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Whisky Tasting Debrief: Distell

Distell Whisky Tasting

Our tasting evening this month was hosted by Distell at The Clydeside Distillery on the 25th of July. Distell are a global company in the drinks industry with a large portfolio of brands. They have three single malt whiskies which were all showcased on the night – Deanston, Tobermory and Bunnahabhain. We sampled six drams in total, two from each distillery. We had Stephen, the brand distillery manager, who explained the processes behind each of the distilleries and Julie Ann, one of Distell’s blenders, who discussed each whisky note, maturation process and casks used for each of the whiskies.


The tasting started off with two drams from Deanston, a Highland malt. Located near Doune, the distillery was once a thriving cotton mill, which closed down in the 1960s due to the decline of the cotton industry. The water used to produce Deanston whisky comes from the river which flows past their front door, the River Teith. The fermentation at Deanston lasts 84 hours, leaving a very fruity wash. Their copper stills are quite large and they use their first distillation to refine the character.

DeanstonDeanston Distillery, Doune

First up, Deanston 12, 46.3%, un chill filtered (all whiskies at Distell are un chill filtered), matured in ex-bourbon casks, which really does complement the character of the spirit. With the bourbon barrels, we get a lot of honey on the 12-year-old, with green apples on the nose.

Next, was Deanston 15 Organic. Again 46.3%, un chill filtered, matured in American oak. For this one, they use organic barley provided by a certified farmer. In order for no cross-contamination, the distillery is thoroughly cleaned to start production on the 15 Organic. They use 28 tonnes of barley across the two washes. They are quite limited to what casks they can use for maturation; however, they have recently sourced organic sherry casks. The 15 Organic has developed a lot since its first release, initially launched as a 14-year-old spirit; they decided it needed just that little bit longer and released the 15 year old. With the growing interest in organic products, this is popular in many markets, for example in Germany. Deanston whiskies have quite a wavy, mineral character and texture to them, especially the 15 Organic.

The tasting then moved to the distillery on the Isle of Mull, Tobermory. First opened in 1798, originally known as Ledaig distillery, it closed in the 1930s for around 40 years and didn’t reopen until 1971. They have also recently launched a gin from the same distillery. Tobermory is a small distillery and the only whisky distillery located on the island. They have short and longer fermentations over the duration of a week.

Tobermory2Tobermory Distillery, Isle of Mull

The third dram was the Tobermory 12, 46.3%, un chill filtered, matured in a mix of virgin oak and ex bourbon casks. The 12 year old has taken place of the former Tobermory 10. Prominent citrus, oily note. It has a slight spice to it, similar to cinnamon and cloves.

We then jumped over to Islay, with two drams from Bunnahabhain. Like Tobermory, they have shorter and longer fermentations. Majority of Bunnahabhain’s range is unpeated but they have released some peated products. Most of the range is matured in sherry wood as it complements the whisky really well.

BunnahabhainBunnahabhain Distillery, Islay

The Bunnahabhain 12 was rich, creamy and had a lovely berry note. Several Christmas associations with this dram – figs, raisins and Christmas cake. With the distillery’s location so close to the sea, you do get that slight sea salt note at the back.

Next, the Toiteach a Dha, a peated whisky and a non aged statement. It has a very long smoky finish, but more of a sweeter peat compared to some other peated whiskies.

Lastly, we went back to the Isle of Mull, with Ledaig 10. With this whisky, Tobermory source their barley from Islay and malt it to the similar specifications as Toiteach A Dha. It has heavier fennels and a lot of spice. Still, a slightly sweeter peat with black pepper notes and a bitter, dark chocolate finish.

Tickets for our next tasting evening, taking place in September - Kilkerran Tasting Evening