*Thanks to SF and the good folks at Impex Beverages for the samples.
Deanston is one of those relatively rare single malts that is more or less widely available, yet oft-overlooked. They don’t have a large core range, and they don’t trot out tiresome, expensive, heavily marketed special releases a couple of times a year. The distillery has been bottling its single malt for most of its short life, but the majority of its output ends up in the Scottish Leader blend which isn’t really a leader in its category…except in Taiwan for some reason.
Deanston was founded in 1965 when Brodie Hepburn Ltd. converted a centuries-old cotton mill into a distillery. The distillery closed in 1982, but was brought back to life in 1991 after it was purchased by Burn Stewart Distillers. Yet another ownership changed happened in 2002 when Trinidad-based CL Financial took control. Deanston (and Burn Stewart Distillers) most recently came to rest in the hands of South Africa’s Distell Group Ltd. in 2013.
This independently bottled expression from the Creative Whisky Company’s Exclusive Malts range was distilled in 1997, aged for 17 years in an ex-bourbon cask, and bottled at cask strength.
The Nose: Quite sweet and on the lighter side. Took me a while, but I finally placed some of the initial notes – Buckwheats cereal (a vaguely maple-glazed breakfast flake) and sweet cereal milk. There’s quite a bit of brown sugar, malted milk mix, and slightly artificial vanilla extract as well as some Meyer Lemon curd and a bit of lemon oil as well. Less wood influence than I expected, soft polished oak, mild clove and allspice. Adding a bit of water tones down the initial sweetness some and adds a bit more oak…and lemon furniture polish with which to shine it up.
The Palate: This has a very nice, slightly oily mouthfeel. Much more zippy, sweet citrus and tropical fruit joins the glazed cereal sweetness from the nose. A very pleasant wave of vanilla syrup and candied almonds leads to weightier wood and spice than the nose let on – grippy, waxed oak, vanilla bean, candied ginger, hot cinnamon, white pepper. A little water spreads the vanilla sweetness around more, integrating it all very nicely.
The Finish: Medium-ish. All that grainy sweetness fades pretty quickly leaving lingering oak and baking spice notes.
Thoughts: A very pleasant, unassuming, solid whisky. The nose is fine but doesn’t impress much one way or another. The palate on the other hand, with its complex sweetness, especially with water, makes for a satisfying sipper. It is a sweet whisky, full of vanilla and cereal notes which is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it to be very nice, subtly rich, and easy drinking, especially the enjoyable, gently surprising palate.
The Exclusive Malts 1997 Deanston 17 Year Old, Speyside, IB +/-2015