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Deanston 18yr old (Bourbon Cask Finish), 46.3%, Natural Color, Non Chill Filtered.
Deanston is a brand I have been familiar with for about 9 years now. It started while pre-gaming for a concert one night in Philly while visiting one of my good friends. I stopped on the way and picked up a bottle of Ardbeg oogie and wanted a cheap non peated whisky for the pre-game. I saw something called “Deanston Virgin Oak” and it was around $25. I picked it up and read the bottle (non chill filtered, natural color, 46.3% abv) and thought “A craft presentation at $25?” I’ll take it. And that night started my Deanston journey. I won’t be reviewing the Virgin Oak anytime soon as it’s quite young and spicy but I do remember it being worth the small price tag at the time. Anyway – on to the Deanston 18.
Smelling this one is nice – vanilla, green apple, pear, fresh fruits, barley sugar
Taste is good - vanilla, clove, pepper, green apple, honey
Finish is decent with the bitter/green apple and spice carrying it out.
The Deanston 18 is really nice. It’s not cheap but I’m not sure that you can find any 18yr old craft whisky at a fair price anymore. Whatever price you find it at, you are getting a craft single malt with no branding at all which is “Exactly as it should be”.
Overall Grade: B
“Bunnahabhain & Friends” tasting at The Oak Barrel, Sydney, 15 June 2022. Whisky #1
Nose: Fragrant malt and cereal, vanilla, light honey. After adding a few drops of water and allowing it to develop in the glass I noticed light aromas of rose-hip and lemongrass tea, chocolate, candyfloss and bubblegum. Adding just a couple of drops of water initially kills the nose stone dead, but it eventually reasserts itself in a slightly sweeter form.
Palate: Sweet arrival with gristy cereal and white grapes. The cereal notes expand into grassy herbal flavours, lemon drops and a strong, spicy ginger hit. The palate turns to a dry profile in the later development with a stronger herbal quality emerging. The texture is good, but a little thin and austere.
Finish: Medium/short. The cereal persists into the aftertaste which becomes hot and a fraction sour.
A very crisp, clean presentation highlighting grain and bourbon casks. Both the nose and palate focus on grassy cereal aromas. The finish is a little short and the overall profile lacks complexity. It’s a good whisky, but it does not taste 18 years old.
I first had this as a sample a couple of years ago, and then again last year at a virtual on-line tasting. This third tasting last night was substantially the same, although I thought the honeyed notes had I detected in the earlier batches were lacking. It has drifted in a more citrus direction over time.
A good whisky – if it was a 12 year old and sold at half the price I would be highly impressed, but as an 18 year old it does not convince me. I’ve seen this priced from $175-200 but after 3 tastings I’m still not interested in buying a bottle, even at the lowest price.
I’m dropping my rating just a little this time.
“Good” : 83/100 (3.5 stars)
[Review from April 29, 2020]
Nose: Spiced honey with vast quantities of malt extract, grassy cereal notes, orchard fruits and a hint of vanilla. Spiky at first but gaining sweetness as it opens. Adding a tiny drop of water expands the honey considerably.
Palate: A malty, leathery and oily arrival that is lightened by floral honey notes and simultaneously lit up by cheeky ginger spice. Cereal flavours thunder forth in the development - bread, madeira cake, fruit muffins, buttered crumpets with orange marmalade and a dusting of nutmeg. There are some very agreeable mild chocolate and nutty tones as well.
Finish: Medium. Sweet cereal flavours that trail into pleasantly dry tannic notes followed by a malty aftertaste.
Deanston is a distillery that didn't give me a good initial impression, but as I'm tasting more of their expressions I'm starting to warm to them. My first taste was a post-tour flight at the distillery a few years ago and maybe it just wasn't the right moment. The core range left me with the feeling that they have a hard, sharp distillate that is not being matured as well as it might.
Perhaps it's just the greater age of this particular expression, and/or maybe a better quality of casks, but I'm definitely on board with this crisp and excellently clean malt-bomb. Some people have criticized the nose as being shy but for me it was the best part of the experience (however you need to give it some time).
The palate is a hair's breadth lower in quality but a drop of water brings it up to scratch and unleashes considerable honeyed sweetness. It also adds some spice to the finish, which is a comfortable addition. I'd definitely say that this whisky is not merely improved by watering, it actively needs it to become really enjoyable and achieve balance.
Deanston is not just geographically a highland whisky, it is absolutely of that broad style. This expression reminds me a little of Highland Park (particularly once it is watered) but that's the problem as well. It is a finely crafted piece of work for sure but over here this costs just about the same as Highland Park 18 and I for one would not buy it in preference.
Tasted from a 30ml sampler.
"Good" : 84/100 (3.75 stars) [AUD$185.0 per Bottle in 2020]