The range at Deanston is quite a bit larger than it was this time last year. I have returned to work here to help out with tours and tastings during the busiest months.
I’d love to review these but honestly I’m not a reviewer. Other people do a better job (in particular WhiskyRover). I can do tastings and sell these bottles well and my knowledge of the production is solid but I don’t think reviewing is for everyone.
From left to right we have:
- Non Age Statement, Virgin Oak Finish. 46.3%… £38
- 7 year old, Sherry Wood Finish. Limited run of 289 bottles. 60.8%… £65
- [Fill Your Own] 11 year old, Amontillado Finish. 60.1%… £75
- 12 year old, ex-bourbon (Flagship Malt). 46.3%…£40
- 15 year old, Organic. 46.3%…£70
- 18 year old, first full bourbon finish. 46.3%… £80
- 20 year old, fully Oloroso. Limited run of 8400 bottles sent worldwide. 55.3%…£110
The filling station at Deanston is located in between the old weaving shed #2 warehouse beyond this photo and the more modern high racking warehouses behind. The first cask in position to be filled here this week is #2504 which is how many have been filled this year so far.
The office to the right was orginally occupied by a tax person from the government to witness the fillings. The spirit and whisky stored in the warehouses is duty free and will only be charged when bottling.
Mandy is the amazing woman behind the Curly Coo whisky bar in Stirling. Her tripadvisor ratings have led her to the #1 bar in Stirling, #9 on Things to Do in Stirling and was also recently voted #3 Whisky Bar in Scotland. If I recommend the place to anyone it is because of this lady and her lovely, bubbly personality and banter. The triangular shape to the bar means it is a warm and sociable room where you can easily chat across the bar with Mandy and other customers. She stocks over 130 malts and I am gradually working my way through the collection. I’m also in touch with her because of my connection to Deanston and her efforts at providing us as a local distillery with many of the customers that enter her bar. I will hopefully be taking some of our bottles in September to a small whisky festival that she is running within the Curly Coo.
My first dram tonight was an Edradour 10. I knew it would be to my taste as I prefer younger, lighter, sweeter malts. It’s the one distillery I have always wanted to visit as it is so small and picturesque. The dram was lovely: very smooth and creamy which opened up and mellowed out in spicyness with water. I paired it with a half pint of one of my favourite lagers: Schiehallion. I was surprised at how perfect the two went together. The slight floral notes and crisp flavour matched the clean flavour of the dram. I can’t really explain why though!
This was one I had been wanting to try for quite a long while. I hadn’t heard amazing things about the Auchentoshan line but the brand intrigues me and this 3 wood gets a good write up and sounded right up my street. I go straight for a sherry cask as my preference so this being in the Bourbon and finished in Oloroso and Pedro Ximinez is heaven. The nose was bursting with sherry character and on the palate it reminded me of tasting Rum, in particular Angostura 1824. Deep fruity flavours with a strong taste of dark chocolate, exactly like the rum. This is a bottle that I will need to get my hands on.
I went to chat to Jim the Stillman whilst he was testing the alcohol levels of the feints receiver. This is where the Low Wines from the first distillation and the Feints from the second distillation are collected. The Low Wines are around 20-25% in alcohol whereas the feints (the head and the tail) are the parts either side of the Heart of the Run and are under 65% and over 73%. These are both mixed here and will go through distillation within the spirit stills again.
I was struggling to stand there for too long as the smell from the receiver was so strong when the lid was open. Jim laughed and said that he cannae smell it anymore. You could genuinely get drunk standing a few feet away! What was surprising to me was how oily it was. The black, gloopy oil clinged to the liquid and the sample tube that you can see in the photograph above to the left of the lid. Jim said these were the natural oils that existed through distillation.
At Deanston we are 100% self-sufficient and only use 25% of the electricity that we produce; so the rest that is left is sold back to the National Grid. Rory and I had a wander inside here at the weekend after our shift. We still have a few places left to explore and this was one of them. I take tours in here everyday but had no idea what it looked like on top of the reservoir.
This is taken at the back of the turbine house. The old cotton mill here was powered by 4 water wheels with 2 on each side. You can see the grates to the left and right of the reservoir where the 2 wheels used to sit.
This is looking down onto where one of the 4 wheels sat against the reservoir.
This is the view from on top of the reservoir looking down onto the 1930’s turbine: an amazing piece of engineering built by David Brown.
Here we are standing on top of the reservoir where the wooden floor boards are directly above the flowing water which feels pretty daunting.
A ring to toss to Rory in case he falls in through the hatch…
Today we had a busy day celebrating at our whisky festival and also the 3 year anniversary of the opening of the visitor centre. There were many craft and food stalls, and the night ended with a ceilidh in which we drank a lot and danced a lot.
I love our Scottish traditions and can’t wipe the smile off my face whilst trying to dance really well at a ceilidh; then eating a lot of stovies and dancing some more. It was a great day all round filled with music, food and happy people drinking this amazing drink and just having a good old time.
These are the two lovely looking and sounding Bunnahabhain Fèis Ìle releases for 2015.
The first one is an 11 year old aged in Manzanilla Sherry Butts called Rubha A’ Mhail (pronounced ‘rooaval’). I love how Bunna write a tale on the back of the bottle explaining the Gaelic roots of their bottle names. In October 1974, the Wyre Majestic and sister ship the Defence found no berth in Oban so planned to steam to Fleetwood, north of Blackpool. They strayed off course and hit Rubha a’ Mhail on Islay. It was for 11 days that the skipper tried to free the vessel to no avail and the Majestic still lies on the rocks at Bunnahabhain to this day. (I’m assuming that’s why this was aged 11 years.) Bottled at cask strength 57.4% and matured in Manzanilla casks: this is a fino sherry which is light and dry and is the Spanish name for Camomile tea. It’s said to have salty notes which are believed to come from the manufacturing on a sea estuary. Matched with the oak casks soaking up the salt at Bunna, this must leave this whisky with a lovely salted touch paired with the sweet sherry. It is limited to 1200 bottles.
The second bottle is an 18 year old which is limited to only 250 bottles. It has spent the final 2 years of its maturation in Moscatel wine casks. The Muscat grape variety is sweet and floral. The design on this bottle with the copper colouring is beautiful, as was the black design on the 17 Year old festival edition from 2014. The colour is a deep gold and the palate is described as spicy gingerbread, marmalade, milk chocolate and cappuccino. However good it sounds, unfortunately I am not able to taste this as it is so limited and costs £250 a bottle!
There was a power cut on Saturday morning which meant that the wash back blades that cut off the head of the foam stopped spinning. This caused the fermenting foam to continue rising and spill out. Thankfully they soon restored the power and got the blades spinning again, however there was a sticky mess all over the flooring, boards and windows. I tried to get a photo of the foam being tossed out the sides but it was too quick and I didn’t want to stand too close! In the middle of the wash back you can see between the wood where the foam is at the very top of this 80,000L tun.
As we are currently not producing spirit at the weekends, I get to have a wander now and again to different corners of the distillery. Here is a full look at one of the 4 stills standing on their stilts.
The desk in the still house. No computers as you can see: next to none are used during production.
A view from above the mash tun. When not in use it is filled with a chemical agent that cleans and acts as a prevention method to theft of the highly expensive copper flooring. So it’s true that this is how The Joker was created…To the left of the picture you can see the hopper in which grist and water enter the tun.
I went upstairs to lock up one evening and decided to have a wander into Warehouse 2B and 2C. I’d never ventured down into the depths of the rows of casks even though every tour ends at the door of this room. It was once the weaving shed of the cotton mill and naturally maintains a constant temperature that is perfect to mature whisky.
The further from the door, the more eerily silent it becomes. It’s actually quite an overwhelming experience to walk amongst these casks; many of which have lain here for as long as my lifetime. The rows of 3 hogsheads high tower above my head and look as though they could topple with a light push. It’s so quiet that I begin to hear my own breath. I’ll continue my hunt another time for a cask that was filled on my birth year of ’93.