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Deanston 12 Year Old

Average score from 5 reviews and 16 ratings 83

Deanston 12 Year Old

Product details

  • Brand: Deanston
  • Bottler: Distillery Bottling
  • ABV: 40.0%
  • Age: 12 year old

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Deanston 12 Year Old

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

@OdysseusUnbound I'm with you all the way on this one. I'm on my second bottle and will be looking for more. Keep an eye on the Alberta outlets. I paid far less at Craft Cellars than the, presumably, LCBO price you quoted. I'd like to try their 18 year old sometime if the price is right.

thanks foe that. I have only seen the Virgin Oak around here, Probably not representative.


I picked this up in December 2018 while hunting (whisky) with @nosebleed in Calgary. It was reasonably priced and I was hoping we might open it and do a joint review but life got in the way. I brought it home and this afternoon I was looking for something to review and this one called to me.

I haven’t tried many Deanston expressions.

This expression, in a Highland whisky glass, is reviewed in my usual manner, allowing it to settle (actually, while it was settling a politician rang my doorbell and since I knew who he was and he is friendly but represents another party I kept him talking as long as I could and actually it was a long and pleasant conversation, but I still won’t vote for him) after which I take my nosing and tasting notes, followed by the addition of a few drops of water, waiting, then nosing and tasting.

Nose: 22.5/25

Sweet, heavy syrup. Ginger, pie crust. Then Envy apples and baking spices. A little spirity after being covered. Very nice nose. Water seems to mute the nose for about 20 minutes and while it recovers it never comes back as strong (21/25)

Taste: 21/25

Very sweet, fruity on the arrival. A little hot on the tongue. Peppery and slightly bitter. Slightly “grainy texture” on the mouthfeel. Some vanilla. The sweetness fades in the development. The flavour is a little weaker than expected given the nose. Water makes it spicier but thins the mouthfeel, and the vanilla is more prominent in the development. Maybe a hint of lemon zest. (20.5)

Finish: 22/25

Long, astringent, slightly peppery but not bitter. A little more bitter with water. (21.5/25)


Te nose promises a little more than the palate delivers. A bit too sweet on the arrival and not quite sweet enough in the development and finish.

Score: Neat - 86.5/100 With Water: 84/100

I was surprised by this one. I usually prefer single malts at 46% or higher with a few drops of water, but in this case I think I will take my next pour of this one neat.

I don't think it offers anything unique enough for me to buy a full size bottle of this, but I probably wouldn't say no if offered this at a party.

It's also a question of what it adds to your cabinet. If it doesn't add something unique, and you already have enough for a lifetime, you can get along quite well without it.

That's the situation I find myself in. Glad I tried it...next.

@OdysseusUnbound Yikes, I agree. It’s well worth 60 bucks, but $92? No chance.

@Nozinan It doesn’t bring anything Earth shatteringly new to the table, but still a very good daily drinker at $60.


Deanston is very much an unrecognised and understated malt. It's an honest and somewhat simple malt with craft presentation. Nothing wrong with it.

  • Nose: vanilla, cherry wood, malt, banana, lemon, little note of grain whisky (or something like it), light oak, white pepper and some candied floral notes. With water very similar to the neat version but there is a noticeable addition of lemongrass

  • Pallet: sweet then spicy and lemon honey, cherry (fruit), light toffee, a bit harsh when neat. With water less harsh, all the flavours are more prominent.

  • Finish: bit nippy, dry, malty and a touch of floral. With water as with the pallet, no great change, but the alcohol fizz is dampened down.

  • Mark neat – 8.1, with water 8.3

I don't think this whisky would be rated very high low by anyone. Its very much decent and honest. Great cabinet whisky to have after a tough day. Or to have along side something more distinctive.

apologies, this whisky is 46.3%

A nice and honest review for a simple drop. Makes me want to seek it out.


What's not to like? I can't remember what this cost me, but it was bought locally which means not much. A very kind nose that hints at the sweetness to come beneath a covering layer of cereal, long dry grass, coconut. The tiny, sharp whisky sting lies just behind an opening sip that is chewy and sweet without being cloying. That hit keeps it from being overpoweringly sweet and helps tame the dash of spice and powdered cinnamon. It dries in the mouth, but only a tiny bit, in that stiffening way that helps a short finish linger...just another example of how finely balanced this whisky is. I like value for money whisky. This is one of them. Great stuff.

I have some of the Deanston 12 year old un-chill filtered. It's also a very pleasant surprise and only $27 in the New Hampshire (US) liquor stores. The price is certainly right and the taste is quite nice for such an inexpensive Scotch.


Since 2009, Deanston is no longer chill filtered and bottled at a strength of 46,3% ABV. This was not always the case. Today, I will be trying two older versions of the Deanston 12 Year Old. One from 1990, the other from 2007, both bottled at 40% ABV. To allow easy reading, I will refer to them as D1 (the ‘old’ bottle) and D2 (the 2007 version).

The nose of D1 is all vanilla, caramel and cereal. Very sweet. Some flowers and even a trace of smoke. But also slightly bitter on wood shavings and dried grass. Some fruit à la sultanas. D2 is less influenced by the oak, but as sweet as the first one. Luckily it has a little more fruit, like oranges and apricots. Mild spices and some nuttiness as well. D1 loses on the nose, but D2 must not start cheering, for both whiskies are very soft and one-dimensional. Actually, downright boring.

The palate is, unfortunately, a letdown as well. D1 is a little fruitier now, admittedly, also a little more feisty thanks to some spices, but it remains light, bitter and dry. D2 has a little more body, slightly oily, but suffers the same fate: dry and bitter. Some cinnamon and Granny Smith apples and a hint of salt, make it slightly more interesting than D1, but it is still a lightweight.

The finish is short and dry for D1, long and dry for D2.

Well. I’ll save myself the trouble of trying any new Deanston anytime soon, for these two could not convince me in the least. I can imagine it is creamier and sturdier at 46,3%, but if it continues on the same palette of flavours, then this is no dram for me. Most of the production goes into the blend Scottish Leader. Maybe that is not such a bad thing.

76/100 vs 79/100

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