Deanston Kentucky Cask Matured

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Deanston Distillery

The building began life as a cotton mill, designed in 1875 by Richard Arkwright, pioneer of the early industrial revolution. It wasn’t until the 1960s that it was converted into a distillery, pulling water from the fast-flowing River Teith that hurtled alongside. Deanston is the only distillery in Scotland to produce 100% of its electricity through an onsite hydro-energy facility.

Due to an industry-wide downturn, the distillery was forced to call an end to production in 1982. The stills remained silent for eight long years before the site was acquired by Burn Stewart Distillers, who resumed distillation. Burn Stewart remains at the helm today, albeit as the Scotch whisky arm of Distell, a multinational distilling company with roots in South Africa. Deanston forms a Scotch whisky trio with stablemates Bunnahabhain of Islay and Tobermory from the isle of Mull.

In 2019, it was announced that Distell master blender Dr. Kirstie McCallum was to leave the company for pastures new, taking up a similar role with Glen Moray. Stepping into her place would be Julieann Fernandez, a former student of forensic science who got her introduction to the whisky industry through a year-long placement with Chivas. There she worked on sample analysis and product development until finishing her studies, upon which she decided to pursue similar work with the Scotch Whisky Research Institute. Soon however, Julieann was back at Chivas, learning the ropes at the Strathclyde grain distillery before applying for a job with Distell, where she would work as a blender, before being promoted to master blender, overseeing their range of malts, blends and the entirety of their warehouse inventory.

In recent years, there has been an array of adventurous cask finishes released by Distell, including the core range Virgin Oak and everything from Marsala to Madeira and Bordeaux Red Wine. One of their most recent developments however has been the budget-friendly “Kentucky Cask Matured” version that has popped up throughout the supermarkets of the UK of late.

Whilst calling something “Kentucky Cask Matured” rather reeks of trying to make the plain ordinary sound exciting and unusual, I was nevertheless keen to try this dram because I’ve always been impressed with the distillery’s output in the past. The bottling strength of 40% abv is disappointing but the statement on the back of the label that the whisky “may go a little cloudy” over ice, thanks to a “soft filtration process” that “leaves in flavours harsher filtration may remove” does at least leave me hopeful that I’ll be rewarded with the depth of flavour I’ve come to expect from Deanston.

The Deanston Kentucky Cask Matured is bottled at 40% and retails at £29 though I was able to pick it up at my local Morrison’s Supermarket for £22.

Smell: A little spirity heat but also the trademark Deanston honey with grist and barley malt. Shortbread. Toffee. Woody spice and a bit of charcoal.

Taste: Honey, toffee & caramel. Barley. Hobnob biscuits. Woody with some gentle warming spice.

Thoughts: This is a bit of a steal at £22. It’s not the most complex of single malts and there’s a definite youth to it that some may find off-putting but there is also a fullness of flavour that few 40%, no-age-statement malts can match.

It’s some way off the quality of Deanston’s ever-reliable 12 year old but still a decent dram at an affordable price. It clouded up a little when I added water, suggesting the filtration has been subtly done and the weight and mouthfeel are far more satisfying than the majority of supermarket-fodder whiskies. It’s recognisably Deanston – albeit a slightly immature version – and it stacks up pretty well against other single malts in this price range.

For more on Deanston, visit here


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