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The Deanston distillery began life as a cotton mill, designed in 1875 by Richard Arkwright, pioneer of the early industrial revolution. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that it was converted to a distillery, pulling water from the fast-flowing River Teith that swept alongside it. Even today it is the only distillery in Scotland to produce 100% of its electricity, powered by an onsite hydro-energy facility.
Due to an industry-wide downturn, Deanston was forced to halt production in 1982, and the stills remained silent for eight long years until the site was acquired by Burn Stewart Distillers, who retain ownership today, albeit as the Scotch whisky arm of Distell, a multinational distilling company with roots in South Africa. The move would unite Deanston with Bunnahabhain distillery on Islay and Tobermory distillery on 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 years placement with Chivas whilst at University. 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 their 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 in supermarkets across 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 it out because I’ve always been impressed with this distillery’s output. The bottling strength of 40% 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. A bit feinty maybe. Also the trademark Deanston honey. Grist and barley malt. Shortbread. Toffee. Woody spice and a bit of charcoal.
Taste: Honey, toffee & caramel. Barley. Hobnob biscuits. Woody with some gently warming spice.
Value for Money: 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.
Some way off the quality of the ever-reliable 12 year old but a decent dram at an affordable price. It clouded up a little when I added water, though not as much as you’d expect from a completely un-chill-filtered malt, 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 of it, and it stacks up pretty well against other single malts at this kind of price.
For more on Deanston, visit here