The Deanston Cotton Mill opened its doors way back in 1785. By the mid-1960s the cotton industry in Scotland had declined and Deanston switched over to making whisky. From what I could find on the internet, the first whiskies produced there weren't great. The distillery went silent in 1982, like many other distilleries during the "great whisky loch" of the era. Deanston re-started production back in 1991. They don't malt their own barley but they only use Scottish barley for their whiskies. I won't re-tread the "terroir" argument, since I have absolutely no knowledge of the science behind the respective positions in this debate. I'm more interested in its taste anyhow.
Deanston 12 isn't cheap, running about $90-$95 CAD per bottle. Companies that charge that much for a 12 year old entry-level offering usually blather on at length about bespoke casks and their unparalleled commitment to wood management, but there seems to be none of that nonsense in Deanston's marketing blurbs. It's bottled at a respectable 46.3 % abv, it's unchill-filtered, and presented at its natural colour so Deanston is off to a great start. So how does it taste?
(Oh, before I forget: this review is from a sample generously provided by @Nozinan )
Tasting notes (neat from a Highland glass)
- Nose : honey, oak, cinnamon, vanilla, a touch of orange, some maltiness, very light smoke
- Palate : rich texture, medium to full-bodied, vanilla fudge, a light floral note, honey, a touch of toffee, some citrus, a bit of spice (mostly cloves and cinnamon), a toasted barley note is present throughout but becomes more prominent near the end of the flavour development.
- Finish: medium length, oak-forward, more vanilla, some cinnamon, cloves, the light floral flavour lingers alongside a toasted barley note.
Thoughts: At first blush, this seems like a straightforward ex-bourbon matured malt whisky. In and of itself, that's a pretty good thing to my palate. I enjoy some wine cask matured whiskies, but they're often overdone to the point of drowning out the barley's character, perhaps because some people fear that malt whisky matured in ex-bourbon casks is too "ordinary". However, the rich texture and flavour development on the palate sets this whisky apart from other "standard" 12 year old malts. It's well made, with absolutely no off notes, suggesting that the distiller's cuts were well-chosen and that all the casks were properly selected and monitered during maturation. It's difficult to give an accurate assessment from a single sample, but I really enjoy this style of whisky. It's an unpretentious whisky that tastes "like whisky", if that makes any sense.
Would I accept a glass if someone offered me one? Yes
- Would I order this in a bar or pub? Undoubtedly
- Would I buy a bottle? Tough call. This is a rich, flavoursome whisky but it isn't cheap. That said, I enjoyed every drop of this sample and I think we should support companies who do things right by "voting with our dollars" (YAY capitalism !). So there's a good chance I'll pony up and buy a bottle of Deanston 12 in the near future.
Thanks again to @Nozinan for his generosity.
the irony of calling a whisky "unpretentious" as I describe its floral notes and toasted barley flavours is not lost on me