Deanston 11, 2006 (Signatory)

On Wednesday I had a review of an 11 yo Orkney/Highland Park bottled at a ludicrous strength of 63.7%. Here now is a review of an 11 yo Deanston bottled at an even more ludicrous strength of 64.7%. I have to admit I have never understood the appeal of whisky bottled at such strengths—they are almost always too hot, in my experience, and there is not one that I have not found improved radically by bringing it down closer to 55% or less. This is also true of bourbon, a category in which you see these strengths more often, and whose aficionados tend to be more committed to drinking at full strength. To each their own, I suppose, but my recent experiences of young, high strength Scotch whisky is beginning to make me wonder if bottlers are not making a bet that a very high strength may be a selling point in and of itself; a sort of whisky machismo mixed in with notions of cask strength “purity”. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. 

Deanston 11, 2006 (64.7%; Signatory; first fill sherry butt 900128; from a bottle split)

Nose: Very sour off the top—very tart apple mixed in with crushed aspirin and chalk. As it sits there’s some red fruit sweetness and some other richer hints playing underneath. With a LOT of time and air the sour notes recede somewhat and a dry nuttiness emerges. Okay, here goes the water: 5 or 6 drops at first. Yes, there’s some winey depth now with some orange peel and beef stock coming through. With more water the nose is improved further with more sherry character emerging.

Palate: Very sour here too with an unfortunate pukey edge. And very hot at full strength. I’m hoping air and water will rescue it. Well, the pukey edge burns off with time but it’s still rather yeasty and one-note. With water some of the richer notes that appeared on the nose show up here too but it’s still yeasty and still too hot and closed. Let’s add some more. Yes, better now with sweet red fruit (apple, cherry).

Finish: Medium. The sour notes hang on for a while. The sweeter notes linger here too with water but with time there’s that sourness again.

Comments: Neat this is a sour and yeasty mess. With a lot of water (I’d guess I took it down close to 50%) it becomes drinkable but still not something I’d be in a hurry to drink again. I’m afraid I have to say the only thing noteworthy about this whisky is its strength. But it mostly makes you wonder why it was bottled at that strength.

Rating: 76 points.

3 thoughts on “Deanston 11, 2006 (Signatory)

  1. Surely we wouldn’t expect people to actually drink it at that strength though? Whether it’s 64%, 55% or whatever, I would water it down to somewhere under 50%, and I would’ve thought most whisky drinkers do the same.

    The profile does fit my experience of Deanston – bready and chalky would be the notes I most associate with the stuff I’ve tried from them.


    • I would hope most people wouldn’t drink it at that strength, though who knows? But I think it would be better if casks like these were reduced before bottling to whatever strength best shows their qualities. I wouldn’t expect most small bottlers to be able to do that kind of thing but Signatory has so many lines. This one might have been best vatted with another cask or two at lower strengths and with fewer off notes.


  2. I just picked up in Munich the Cask No 900127 at 60.1% which was bottled for Tara Whisky… in the store I had a wee nip without and with water and had quite a different impression of this “sibling” cask – none of the sour, instead some lovely fruit, nicely balanced sherry elements, toasted malt, all the things I’d expect from a rather good Deanston.

    What a pity couldn’t try these two casks side by side – preferably with a few generous dollops of water!


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