's a great starting point for an entry level expression. Time for a dram...

Deanston 12-year old, 46.3%. Doune (lower Highlands), Scotland. 
Matured in ex-bourbon casks. Non-chill filtered, natural colour.

Colour: Gold.

Nose: Nice, but a little run-of-the-mill. A lot of honey and red apples, some acidic white wine-like sour tropical fruit, a little creamy vanilla and dusty / gristy malted barley.

Texture: Medium weight, almost medium-heavy. Really quite nice actually. Rich, soft & creamy.

Taste: More honey and creamy vanilla, a little nutty toasted oak, more red apples, a slight hint of spice, and a little grain-like raw alcohol nip.

Finish: Short. More vanilla & red apples, a little cocoa powder, a little less sweet here overall. That raw alcoholic nip returns here too, but only briefly. Honeyed dusty malt and some powdery apples finish things up.

Score: 3 out of 5.

Notes: It's certainly a pleasant drop, but it doesn't really offer anything that your average Speyside dram can't. Actually scratch that, the mouth feel / texture here is pretty remarkable for such a gentle style of malt, which was definitely the highlight of the Deanston 12 show for me personally. But aside from that, there's not a lot to write home about, it's just a nice crowd-pleasing whisky with enough character to get it over the line. And I'm sure the higher bottling strength and lack of chill filtration can take a bow for that. It does drop off in the finish though, and becomes a little raw in fact, which is a shame.

Regardless it's an impressive entry-level expression, and I'll be keen to try some of Deanston's other bottlings now. I can see this 12-year old going down very well with a Speyside drinker that is looking for a little more flavour and a little more character, without going too far out of field. If that sounds like you, this is definitely a dram that's worth giving a go.