Deanston Kentucky Cask Matured (40%, OB 2021)

The Deanston Kentucky Cask was a recent addition to the Deanston range – I believe it came out in 2020, or mabe late 2019. Deanston already have a budget-friendly no age statement bottle in the much-loved Virgin Oak, but the Kentucky Cask is aimed at a different share of the market: issued at 40% ABV and normally found at the £20-25 range, it’s for the supermarket shelves next to similarly budget NAS fare like the Glen Moray Classic, Jura Journey and supermarket-own ranges.

Like many whisky geeks I didn’t pay much attention to it, especially since on the face of it it seems like a whisky created by a marketing team – for example, it’s conspicuously absent from tours and tastings at the distillery, and the lower strength shows that it’s for more casual drinkers and not for committed whiskyphiles. However, a few months ago, it was available for £12 on Amazon, and it would’ve been rude not to buy a bottle for the same price as a cheap blend. It may almost certainly have been an error by the algorithm, but at that price you don’t ask questions.

I’ve seen some criticism of the name ‘Kentucky Cask Matured’ online – I understand where it’s coming from, but also I think the name makes perfect sense: I doubt that most casual drinkers browsing supermarket shelves would know that ex-Bourbon casks are most commonly used in Scotch whisky maturation, so ‘Kentucky Cask’ is both a catchier name and an informative one. The label says that only first and second fill casks have been used – the mention of ‘soft filtration’ and the fact that it may go cloudy with water and ice got my hopes up, although there was no trace of Scotch mist when I added water: it may be that it’s been chill-filtered, but more gently than usual.

Nose: Fresh, fruity and vibrant. There’s some barley sweetness, with vanilla from the casks and the typical Deanston honey, but this time it’s not accompanied by those gingerbread and other bakery notes you get in other official Deanstons. Instead, there are fresh apples, grapefruit (a note I always love in whisky) and a very appealing grassiness. It’s partly due to the young age of course, but it’s refreshing to come across a Deanston that lets the spirit do most of the talking here.

Palate: Here it does feel more spirity, but it’s mostly along the same lines. Green apples, honey, grapefruit juice, and only a tiny bit of vanilla. The mouthfeel is decent, certainly not as thin as other whiskies at 40%.

Finish: Not too short, which is a welcome surprise. Nutty and slightly astringent, but not in a bad way.

Comments: I’m going to come out and say it, I think this is delicious and I prefer it to the more oak-driven and increasingly spicy 12 year-old and Virgin Oak. This is a phenomenon I’ve noticed across the Distell range in recent years, incidentally – the Deanston 12 is more wood-influenced now than it was a few years ago, and the same applies to the Bunnahabhain 12 in my opinion. As for Tobermory, the old 10 has been replaced with a 12 year-old which has seen some virgin oak. I’m mentioning all this because I like my whisky with a cleaner, less oaky profile, and the Kentucky Cask plugs that Deanston hole very well.

‘Objectively’ (if we can ever talk of objectivity in tasting spirits), the Virgin Oak and the 12 year-old are richer whiskies with a more satisfying mouthfeel and greater depth, but there are no two ways about it – I prefer the way the Kentucky Cask tastes. It reminds me of a lighter Glencadam 10, and I love Glencadam. This would easily be in the mid-80s at a higher strength, but as an easy session whisky it’s perfect.

Score: 83/100

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