It’s time to start pretending you’re not in when carolers come calling because Christmas is just a stone’s throw away!
We’ve approached that time people. You know what I mean. The time when your presents should be wrapped under a glowing tree. The time when your stockings should be hung and your cards all sent out. And the time when your Christmas pudding should be sitting proudly in an ‘appropriate’ amount of brandy. It’s the final countdown to Christmas, and to those for who all the above is true, you should rest easy and help yourself to a celebratory dram.
What’s behind window number 20 of your Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar? Why it’s only a dram of Deanston Virgin Oak! This is a whisky master distiller Brendan McCarron would gleefully describe as being ‘waxy’. Doesn’t sound appetising. But it’s a brilliant thing. Here’s why.
Distillery character, by which we mean the unique profile a whisky has due to the individual factors that contribute to its production at the distillery it was made, is all the rage these days. The coastal, medicinal, smokiness of Laphroaig, for example. Or the mysterious and mystical waxiness of Deanston. A textural treat full of citrusy oiliness and dense caramel sweetness.
There’s actually a very logical reason why all this happens. It begins in a very traditional open-top mash tun with no lautering arm, where Deanston’s distinctive worts are made. Where most are gold IPA-ish colour, here the wort is brown like Old English ales. Paradoxically, it’s also clear, meaning there are no solids so when it’s sent through the fermenters nothing gets in the way of the yeast. After long 80-90 hour fermentations, lots of fruity esters are generated.
Another signature feature at Deanston is the sole feints charger. Typically a distillery would be equipped with a foreshots and feints container, a spirits vat, and a low wines vat, and these vessels lined up to each individual still. At Deanston, they all go into the same vat, creating constant state of flux as the liquid goes up and down in ABV and all the congeners, flavours, textures, and fatty acids come out as a solution when the alcohol drops. This creates a black, oily, silky layer known as “black magic” by the distillery team at Deanston. Charge that into your still and collect the heart of your run as spirit, it’s gone from being a crazy intensely fruity spirit to an unbelievably waxy spirit. Like eating an orange as if it were an apple.
That character is impressively preserved in its Virgin Oak whisky. Oak that hasn’t been used before is extremely extractive, and lots of distillers end up overpowering their spirit with this woody influence. Deanston avoids this pitfall with a really well-balanced whisky. It’s delicious on its own, but is also a great base for an Old Fashioned. McCarron makes a new one most Fridays on his Instagram, but we’ve got a classic recipe below.
Tasting note for Deanston Virgin Oak
Nose: Fresh citrus, honeyed barley and a subtle hint of smoke.
Palate: Toffee sweets pop up first, followed by a dollop of cream and oak notes.
Finish: Oak spices on the finish.
How to make an Old Fashioned
80ml Deanston Virgin Oak
2 teaspoons of Gonzalez Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez
2 dashes of Fee Brothers Orange Bitters
Add the bourbon, bitters, and one teaspoon of sherry to an ice-filled rocks glass. Stir for 30 seconds and taste, add more PX sherry if required. Express a piece of orange peel over and drop it in.
We’ll be back tomorrow with another advent dram. Cheers!