If you can’t judge a book from its cover, you definetely cannot judge a whisky from the distillery’s appearence. For Deanston, this is a blessing, because the building is far from being charming and looks like a factory from Margareth Thatcher’s era. On the contrary, it’s beautifully old style indoors. It’s located on the road from Stirling to Trossachs, where Glaswegians love (or used to love, before Covid-19) going on a trip. It’s an underestimated destination, as much as its single malt is scarcely known, also due to the fact that there are few OB expressions. Fratelli Branca is the Italian importer and it kindly provided us a sample of the new 18 yo. Comparing to the old batches (brown packaging), finished in first fill bourbon casks, this whisky is fully matured in this kind of casks. The abv is still 46.3%, let’s taste it.
N: it’s almost non-alcoholic at the first sniff, and you’re astonished by a rare purity of flavors. Nice balance between acidity (lemon cake, candied cedar) and a spontaneous sweetness: there are notes of vanilla, pears in syrup and stewed apples, but it doesn’t seem to be “on cask’ steroids”. Everything is quite natural, without excess. Dried apricots – G.I.Joe Bombana suggests. A whisky that smells like whisky, because cereal is the king. A nice fresh side, grass cuttings, fern and even bendages… It’s surprising for a full first fill casks maturation. A hint of wood spices (nutmeg, dried coconut) reveals the ageing.
P: creamy and gorgeous, the olfactive premises are confirmed. The first-fill bourbon maturation is unmistakably recognizable here, with custard, vanilla and shortbreads. It’s really buttery, without being annoying. The fruity side is discrete, too: a “yellow” malt, but not juicy. Dried pineapple, a not-too-sweet honey (eucalyptus?). Citrus peel, slightly bitter: bitter orange? Everything is perfectly inscribed in an elegant oak frame: light spices, licorice and sweet balsa wood.
F: oak, custard and almond paste. A flash of spices and hazelnuts in honey?
This Deanston is tricky. It seems simple, but under the first layer you can find a nuanced depth. It’s like conceptual art: you think everybody can perform it, actually the difficult part is conceiving it. It’s incredibly well balanced, sweetness and bitterness never struggle, they play chess to win the match. Praise be the moderation: 89/100.
Recommended soundtrack: The Kinks – Mister Pleasant