Deanston 1994 (Duncan Taylor “The Octave”)
There really isn’t a lot of Deanston available out there. Now, that isn’t necessarily a reflection of the spirit’s quality, I should note. Sometimes the malt has simply been predestined for other purposes, such as production for use as blend fodder. I’m not 100% certain that this is the case with Deanston, but you’d have to think that would be a reasonable assumption given what a meager core line-up we get from this Highland distillery.
The Burn Stewart family boasts two blends in its portfolio. One is the famous (or more recently, infamous) Black Bottle, a whisky once composed entirely of malts produced on the isle of Islay. In recent years, however, I believe there has been some integration of mainland malts into the smoky blend (please do correct me if you know otherwise). This leads me to believe that it is quite possible some of Deanston’s approximately 3 million litre annual output finds its way into this iconic blend nowadays. A more likely destination for the bulk of Deanston’s distillate, however, would be Burn Stewart’s other major blend – Scottish Leader. But that is neither here nor there in relation to our purposes here. Just a bit of context. Instead, let’s have a chat about a Deanston single malt from independent bottler Duncan Taylor.
These Duncan Taylor ‘Octave’ series releases are built on the concept of already mature malts that get pulled from their barrels in order to spend their last few months napping in ex-sherry octaves. An octave being 1/8th of a sherry butt. This abbreviated finishing period in such a small cask means lots of wood contact and, presumably, plenty of quick barrel-leeching. What a brand is ultimately seeking when it engages in this finishing process is to ‘sex up’ the malt a bit just before bottling.
The Deanstons I’ve tried to date have been very innocuous spirit, so it stands to reason that these whiskies would take influence well from a flash fry in a wee sherry cask. Such is the case here. The clean, mellow, vanilla-ed oakiness of the naked Deanston meets the fruity sherried influence like rich vanilla ice cream with strawberries on top. Sweet and creamy. One of the better examples of finishing I’ve ever come across, to be honest. Not perfect, but the best I’ve yet encountered from this distillery.
Nose: Slightly jammy. A touch of mincemeat. Heavy sherry and black pepper. Spicy, leathery and vegetal. Soft jam-filled thumbprint cookies. Little bit of orange. Green ju-jube candy, but light and fresh, not cloying. Very clean oak. Slightly yeasty.
Palate: Arrives juicy and with quite an oily mouthcoating flair. A real fireworks show of spiced fruits. Dried mango and dates. Big woody notes, but they’re rich in vanillins and complementary to the fruits. Dries to pith and rind.
Thoughts: Great nose here, and a palate that is highly complimentary. So much more than I expected from this distillery. Nice sherry cask this ended up in.
* Sample provided by Kensington Wine Market’s Andrew Ferguson.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
Have you had much experience with the Octaves? The concept, not to mention the results noted above, show promise, but the price seems unconnected to age; from $100 for a 12yr Craigellachie, to $180 for a 25yr Linkwood, and $360 for a 33Yr Bunnahabhain.
Perhaps it’s my jaded outlook, but while I recognize these prices as slightly inflated, I don’t find them all that bad. In fact $360 for a 33 year old in this market seems quite fair. Would I like to see them lower? Of course.
Sadly, Duncan Taylor is one of the indies that always seems to be at the upper end of the pricing scale. Don’t forget…you ARE getting natural whisky at high strength…AND you know what’s in the bottle in terms of age.
I was wondering about that – is it a 19?
Yes sir. 19 indeed. Retail at $179.99.
Oh, I think the prices on the 25 and 33 year olds are very good, but $100 for a 12 year old is a little hard to swallow. My concerns lie more with the results of octave finishing, it seems like a lot could go wrong very quickly in a small cask, especially with an older and more delicate malt. Your assessment above gives me some hope, however.