Deanston distillery began life as a Cotton Mill in 1785. It was only when the mill closed in 1964 and the building bought by one Brodie Hepburn, that it was converted into a distillery. The original mill was powered by water wheel using the strength of the River Teith which runs alongside and at the time it was constructed, the main wheel was the largest in Europe. Today the distillery continues to use the river for its power with their turbine processing 20 million litres of water per hour, creating all the power needed onsite and then some… A whopping 75% of the electricity generated is sent to the National Grid.
Deanston suffered a period of closure thanks to the whisky slump of the 1980’s but reopened after being acquired by the current owners, Burn Stewart, in 1990. Today the whisky made here is a successful brand and, as with stable-mates Bunnahabhain and Tobermory, it is bottled at 46.3% and without the use of chill filtration or caramel colouring – always a good sign.
The distillery is in Doune, about ten minutes drive from Stirling which makes it fairly accessible should you wish to visit. I had long planned to drop in and finally got round to it one typically wet Saturday in February. When we arrived, the Teith was sitting high up the bank and hurtling by at quite a pace, effectively demonstrating it’s ability to provide power for the distillery and mill before it.
The distillery itself is charming, with industrial revolution architecture contrasting nicely with the raging river and forestry on the opposite bank. Inside is a well stocked gift shop, cosy cafe and a well designed tasting room. We were warmly welcomed and set out on a tour of the facility that culminated in a visit to the incredible warehouses onsite. This room with it’s impressive vaulted ceiling previously housed hundreds of weavers back in the days of the mill but is now home instead to hundreds of sleeping whisky casks, patiently waiting for their moment.
After the tour we enjoyed a whisky and chocolate pairing that 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 very high quality (as was the incredible chocolate) though the 18 year old was probably the real standout for me. For affordability though, I was unable to look past the impressive 12 year old…
The Scores: About the Scoring…
Smell: 17.5 / 20. Notes of Honey and Orange, Heather, Vanilla, Toast and a little Fudge.
Taste: 18 / 20. 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: 9 / 10. A real quality dram for a relatively low price.
Overall: 44.5 / 50. 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 have a much more natural presentation here that shows the whisky off in it’s best light. While on the subject of presentation, I don’t usually talk about such things but I had to comment on the label which features the signature of not only the Distillery Manager but also the Engineer, Stillman, Two Mashmen and Warehouseman. I thought that was nice to see and showed some appreciation of the team work that goes into making a good single malt. All in all it’s a great example of a central highland malt and the distillery tour itself is well worth a visit should you get the opportunity.