Deanston: From mill to distillery, Part 2

[Part 1 HERE]


  • 1965 Deanston mill is closed as the UK cotton industry dwindles.
  • 1967 The mill is converted into a distillery by Brodie Hepburn in the intervening years and officially opened by Andrew Cruickshank wiki.
  • 1974 The first single malt is release under the Deanston name.
  • 1982 Deanston is moth-balled.
  • 1990 Burn Stewart buys Deanston from Invergordon distillers and production soon follows.
  • 2000 Deanston is officially credited with making organic whisky.
  • 2013 Burn Stewart is sold to Distell.


Walking from the power station to the mill house, theres a distinct smell of bananas & molasses in the air – not the more usual barley-beer notes.


  • Deanston use 100% Scottish malted barley which isnt as common as you may think.
  • We all know just how good Porteus mills are. Deanstons mill has only malfunctioned twice since 1966 – both times through human error.
  • Eleven tonnes of grain are milled in four hours.


I believe only Bruichladdich, Glenfiddich, Glenturret, Edradour, Royal Lochnagar & Springbank still have open-top tuns – but sources may be dated. Deanston claim to have the biggest.

Our tour guide Brian says, replacing the open-top with a new lidded model would realise an energy saving of only 1% – not a big deal at all for a distillery that is self sufficient four-times over. Apparently health & safety law now requires mash tuns to be covered, but this only applies to mash tuns built after 1970. Can you imagine being in the tun room during a hot summer with the third water emitting 90 degree heat – Bikram yoga anyone?


washbackDeanston has eight washbacks with electric blades. Their fermentation time of up to 100 hours is longer than many, one that brings out fruity/banana flavours. The washbacks are so large in circumference, they require three-part gull-wing style wooden lids on either side.

This corten-steel washback pictured & one other are being replaced by stainless steel models next year [2018]. As I learned from Brian at Tomatin, the disposal costs can outweigh the scrap metal value.



  • 80% of Deanstons output goes to blend.
  • 20% remains as Deanston single malt or becomes part of their Scottish Leader brand.
  • Their 7 warehouses offer a storage capacity of 30000 litres [though ive seen up to 45000 quoted], enough to house juice for their aforementioned single malt & Scottish leader blend only.
  • Their oldest cask vintage is from 1972.


After jumping straight in at the chance [duh?], I watched with interest, the expressions of my fellow tour party after smelling whisky straight from a bourbon cask:

  • An American couple exaggerated theatrically over the potency of the maturing CS spirit.
  • The English wives nodded matter-of-factly & approvingly, with grins & ‘dad noises’ coming from the husbands.
  • A South African couple turned their noses up, but with more surprise than disgust as i later found out – it being their first experience with a whisky cask. I wonder if their visit to Deanston distillery had anything to do with the SA Distell, Dr Anton Rupert and/or the James Sedgwick distillery link?
  • A Spanish family collectively went a little ‘barmy’, a joyous expression that resulted with smiles & titters all round.


weaving shed.jpgThe warehouse to the right of the filling station is the mills old weaving shed. Built in 1925, its concrete roof is one meter thick. [See HERE for far more comprehensive pics].

Its purpose-built design retained the inner heat to prevent the cotton from splitting. During the summer months the walls would sweat as the moisture dripped down the sides of the shed, whilst providing some respite from the cold winters. As a whisky store, it means the temperature variation of 4-12 degrees C throughout the year is relatively high compared to other Scottish distillery warehouses.

filling station

And soon enough we were in the shop to try, appropriately enough, the very recently revamped flagship Deanston 12yo. Ive been disappointed by the 12yo in the past, but this is new generation Deanston single malt and recent expressions such as the 18yo [BLOG] have have surpassed all expectations.


Deanston 12yo [2017] Ob. 46.3% WB84[5]

deanston 12yo.jpg

  • N: Oily barley, cereal-fruits, dusty flour, a little clay, bitter-sweet oils and fruity biscuit notes – less banana more raisins. Solid & simple complexity.
  • T: Oily barley again with a bitter oily/molasses edge. Nice & clean, [oily clean] bitter oily chew. Water brings to the fore more cereal sweetness and another touch of clay with that prevalent bitter molasses note – bitter-sweet all the way.
  • F: Waxy-dry molasses.
  • C: Bitter-sweet fruity oily barley spirit with raisins over bananas – what’s not to like? I’m amazed how faithful the spirit is to the airborne smells of the distillery. Big improvements over previous decades. During my three week distillery trip, this was the only bottle i bought directly.

Scores 85 points

Further reading:

Comments are closed.