Deanston is just north of Glasgow and I was fortunate enough to have tried the Deanston 18 Year right before I left for this trip. It was a gift from my dad for our last time at Flight West Whiskey Bar. This means I had a bit of knowledge going into it, but I wasn’t expecting them to have such a small production and specifically such a small amount of production going to single malts. When you are driving up to the distillery, you can clearly tell it used to be a factory and wasn’t built specifically for whisky production. It was previously a cotton factory and was mothballed once the competition from outside of Scotland took over. It would end up having some great features for a distillery.
They are definitely one of those up and coming single malts. They are currently owned by a South African Wine & Spirits company called Distell. Before them and really up until now they were mostly blends. Famous blends such as Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker.
At the moment they are split 80/20. That is 80% of product goes to blends and the other 20% are bottled as single malts with the Deanston name. They are working to shift this ratio to more single malts as they build their marketing campaigns. Deanston has these three main bottling's: the 12 Year, 18 Year and the Virgin Oak. I wanted to start with the tastings since the 12 Year pleasantly surprised me.
Deanston 12 Year
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Fig, plum, can smell the sherry cask finish, wet oak, butterscotch candy.
Palate: Butterscotch, plum, honey, some soft honey lingers, not too spicy like the 18 year.
In all fairness, I told the girl, Annie, who was giving the tour, that I liked the 12 year better than the 18 year. One of the other guides pulled me aside and told me I probably had tried the first batch of the 18 that was released. It doesn’t say batch number on the bottle, so I was a bit confused. He said the second release, batch 2, was much better. He pulled some out from behind the counter and here was my tasting note for batch 2.
Deanston 18 Year (Batch 2)
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Almonds, nutmeg, ripe plums, some cinnamon and caramel.
Palate: Cereal, nutty, pine nuts, raisins and slight honey finish.
Now to compare- here was my batch 1 tasting note….
Nose: Fresh fruit, zesty, slight berry and malt.
Palate: Dark berries, smoked wood, spices and ginger.
The ginger I felt was really too much. It almost burned. I got more of an older raisin, fruit on the batch # 2. This just shows that even though it is the distilleries goal to keep single malts consistent for the market, it can vary!
Now into some of the details of the distillery and how it is set up. They are currently in silent season, meaning that no production was actually going on. Basically, demand isn’t there and they can take a holiday. They have an open mash-tun, when most are typically closed. This was nice, because I could actually see what kind of agitator they use and what the sprinkler system looked like. They typically run an 11 hour mash process and do about 10-12 mashes a week. The guide also told me that they use Kerry yeast, M strain. This is interesting because a lot of distilleries won’t tell you what yeast strain you use as if it could be a trade secret! They truly feel that yeast has a large effect on taste, just like the grain, water and barrel type does. If you are looking to distill your own single malt and want to copy Deanston, here is more info on yeast strains! http://www.wyeastlab.com/com_b_yeaststrain_detail.cfm?ID=5
They let it ferment in the washback’s for four days and then it goes over to their four stills. First of course to the low wines still and then to the spirit still. I also was able to see for the first time where they fill the casks. It actually looks like a gas station set up and I wish we could have seen them in action. We even discussed how they make the poplar or “plug” fit exact and air tight once filled. See the picture below of the cask filling station.
They typically will age their single malts in a once used, white American oak bourbon cask and then finish the aging for a year in a sherry cask. This helps give the rich fruit flavors. They store them standard at three stacks high. Here is where the old cotton factory architecture actually helps them. It has a very unique curve shape to help with condensation and humidity and gives them more than enough space to store everything on site. I took a few pictures of the angel share “mold” on the ceilings. It is pretty cool to see it in action!
I will say that this distillery has a way to go, but they have the marketing and history/story behind it. You will not find another distillery that looks like this and it was a breath of fresh air to see something shocking. I hope they can make it further with their single malts. If someone was to ask me though, I would probably recommend the 12 Year over the 18. See, age doesn’t always matter!
Next up is Oban…