Deanston Virgin Oak

Friday, June 02, 2017


Deanston occupies many chart positions on my list of lists. Namely the distillery I’ve visited most and some of my memorable whiskies that have been under the radar and off the grid. It’s a surprising statement, not only because I’m the Victor Meldrew of whiskies, but also Deanston for many years didn’t receive much love from the wider public.
 
The tide has started to turn in recent years, as the new found confidence I’ve discovered via the small batches has transferred into the expanding core range. There’s been a noticeable uplift in sales, interest and appreciation. No longer to do they snigger when I include a Deanston bottling on my best of annual round up.
 
Virgin Oak is a dangerous arena for any maturing whisky. The power and rawness of this pristine cask can overpower and brainwash its contents. Ok, it may not fully win the battle and convince its contents that it’s now Cotton-eyed-Joe moonshine from Alabama, but you appreciate the minefield ahead. Thankfully, whilst there is Virgin Oak present within the mix, the journey of this whisky commences in more traditional ex-bourbon casks, which apparently come from a family owned Cooperage in Kentucky. It’s then finished in brand spanking new oak casks that provide the twist.
 
If I was a betting man and I’m in reality not; the nearest I get to going a bit wild and chucking my cash away is on a bottle of Jura. And literally then, I still get to chuck the bottle away. I’d say the whisky here is 5-6 years old and we know it’s a finish rather than a double maturation, or acing. Short finishes, and by these I mean weeks, are extremely dubious and are often used to gloss over evident cracks in a whisky or a benign cask. In terms of finishing here, I’d say we’re in the realms of 6 months or so. I could be totally wrong (as always) but I have total confidence in Deanston and their focus on quality and the brand they are building.
 
This Virgin Oak is the gateway into the core range. Affordable and offering hints at the characteristics you’ll discover if you step up. The next obvious step here is the recently revamped 12-year-old that I’ve purchased to review shortly; I also have an exclusive soon to be released bottling in the mount Rover pile. Having experienced a few Deanston verticals, I find that the 15-year-old Organic release is often the most suitable expression after the Virgin Oak, it delivers that little bit more complexity and character before you set onto the robust and malty 12-year-old.
 
 
I need to return to Deanston this year, whisky on this site is becoming rather time consuming but the content keeps coming and hopefully you enjoy these meandering dialogues. Currently, I’m sitting on a train pulling in Haymarket station with the spectre of the Caledonian distillery-hanging overhead. It seems like the perfect moment to pull up and jump into the tasting notes. This Deanston Virgin Oak will set you back in the region of £35, its natural coloured with a higher strength of 46% and non-chill filtered, which they were doing before many other distilleries. As a release it is widely available and time to wrap this up before I miss my station.
 
Colour: light auburn
Nose: light and floral with Deanston characteristics of honey, almonds, barley and rich tea biscuits. A resin-like oiliness, more sugar with white chocolate and lacking the wood dominance you may have expected from virgin wood. Yes, there are elements of vanilla, fresh wood chippings and a touch of ash from the charred cask, but its balanced.
Taste: the resin-like appearance transfers onto the palate with a light syrupy nature. Vanilla cream, ginger, apples and a herbal note right at the end, prior to a barley sweet finish.  
 
Overall: the nature of virgin oak releases will not appeal to everyone and the misconception is a limited presentation with a heavy wood influence. To a certain extent the wood has unleashed its powers of persuasion but in a subtle nature. This is an ideal starter dram for an evening opener, or for someone looking to step into the wonderful world of whisky.

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