@Astroke inspired me to pick this up. A 10 YO possibly cask strength bottle for $80 (inaccurately listed as 46.3% at LCBO). The only experience I have with Deanston is in the context of @paddockjudge’s Legacy blending masterclass, so it was worth exploring.
According to the packaging, this is a rare and unique bottling. The distillate was originally casked in June 2006, hand-filled into bourbon casks (does not say if they were first fill or refill). Apparently after 8 years the “amber spirit” was transferred to specially selected PX sherry butts. It was matured a further 2 years. It does not state if it has been diluted (I suspect minimally if any) or if caramel has been added, but it is not chill-filtered. So, is it a masterpiece worth savouring, as stated on the box?
I opened this 2 days ago and again yesterday for small pours to “suss it out”. The bottle is more than 85% full and was gassed after each pour.
This expression is reviewed in my usual manner, allowing it to settle after which I take my nosing and tasting notes, followed by the addition of a few drops of water, waiting, then nosing and tasting. In each case, I started out in the Glencairn then transferred to the Kentucky Bourbon glass so as to be able to do all this with one dram (no leftovers wanted).
Very sweet nose initially. On first pour there is a not-so pleasant vegetal note that seems to dissipate mostly after 15 minutes. The sherry is very strong and overwhelms the spirit but fades with time and air in the glass. Some syrupy sweetness. A bit of alcohol burn. Some prunes or dates, a little vanilla. Hint of cinnamon. After pouring into the bourbon glass, the empty glencairn gives off a fresher aroma, some sour cherry and a little dust.
In the bourbon glass, and I’m not sure if it’s because time in the glass has dissipated the finishing cask a bit, it’s a little cleaner, I get brighter fruit notes, some lighter syrup, and a rich alcohol burn if I stick my nose in.
Nice nose. 21.5/25
With water – The vegetal note returns slightly then fades. Less complex. A little cherry. Moving into the bourbon glass, the nose remains a little more muted. (21/25)
Neat – In the bourbon glass, a little spirity, sweet arrival. Very sweet. Some cherry, vanilla. From the glencairn it’s a little less sweet and I get a hint of menthol. It’s a little too sweet for me. 21/25
With water – The bourbon cask is more apparent in the arrival and the sherry peeks through in the development. The mouthfeel is a bit creamier than neat. A little baking spice in the background. It’s less sweet . A little spicier in the glencairn. I like it better with water. (21.5/25)
Finish: Short, sweet, a little cloying. A bit astringent. Longer with water. 21/25
Balance: I think the sherry is a bit too strong in this one. It really masks the spirit, and I would like to be able to taste the Deanston more than the Pedro Ximenez. 21/25
Score: Neat - 84.5/100 With Water: 84.5/100
I can’t help thinking that after 8 years in these particular bourbon casks the blenders felt that the spirit wasn’t going anywhere so they decided to throw it into some PX casks to paint over everything. Then by 10 years it was so overwhelmingly sherried they had to stop. They might have considered recasking in ex-bourbon. The sandwich approach has worked well to take wine finishes (Amrut IS, Springbank Claret wood).
This whisky reminds me a little of two other very different spirits. On the one had there's something in the spirit that reminds me of the G&M Mortlach I have. The other is that I am reminded of Wiser's Union 52 by the PX finish.
It’s not bad and I’m glad I have the bottle. But I won’t run out to get another. It will be interesting to see how this bottle evolves with time.
If you like really sweet whisky, this one is for you. If you’re not a fan of wine-masking, try before you buy.