In Scotland, a town’s whisky distillery is usually the biggest tourist attraction. Not so for Deanston, located in the village of Doune, about an hour’s drive from Edinburgh. The distillery plays second fiddle to Doune Castle, which has been used as a set for film and television, from “Game of Thrones” to “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” (Deanston had its own star turn in the 2012 film “The Angels’ Share.”)
One of Scotland’s younger distilleries, having opened in 1966, Deanston inhabits a former textile mill and—fun fact!—generates its own hydroelectric power on-site, even selling some back to the grid. Most of the distillery’s whisky gets blended away into labels like Scottish Leader (popular in Taiwan) but as a single malt, it’s delightful: structured and complex, with honey notes and a pronounced waxiness that fans of Clynelish will appreciate. Across the range, Deanston has a creamy, rounded character, due in part to its maturation environment. One of the warehouses is the former weaving shed; its consistent year-round humidity, designed for the transformation of cotton thread to cloth, is also ideal for maturing single malt scotch.
Deanston’s core range of whiskies is small, but special releases, which are often cask strength, are also worth seeking out. Along with its sister distilleries Bunnahabhain and Tobermory (which also makes Ledaig), Deanston uses no chill-filtration and is bottled at 46.3% ABV—the unusual decimal place accounting for potential margin of error and ensuring that minimum strength is always at least 46%, striking a balance of power and flavor.
Deanston 12 year old
93 points, 46.3% ABV, $60
Marmalade on toast and spiced honey aromas, followed by flavors of salted caramel, milk chocolate, hazelnuts, and ginger, with a waxy texture.