Deanston 18, Bourbon Finish

I have only reviewed three Deanstons before this one and only one of those made it into the 80s. That was this 15 yo bottled for Whiskybase’s Archives label. The only official Deanston I’ve reviewed—the 12 yo—had me making analogies to Gerard Butler. But that was more than seven years ago. This Deanston 18 wasn’t even part of the distillery’s portfolio then, having been added to it in 2015. It’s fairly unusual in that it’s a bourbon cask finish. No, it wasn’t matured in sherry first; instead it started out in second-fill bourbon casks and was finished in first-fill bourbon casks. For how long I don’t know and I don’t know what I make of the idea: why not just vat second-fill and first-fill casks? Is it just a gimmick? Or is there precedent for this kind of thing? At any rate, I’m hoping this will be my second Deanston to crack the 80 point barrier. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. It’s actually available in Minnesota—though not cheap at $130 before tax—and so it’s not an academic question.

Deanston 18, Bourbon Finish (46.3%; from a bottle split)

Nose: A whiff of fried plantains as I pour and then a combination of roasted malt and a sweet gingery note—together reminiscent of old school medicine bottles (rubber stoppers in glass bottles). Gets quite nutty and beany as it sits and some citrus pops out as well (lemon). Not much change really with water—maybe a bit brighter?

Palate: Brighter here to start with the citrus leading into toasted oak; the malt comes up from behind. Seems to hit harder than 46.3%—that’ll be the bite of the first-fill oak. The oak gets more present with every sip and picks up some bitterness too. With more time the oak calms down and there’s more of the roasted malt and nuts. Time to add some water. It makes the whole spicier and emphasizes the nutty quality.

Finish: Medium-long. Nothing new here. The oak gets spicy/tingly and slowly fades out. As on the palate with water with more acid here at the end.

Comments: This is not cookie-cutter whisky and there’s something to be said for that—and somehow despite being matured and finished in ex-bourbon casks it has darker notes that cross over with sherry cask whisky. On the other hand I don’t find very much beyond that here to recommend it, especially on the palate and finish (the nose I like a little better). I wouldn’t say that it’s flawed in any way, just that it doesn’t really do very much for me. Interesting is good but I don’t know that I want to pay more than $100 when a whisky is more interesting than pleasurable. Your mileage may vary.

Rating: 84 points

One thought on “Deanston 18, Bourbon Finish

  1. I find this a fascinating whisky, particularly because my first impressions were that Deanston were a bit heavy-handed with the first-fill bourbon – I thought it was all on spice and bourbon sweetness with not much depth (incidentally, it spends around 16 years in refill casks, with the last two being the first-fill finish). With the right amount of time and water, however, it opens up quite beautifully and reveals a citrus-forward fruity side I hadn’t encountered in Deanston before.

    I suspect 18 full years of first-fill bourbon maturation wouldn’t have suited this distillate, even if they tried to temper it by vatting it with refill casks. I do really enjoy it though, and I find it especially commendable that it’s not the usual mildly sherried profile that a lot of distilleries go for in their 18 year-olds.

    (Speaking of sherried, there are some great sherried Deanstons – the 2002 Organic Oloroso Finish and a recent 13 year-old cask strength by Signatory spring to mind.)


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