While we’re starting to see more and more Scotch distillers dabble with virgin oak, Deanston in the Scottish Highlands has had a non-age-stated Virgin Oak offering as a core expression for years now. That bottle clocks in at a respectable 46.3%, but last fall, they decided to turn up the volume on this one with a cask strength release. Like the standard offering, this is unpeated single malt aged in ex-bourbon casks and finished for 12 months in virgin American oak barrels from the well-known and well-respected Kelvin Cooperage in Kentucky. Let’s check it out.
The nose showcases warm, cooked cereal notes, sweet with dark brown sugar and a drizzle of honey. As it opens, fruitier elements arrive in the form of baked apples, easy on the baking spice, as well as pear tart and a bit of buttercream. The palate is big and sweet at cask strength, but still impressively approachable and a touch creamy, with an initial volley of banana pudding – complete with Nilla Wafers — and a generous marshmallow sweetness. It’s not overly complex, but those limited flavors are nonetheless concentrated and expressive, eroding into a warm, sweet finish of barley sugar and candied ginger. A slight increase in octane has really accentuated the unique virgin oak dimension of this single malt and made it considerably more interesting than the standard offering. Is it worth more than twice what that single malt fetches? I’ll let you be the judge.