DEANSTON HIGHLAND SINGLE MALT
Limited Edition matured in Oloroso Casks (2015)
MASH BILL – 100% malted barley
PROOF – 111
AGE – 20 years in Deanston warehouse 2B
DISTILLERY – Deanston Distillery (Burn Stewart Distillers)
PRICE – $153
WORTH BUYING? – Yes
This well-aged Deanston whisky was released as a one-off Limited Edition in 2015. So this particular bottle had been sitting on a store shelf for about 6+ years, and for the past few I’d eyed it curiously many times. The price was something I now expect from independent bottlers. In 2015 an independent bottler might likely have marked this at about $80, and it would have been a single cask rather than a blend. Those days are gone. And if Deanston were a more popular brand, this bottle direct from the distillery might now cost two to four times what I paid.
Full disclosure: I find these pricing observations at once boring and fascinating. It’s a contradictory feeling, but easily parsed. At this point in my whisky journey, bemoaning whisky price inflation and its various causes bores me. But considering whisky price inflation and its various causes fascinates me as a means toward understanding value versus values, my own and those of others.
It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve managed to shake off whisky FOMO for good. It was a conscious process. (You can read about it here and here and in many other posts!) I remain fascinated by the psychology of it, though, and as a phenomenon. As individuals and as a society, what do the objects of our FOMO reveal about what we value and why, what we fear and hope for and why?
But I’ve written extensively about this already, so I’ll not get too deep into all that here. Right now I’m most interested in this great deal of an old scotch whisky! Integrity is written all over this bottle and its box, and at uncorking the whisky inside lived up to the packaging’s promise.
To start with, 20 years in oloroso sherry casks, rather than a mere cask finishing process. Not that finishings are merely “mere.” But 20 years! Bottled at cask strength. Un-chill filtered. And though it is not stated that no color was added, it is stated: “Natural Ingredients: Water, Malted Barley, Yeast,” which together with the other signs and signals points toward the possibility of natural color.
So here we are, a week and a half after uncorking and several pours into the bottle. These brief notes were taken using a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – a nicely toasted honey-amber
NOSE – sulfur from a freshly struck matchstick, juicy plum, baked black cherry, fresh mountain spring water, baked nectarine, pulpy orange juice
TASTE – syrupy, dark yet honeyed plum notes overriding the matchstick, the baked nectarine, a nice warmth to it
FINISH – that nice warmth with a touch of brightness, lingering with the plum, nectarine, and matchstick
OVERALL – baked orchard fruits and matchsticks combine to create a juicy dried fruit effect
Since dried fruits are often preserved with sulfites, this whisky conjures that experience, and comes across pleasingly despite the prevalence of the struck matchstick note. That note does hold the whisky back from greatness, for me. I’m honestly surprised I like it at all!
There are counter-intuitive notes in whiskies that can add interesting and enjoyable complexity—various twiggy or mossy notes, for example, and of course variations on smoke that lean ashy or campfire. But sulfur is a tough one for me, always tapping into a slightly nauseous thing. Here the fruit notes are so strong and syrupy, however, they keep that sulfur note in check just enough for me to enjoy it. There is indeed something fleetingly pleasant about the aroma of a struck match.
This Deanston 20 Year is a whisky I want to drink on a dark night, when my mood is also a bit dark and I could use some brightening up without forgetting about things. The decadent, syrupy fruit and honey notes are really yummy. The matchsticks add the edge that won’t allow me to fully forget my troubles. There are times when this is a useful balance to strike. I’ll reach for this Deanston in those moments.