Deanston Virgin Oak Single Malt Scotch
A two-part argument, and then a twist regarding single malt Scotch:
First, the barrel accounts for 80% of the flavor of the finished Scotch. This one you already know because experts have been saying it for years. The spirit itself solves flavors out of the barrels and furthermore takes in flavors of where those barrels have been made, stored, and aged with the spirit inside. Barrel matters.
Second, for many years, most barrels in Scotland were at the cheapest price that could be found. When sherry got too expensive, ex-bourbon barrels (once used already) were broken down, imported and then assembled. Sometimes that wasn’t cheap enough – ex-bourbon barrels were (and are at a few large distilleries) used twice, three times, four: I’ve even heard of one mega-distiller shaving the insides of its barrels down so it could fill them eight times over.
Of course, this practice is understandable. The Scottish are charmingly cheap and if you own 100,000 barrels that you paid $50 a piece for, that’s already a whole lot of your drinking budget tied up in wood.
But there is always another side to the coin. And that is producers who stayed with expensive barrels – now typically first-past sherry barrels – to craft exceptional Scotch. Macallan is the obvious shining example, but Balvenie and some of the Aberlour Scotches are not far behind. Yes, it’s a painful decision to pay $1,000 per barrel. But if you want to make great Scotch, and if you truly believe the first axiom, then you’re in for a big investment.
Now here is the twist: Do you have to mature in Sherry cask to make a great Scotch? What if, instead of upping your distilling game using a different (and better) barrel, you used a better, but the same flavor profile barrel? In other words, you use the best bourbon barrels you can find – spanking new bourbon barrels to get more barrel flavor. Boom! That is Deanston’s Virgin Oak:
The nose opens with aromas of heather, honeycomb, vanilla, Granny Smith apples, touches of caramelized oranges, roasted malt and nuts. The palate brings in notes of candied fruits, soft toffee, a bit of fudge and continues with ginger and clove. The finish is supple and smooth, rounded, and goes down oh so easy. This is a perfect sweater weather dram – it’s warm, soft embrace fits perfectly with the season, mellowing you out and bring on a cozy, blissful tenderness. Slainte!