Deanston distillery

Deanston is an excitingly overlooked gem of a whisky distillery located in the central Highlands of Scotland. Deanston is one of the few distilleries whose Mashtuns, a vast cast iron one, are uncovered and open to the elements.

The Deanston distillery resides in historic walls, a cotton mill has been located in the brick buildings since 1785. In 1965 it was refitted as a distillery. A hint of the industrial revolution still wafts over the forecourt - but it mixes with the moist, malty aromas of the mash in the vats of the distillery. Granted, there are certainly plenty of nicer, more traditional looking distilleries in Scotland than Deanston but the distillery itself is unique and not without its charm.

Visiting the distillery

Deanston Distillery Co. Ltd. is located not far from Stirling in the southern Highlands. The distillery is around an hour northwest of Edinburgh on the River Keith by car, and around 40 minutes drive from Glasgow city centre. The area is so picturesque that a picnic stop on the way to the Highlands is practically a must.

Deanston Whisky

It is one of the younger Scotch Whisky producers in Scotland. In 1965 Deanston was built in a former industrial complex that was previously a cotton mill. The following year production of malt whisky began, which first hit the market under the name Old Bannockburn in 1971. In 1972 the distillery was taken over by Invergordon Distillers (owners of the Northern Highlands Invergordon grain distillery). Invergordon Distillers bought out their first single malt whisky in 1974, the first bottlings to carry the Deanston name on the label.

Most of the whisky distilled at Deanston finds its way into the numerous blends of Burn Stewart, these include but are not limited to:

  • Scottish Leader
  • Black Bottle
  • Wallace Single Malt Liqueur
  • Drumgray Highland Cream Liqueur

Only around 15% of annual whisky production is bottled as single malt.

The Deanston 12 Years marks the classic entry into the brand. It is flanked by Deanston Virgin Oak - no age information, but completely matured in new barrels. The Deanston 18 years old, which matures completely in ex-bourbon barrels and then finished in first fill bourbon casks. These are joined by a number of limited edition bottlings emphasising the impact of cask maturation.

All Deanston whiskies are released without chill filtration or caramel colouring. The whiskies are bottled, as is generally the case with the Distell Group’s distilleries, at around ~46% ABV.

House Style

What does Deanston single malt taste like?The single malt from this distillery generally tastes light and sweet, nutty and clearly malty-sweet. However the distillery offers a wide range of excellent whiskies. The 12 year old or their red wine casks make excellent entry points but the distillery offers a dizzying array of casks and age statements as part of their limited releases.

How is Deanston whisky produced?

Water for the distillery comes, along with the water for cooling and energy generation, from the river Teith. The barley for the Deanston whiskey is supplied by local farms. The barley is ground with a Porteus mill from the 1960s, and a traditional, open mash tun and eight wash backs (fermentation vats) made of stainless steel (each with a capacity of 60,000L).

The distillery produces up to 3,000,000 liters a year across four steam heated stills. The wash stills each hold 10,000 liters, the spirit stills hold 8,500 liters.

History

In 1785 the Deanston Mill was built in the immediate vicinity of the fast flowing river, the River Teith. The mill was operated until 1964. In the same year, the large building complex was bought by Brodie Hepburn, who had Deanston converted into a pure-bred malt Scotch whisky distillery. The traditional mill was carefully rebuilt so that it could accommodate the equipment needed for the distillery. Parts of this remarkable ensemble of buildings designed by the architect Sir Richard Arkwright are now listed buildings.

In 1972 Deanston was bought by Invergordon Distillers and developed splendidly for several years. In the ’80s however, the tide turned and Deanston went through a severe crisis, which led to the distillery being closed in 1982. It wasn’t until 1991, after Burn Stewart Distillers took over the distillery for £ 2.1m a year earlier, that production started up again. Tobermory joined the group in 1993 and Bunnahabhain was added in 2003. In the course of the increasing concentration of the whisky industry, the rum & bitter producer “Angostura International. Ltd. “, subsidiary of the Caribbean CL Financial Ltd. acquired 18% share of the Deanston distillery, in 2002 the distillery was then taken over completely.

In 1999, CL Financial initially bought part of the shares in Burn Stewart and the remainder in 2002.

Deanston factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Deanston deen*stun Highlands Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Active 1785 - Present Malt Deanston Not Available
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group
Ian Macmillan CL Financial

Deanston Timeline:

1785: Deanston Mill is established on the River Teith

1964: Brodie Hepburn buys and converts the former cotton-mill creating Deanston Distillery Co. Ltd., subsidiary of James Finlay & Co. Ltd.

1966: Production starts in October 1966

1971: The first single malt is released under the name Old Bannockburn

1972: Sold to Invergordon Distillers (Holdings) Ltd.. Four stills, dark-grains plant

1974: The first single malt bearing the name Deanston is released

1982: Distillery closes while owned by Invergordon Distillers (Holdings) Ltd.

1990: Sold for £2.1 million to and reopened by Burn Stewart & Co. plc from Glasgow

1991: Production resumes

1999: C.L. Financial buys 18% of the stakes of Burn Stewart & Co. plc

2002: C.L. Financial buys the remainder of the stakes of Burn Stewart & Co. plc

2009: The 12 year old is relaunched

2012: A visitor centre is opened

2013: Burn Stewart & Co. is acquired by South Africa Distell for £160 million

Can I tour Deanston?

Yes Deanston distillery is tourable. On Trip Advisor the distillery has been rated as excellent by 672 of 924 tours to date. This gives Deanston an overall rating of 4.5

Whiskipedia tour review

A distillery that's well worth the tripout of 5

I really rate Deanston, they make some pretty exceptional whiskies but even their entry level bottlings are worth spending time with. The distillery is one of the most distinctive I've ever visited. You wont find any Doig pagodas but it's a beautiful building in an industrial sort of way, and the cafe is pretty solid as well. The staff knowledge varies a lot but they're all pretty enthusiastic. Although Deanston wasn't a distillery I was overly aware of a few years ago though it's started to make more of a splash since it was acquired by Distell wwhich is a good thing as there's a pretty dizzying range of whiskies on offer. It's one I've toured several times being close to Edinburgh and I've never gotten sick of it. They lose points for the video portion of the tour but otherwise it's a great tour and they do drivers drams!

Pros

  • Great distillery
  • Solid cafe
  • Drivers drams

Cons

  • Staff knowledge varies
  • BYO is standard tap

Latest reviews

Great Whisky Experience by Florian T

Did the Warehouse 4 tour at Deanston. Had an absolutely cracking time. Brian the tour guide - as all staff I have experienced - was very knowledgeable and good fun. An afternoon we'll spend with interesting drams and great company.

Birthday Present Experience by Russ K

We had a birthday tasting for one of our party. He had a great time! The number of whiskies on offer were excellent and staff we really knowledgeable. Other members of our family waited in the cafe and enjoyed some lovely food and hospitality. A great experience. Thank you 😊

Excellent by Niall C

Erin looked after us so well. She sold us loads of whisky, giving us just the right amount of free testers to not cost you money. What a day to be alive.

Rating Reviews
Excellent 672
Very good 197
Average 36
Poor 15
Terrible 4