It was bound to happen. If for no other reason than that I have no moral qualms with receiving samples for review. So long as the reviewer is utterly transparent about it and the resultant review is not so obviously biased as to call into question anyone’s integrity or motivations…so be it.
A few weeks back I was contacted by a representative for the good folks at Burn Stewart. The email was polite, articulate and not even remotely as ‘staged’ as most of the whisky-related email I usually get flooded with, asking me if I’d care to call them on the heels of their latest award in order to speak with ‘so-and-so’, or please post ‘this’ or if I want to hear more about ‘that’. In other words…this email was refreshingly straight forward and literate, and I have to add that this tack was hugely appreciated. In return I agreed to sample and share a few words on the Deanston Virgin Oak, though I cautioned that “I’m always happy to try new whiskies, with all of the usual caveats that I have to write them up as I feel they deserve (good, bad or indifferent) and that I have to cite that it was an industry-provided sample.” (exact words) The reply I got was as cordial as the first contact. A week or so later I had a sample in hand. For the sake of disclosure, let me add that this was a 700ml sample (read: full bottle).
Anyway…let’s get into it…
I approached this malt with mixed feelings. On the one hand…I was excited to try something new from the stables of Burn Stewart, and Deanston was certainly that (think I’ve only tried one other). On the other hand…I’m generally not a fan of virgin oak-matured whisky. I tend to find it often unbalanced, leaning too heavily on spice and vanilla, at the expense of complexity and all the benefits that time generally instills. Virgin oak casks are very lively. It’s very easy to over-oak even at a young age.
I’m happy to say we haven’t overcooked this one. In fact we may have gone too far in the other direction. I think this one could have happily simmered away a little longer…albeit perhaps shifted into a slightly less active barrel. This is a very clean and estery spirit that has a world of potential. It’s just not fully realized in what I assume here is a rather youthful drink (the inherent dangers of NAS bottlings are that I’m always gonna assume the worst and trust to my senses to guide me). Off the cork it’s a little rough, but given a few minutes in the glass it opens up nicely and some of the more volatile elements dissipate, leaving more fruit and soft baking notes. Again…so much potential.
Over the past couple of weeks it has been softening a bit in the bottle as it oxidizes, but I can tell it won’t be enough to take it up any more than a point or two. I’ll keep ya posted.
Oh yeah…one final note: Un-chill filtered and bottled over 46%…nice. Very nice. We like what Burn Stewart are doing.
Nose: Too young. Slightly feinty. Crème brulee. White bread. Cinnamon. Ginger. Pepper and dust. A little bit of orange and lemon. Oaky, yes…but clean cereals too. Both creamy and tangy. So many pleasant notes, but they haven’t had quite enough time to fully realize. Throw this whisky in a refill hoggy for a few more years and I imagine we’d get something special.
Palate: A lot of cereal and woody notes. Very young-ish and spirit-y. Peppery and still kinda bite-y. Some grassy notes coming through. More vanilla. Soft pudding (tapioca? vanilla?). Pleasant enough really. Not there yet, but you can definitely see quality inherent in this one.
Thoughts: Like an under-ripe banana, this one wasn’t quite ready to be picked yet. Not nearly as bourbon-esque as I’d feared either, which is a good thing.
Now that I’ve firmly scored myself out of further industry-provided samples…let’s keep moving on.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
A doctor I know, when asked for advice at a party, says he’s happy to provide it but “medical advice is worth what you pay for it” (a little less meaningful in the land of government – funded health care).
I wonder if we can extrapolate:
A sample of malt whisky is worth what you pay for it…..
Just a thought
Interesting, but how do you explain the Amrut Greedy Angels? I was provided a wee sample of that and I am convinced it was distilled from unicorn tears.
I can only offer some IRON CLAD ADVICE………. Don’t believe everything you hear from a SKEPTIC
Did Ashok tell you it was? After all, anything’s possible: greedy angels were responsible for stealing so much whisky from Amrut – while Amrut watched and monitored the process, of course. Mysterious and magical things do happen in India, and in the minds of marketers.
I liked this one more than you did, but youth really does tell here. It can be a pretty effective essay on the value of plain wood maturation – sort of like Glenlivet French Oak 15 – but it takes a VERY long time for the young spirit to get out of the way to let the more subtle notes come through and, in that way, it’s a weird combo. It’s an interesting finish that belongs on a more complex whisky.
Yeah.. must say this was one a bit of a disappointment for us too. Somehow not quite there… Hope you don’t mind but I’d like to provide a link to your review when I pop mine out (next few days!). Appreciate your comments on the virgin oak and needing more time / different element to reach more of its potential. Slainthe!
Forget about the price …. I bought a bottle and was soooo surprisingly pleased …… I think most of the negative reviews here are reviewed by friggen snobs that , if blindfolded , couldn’t tell the difference from a 20 year aged and a bottle of horse piss …..comeon man … Really this is as good if not better then most bottles costing 2 or 3 times as much …..
Hey, Norman. Thanks for the comment. Nice to see a differing perspective. Gotta say though, anyone that couldn’t tell the difference between this and a 20 year old whisky may as well be drinking vodka for how piss poor their tastebuds would be. Not saying this is bad, but I am saying it’s not good, and its certainly not mature. Should have been left a few more years.
It really ought to be mentioned that this bottle sells for around $26, and IMO though it’s certainly no masterpiece, it’s PHENOMENAL for that price point.
Not sure where you are, but try three times that anywhere we could get it.
At best, you can say this one is different. At no price is this a great, or even good, whisky. It’s $50 here in Ontario, putting it with the cheapest of single malts. For a few bucks more, you can get much better, more mature stuff.
I am thoroughly enjoying Deanston Virgin Oak. Even in it’s youth, it is still an excellent dram. This is just delicious. I add a touch of water, which brings out the flavors and smooths out the taste. I love the taste of oak on my tongue. I would guess the age at between six and eight years. To produce so much richness from such a youthful expression is amazing. This is a winner!
It’s funny. I got a bottle of this one about two months ago (new label) and I am eating my words from two years ago. Much better than I remember it being.
I’ve finally broken down and bought the Deanston 12. Whoa! Good stuff! It even improved in the 24 hours since I first opened it. Floral (Arran 14ish) and honeyed (Dahlwhinnie 15ish; honeysuckle), with a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon. Malty, for sure. And really, really smooth for 46%+ with no alcohol bite at all.. Doesn’t need water, which seems to deaden the aroma. This bottle may not last long.