This is the older-style bottle of the 18 year-old Deanston – the packaging may have had a slight face-lift but the whisky inside is the same. The label says ‘bourbon cask finish’, which is a bit vague (e.g. was it not in ex-bourbon casks for the main part of its maturation?). After checking with the distillery I can confirm that this whisky spends its first 16 years in refill bourbon casks and is then transferred to first fill bourbon for the final two years.
Nose: The finishing period has certainly left its mark. When nosed neat, there is an overwhelming bourbon sweetness – lots of honey and vanilla in other words, to the extent that all other notes are hidden away. It needs water and some time, but when it opens up, it does so beautifully with an abundance of citrus fruit (grapefruit in particular), as well as a cereal note that feels very ‘Deanston’.
Palate: It starts along the same lines, with big sweetness from the first fill bourbon but not a lot of depth. Quite spicy too, with ginger and cinnamon. Water again makes it multi-dimensional. A few drops open up a much-needed citrus fruity side which balances the cask sweetness and spice very well.
Finish: Medium, thankfully mostly on the citrus notes.
Comments: I’m a bit torn about this – the first fill casks are a bit of a blunt instrument, but the right amount of water brings balance and depth. It’s a good whisky to experiment with, but not immediately approachable in my opinion. With patience and a good pipette, it will reward you however. It’s certaily commendable that this isn’t the usual mildly sherried profile that a lot of distilleries choose for their 18 year-old expressions.