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Deanston distillery began life as a Cotton Mill in 1785, using the power of the fast flowing River Teith to drive the largest water wheel in Europe. When the mill closed in 1964 however, it was bought by a man named Brodie Hepburn, who converted the site into a distillery. Today, Deantson continues to draw it’s power from the river, with a turbine processing some 20 million litres of water every hour, creating far more power than could ever be needed onsite. In fact, a whopping 75% of the electricity created is sent to the National Grid.
The distillery suffered a lengthy period of closure during the industry slump of the 1980’s but reopened when the current owners, Burn Stewart, came on board in 1990. The whisky produced onsite is bottled at 46.3% abv as standard and the use of caramel colouring or chill filtration is strictly avoided – much to the owners credit.
Deanston stands in Doune, about a fifteen minute drive from the city of Stirling, making it fairly accessible for those who wish to drop in. Having long planned a visit but not got round to it for one reason or another, I was excited to finally approach the distillery on a typically wet Saturday afternoon in February. As the taxi pulled up, the Teith hurtled by at an astonishing pace, giving an effective demonstration of it’s ability to provide power for the distillery and the mill before it.
The distillery itself is unique. It’s industrial revolution architecture contrasts pleasingly with the rampaging river and lush forestry on the opposite bank. Inside is a warm welcome, well stocked gift shop and cosy cafe, offering the perfect stomach liner before a tour and a few drams.
Distillery tours culminate in a visit to the cavernous warehouse onsite. This vast room with it’s vaulted ceiling would have once housed a few hundred weavers working in a cacophony of noise, but today they are replaced by rows and rows of casks, slumbering in eerie silence.
The malt bins…
Fresh casks patiently waiting to be filled…
The Chocolate and Whisky pairing…
Tours can be followed with an intriguing whisky and chocolate tasting which saw the Deanston 12, Virgin Oak, 18 Year Old and 20 Year Old Port Finish matched with some delicious chocolate created by Highland Chocolatier Iain Burnett. Each dram was of a high quality (as was the incredible chocolate), though the standout in my eyes was the wonderful 18 year old. For those on a budget however, there is simply no looking past the 12 year old…
Smell: Notes of Honey and Orange, Heather, Vanilla, Toast and a little Fudge.
Taste: Caramel, Orange and a little Salt along with a warming hit of Cinnamon and Clove. Also, Shortbread and a touch of Lemon. There’s a subtle but pleasant oiliness that gives a somewhat silky texture on the palate.
Value for Money: A real quality dram at a relatively low price.
If only more 12 year old’s were bottled at this strength. What a difference it can make, especially to a fairly subtle flavour profile like Deanston. Chill filtered and watered down to 40% this dram would lose so much, but thankfully we instead have a natural presentation that shows the whisky off in it’s best light.
While on the subject of presentation, I don’t concern myself too much with label design, but the decision to feature the signature of not only the Distillery Manager but also that of the Engineer, Stillman, Mashmen and Warehouseman gives an appreciation of the team work that goes into making a fine single malt whisky. The Deanston 12 year old is a great example of a central highland malt and the distillery itself is well worth a visit should you find yourself in the area.
*If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.