This is one of the most interesting bottles of whiskey I have reviewed, for a number of reasons.
As an owner of a whisky blog, I sometimes get sent bottles from the marketing legs of a distillery. I was sent this bottle along with a beautiful hand-written card, and as a result I was inspired to try it immediately (twist my arm!) and write up my review. Only it didn’t exactly work out that way. I had my first dram, but after I had no idea what I wanted to say about it. I decided to give it a couple of days, and a couple more glasses to decide how I really felt about it, but then the holidays happened.
After spending some weeks away, I have returned and finally sat down to write out this review. In truth, I’m glad for the delay. It has given me time to figure out what I wanted to say.
Before opening the bottle
Despite having a storied past starting as a cotton mill in the late 1700’s, The Deanston Distillery is actually quite new. The whisky we are drinking today comes from the latest version of Deanston, which began in just 1991. And off the bat, I can say the distillers here are doing a whole bunch of things well.
Deanston Scotches are certified organic, they produce their own clean energy, their bottles and packaging use recycled and recyclable materials, the whisky is un-chill filtered, and bottled over 46%.
This is true hand-crafted whisky, working hard to make something new while sticking to the storied roots of Scottish Whisky and the Deanston legacy.
The Virgin Oak
This bottle is titled ‘Virgin Oak’ because it is finished in virgin oak casks. As you have learned in the article ‘Know your Whisky: The Difference Between Scotch and Bourbon’ Scotch Whisky must be matured for at least three years in oak casks. This Scotch was matured in Bourbon casks sourced from a small-batch bourbon distillery, but finished (meaning the whisky was moved at the end of its aging process into different casks) in virgin oak casks.
This is a young whisky, as such you will find no boast of age on the bottle. But it’s safe to assume it hasn’t been aged for much longer than the minimum of three years, almost certainly less than five. But, as I have mentioned many times before, older does not always mean better when it comes to your spirits.
This whisky has no added coloring, what you see is exactly what you are going to get.
Opening the Bottle
When you open the bottle, and pour your first glass, you get a chance to get a first whiff of the spirit in front of you. I’m not one of those guys who will tell you that it smells like caramel rolled in cocoa with a splash of apricot.
But the nose of this whisky is very distinct. It smells fresh, it’s character greatly formed by the virgin oak casks in which it was finished. The smell is almost reminiscent of yeast, and while the smell was partially unexpected, the more I sat there with my nose in the glass, the more I began to appreciate the smell of the dram.
The First Sip
The best way to describe this whisky is lively. It’s young and vibrant. The whisky is bursting with flavors, the most prominent being that of the oak. The oakiness is not overpowering, and I can honestly say I enjoyed my first sip. That being said, this whisky is unlike most scotches I have had to date. The taste goes through a number of flavors which all jump out at you, and could probably benefit from spending another decade maturing. But that’s not to say the drink is bad.
A lot of whisky drinkers will dislike this bottle because it doesn’t taste like the rest of the scotches on their bar. For me, that’s a bonus. This is something new, vibrant, and surprisingly smooth for it’s youth and strength.
The Third Glass
After having multiple glasses of the Virgin Oak, I finally felt ready to write this review. My opinion is this: this is an unusual, but enjoyable whisky. I do not like it more than any of my favorites, but this bottle also costs less than half as much as most of them. For the cost, it’s absolutely worth trying.
I can’t help but think this bottle would work extremely well in some cocktails. I’m hoping to figure out where it shines best soon, if I do I will keep you all posted.