While I am quite familiar with the other distilleries in Burn Stewart's portfolio, Bunnahabhain and Tobermory, I have so far neglected Deanston.
While it isn't particularly well-known, Deanston is a workhorse distillery, churning out roughly 3 million liters of whisky a year. Located in the southern Highlands, northwest of Sterling, the distillery was established fairly recently in 1966. It fell silent alongside many other distilleries during the 1980s, only to be revived by Burn Stewart in 1990.
This whisky was distilled on December 10th 1997, filled into a hogshead, then bottled on October 28th 2013 at 55.8% without coloring or chill filtration for WhiskyBase's Archives label.
Archives Deanston 15 Year 1997/2013
Nose: strong oak/cedar and orange peel, pine/herbal/grassy notes, slightly musty dry malt, peaches, vanilla cream, roasted carrots. After adding a few drops of water it becomes more malty, the oak fades away, the vanilla becomes stronger and more savory, the fruit shifts to grape, the orange shifts to lemon, and the herbal notes become more vegetal while the grass becomes dry hay.
Taste: sweet oak up front with an almost sherried edge, earthy vanilla, berries, and citrus peel in the middle, cacao/coffee beans, then a beautiful gingery/savory/cedar/herbal berry reduction quality at the back. After dilution it becomes much more malty while the sweetness and berry notes expand, the oak is suppressed, and the finish becomes more faint and dry gingery/herbal.
Finish: polished oak, cedar, fresh ginger, herbal, malt
This whisky hits somewhere in between the Exclusive Casks and the Archives Ben Nevis samples I tried a while back, with a finish that almost exactly matches the quality I like from Ben Nevis. With that said, the nose on this Deanston is not as expressive and it doesn't hit quite as many high notes. Additionally, water seems to rob it of a lot of what makes it great, so I'd hold off on that. On the plus side it's both cheaper and still available, so I'm willing to grant it some minor flaws.
4 hours ago