Deanston 9 year old Bordeaux Wine Cask, 9 year old Brandy Finish & 15 year old Marsala Finish

It's been a long time since I've given Deanston any coverage here on Causeway so it's time to put that right with a trio of cask strength releases. As ever I'm not very current, preferring to release notes as and when I feel like it rather than chasing clicks with reviews immediately after a release. So these bottles are a few years old and may well be available on the secondary market but are probably no longer available at retail.

My previous coverage of Deanston was back in 2017, a full 6 years ago, and when I was much fresher faced in the whisky review world. I was pretty taken with the 12 year old and 18 year old expressions of the core range as you can see here. I was in Miami in May of this year and stumbled across an older bottling of the 12 year old for $50 sitting all on its lonesome, collecting dust. I quickly snaffled it up to take to a house party where the bottle was consumed in a pretty quick time. It just reinforced what a tropical fruit bomb it was and made me think I need to buy another of these when I get home.

It also made me dig through my notes and samples to get a review together. Along with the Bordeaux Cask bottle I had I was sent samples of the Brandy Cask finish from Stu of @whiskywhims fame and the Marsala Cask finish from Hamish Fraser of Dramface fame. Thanks to you both.

The 2008 Bordeaux Cask has been fully matured in casks that previously held Bordeaux red wine, is bottled at a punch 58.7% abv and had an outturn of 1400 bottles. This was between £49 and £55 on release.

The 2008 Brandy Cask finish expression was matured for 7 years in refill ex-bourbon casks before spending the rest of it's time in ex-French brandy butts. This has been bottled at 56.4% abv and cost £55 on release.

Our final dram is the Deanston 15 year old Marsala finish. Distilled in 2002 and matured for 15 years with an unspecified finishing time in the Marsala casks. Bottled at 55.2% abv with an outturn of 1308 bottles this can still be found for around £90.

All the expressions are natural colour and non chill filtered.

Deanston 2008 Bordeaux Red Wine Cask Matured  

Nose: Fudge and vanilla then red berries, cassis and muscovado sugar. Red wine vinegar and a little furniture polish. Citrus oils, cherries and lots of oak. Water brings praline, ginger, cocoa and leather.

Palate: Pretty punchy at full strength – quite tannic with a lot of alcohol heat. Chilli, clove, cinnamon and black pepper which is followed by the fruit – blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. Water brings out chilli dark chocolate, black liquorice and stem ginger. 

Finish: medium length – spicy, tannic and earthy with some tartness too.

Score: 6 out of 10 

Deanston 9 year old Brandy Finish 56.4% abv

Nose: An alcohol sting initially - once past that there is pancake batter, malt, milk chocolate and vanilla. Lemon peel morphing into orange peel. Fruity with apple strudel and peach. Sawn wood and cinnamon. Water brings out a farm yard earthiness along with honey.

Palate: Like the nose the alcohol is prominent and hot on arrival. Second sip and the mouthfeel is good - quite rich with burnt sugar, fig roll, toasted hazelnuts, ginger and dark roast coffee. The brandy does yield an apple note. There is also a slightly salty, mineral quality too. Water tames the alcohol a bit but doesn't really develop the flavour profile much.

Finish: Short but hot from the alcohol, drying quickly leaving woody notes and a slight herbal quality.

Score: 6 out of 10

Deanston 15 year old Marsala Finish 55.2% abv

Nose: There is a mild sulphurous element in the nose. Sugar syrup, malt, candied apples and pears, lemon peel and fresh oak. New leather and ground ginger. White pepper too with a hint of flint. Water brings out sugared almonds, toffee apples and nutmeg.

Palate: Again hot and sharp on first sip. Second sip brings icing sugar and vanilla sweetness that quickly gives way to sharp citrus, tart oak and chilli heat. in the background is the sweet fortified wine and salted nuts. The minerality comes back along with sharp citrus in the form of pink grapefruit. Water helps it become sweeter - vanilla sponge with walnuts. The alcohol is tamed a little but it also loses body.

Finish: Surprisingly short with chalk, tart citrus and chilli heat

Score: 5 out of 10

Overall: The 2008 Bordeaux Finish is really all about the cask and in a sense is a bit of a one trick pony – it's all red fruit and oak tannins. That's not to say its not enjoyable, it's a tasty dram but it lacks balance or complexity. The nose is lovely and the palate just fails to match up to it. I paid £55 for my bottle and I've enjoyed drinking it but for me I'd rather plump for the core 12 expression to highlight what Deanston are all about as the Bordeaux cask has rather veiled the distillery character.

The 2008 Brandy Cask finish was pretty solid too. I'm yet to meet a brandy finished dram that I've totally fallen for as they usually up the ante of orchard fruit notes on the nose and palate and do little else which is pretty much the case here. Again the alcohol runs a bit hot on this one. Solid but not one I'd replace in a hurry.

The 15 year old Marsala Cask finish suffers like the first two expressions with being hot and aggressive without water but loses a little body with water and also lacking a great deal of flavour development. It's an okay dram, not one that sets the pulse racing.

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