In a recent shared purchase which I did with some friends we got 2 Deanstons, so I figured I’d do a comparative review. The first Deanston is an 18-year-old matured in Hogsheads and then finished in first fill Bourbon casks, bottled at the Burn Stewart standard ABV of 46.3%. The second one is 20 years old and matured for the entire time in ex-Oloroso casks, and bottled at cask strength, that being 55.3% ABV.
I’ve tried the two widely available Deanstons before, the Virgin Oak I had a long time ago at a friend’s house and found it to be more suitable for cleaning dirty ovens than drinking. I also bought a bottle of the 12-year-old back when I was a student and it was the cheapest single malt available at the time. It was decent and quite drinkable, but nothing to write home about. I also tried an independently bottled 15yo which was also nothing special, but I’m pretty sure it came from a very tired cask. Thus I was really curious about these older, hopefully wiser expressions, because some malts just need a little age on them.
Aged 18 years, 46.3% ABV, matured in Hogsheads and finished in 1st fill bourbon casks. No colourant added and non-chillfiltered.
Nose: Honey in honeycomb. Light wood. Quite malty despite its age, porridge and marzipan. Sweetened nuts. Caramel toffee. Bit of a creamy not. Coffee with milk. There’s a bourbony fruit note present but quite hidden. With time a fairly powerful woodspice note shows up and the fruits develop more, papaya, coconut, lychee and mango peel. I know there’s no reason for it, but I’m also picking up a slightly winey note on this.
Palate: Kellogg’s honey nut crunch. Bitter wood. Juicy pineapples and papaya. Orange peel. Chocolate. Woodspice. Hints of ginger snaps.
Finish: Long. Bitter orange peel and woodspice and ginger right after the swallow, some malted milk and tropical fruit follows up.
Rating: Try before you buy this
Global VFM: 3/5
Local VFM: N/A
Aged 20 years, 55.3% ABV, matured in Oloroso casks. No colourant added, non-chill filtered and bottled at cask strength.
Nose: Big hit of dry sherry. Woody nuts. Sulphur. Raisins. Prunes. Stewed apricots. Bitter oranges. Unlit virginia tobacco. Bit of worn out army boot. Light wisps of woodspice and malty grains.
Palate: Very “big” mouthfeel, again dry sherry dominates. Sour fruits, grapefruit, sour plum, pomelo rind. Big dose of nutmeg and allspice. Some nutty sweetness comes through, bit of malted milk too.
Finish: Long. Very dry. Sherry. Wood. Lingering woodspice. Dark bitter fruits. Bitter dark chocolate.
Rating: Try this
Global VFM: 2/5
Local VFM: N/A
Conclusions: These were quite different drams. The Deanston signature is quite malty and it was very clearly present in the 18. In the 20 however the sherry really dominated, it really tasted like a fortified Oloroso, with only a hint of the distillate signature present. Both were of excellent quality though. I personally preferred the rich and malty 18yo, but it’s just more to my tastes. If you like a huge, hefty sherry bomb try the 20.