Deanston distillery is located in the Scottish Highlands, on the banks of the River Teith, eight miles from the historic town of Stirling, at the gateway to the dramatic Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park. It is the largest distillery owned by Scotch whisky producer Burn Stewart Distillers Ltd, who also owns Bunnahabhain Distillery on the Isle of Islay and Tobermory Distillery on the Isle of Mull.
The village of Deanston first acquired its name in 1500, when Walter Drummond (the Dean of Dunblane) inherited the lands now known as Deanston from the Haldanes of Gleneagles. The Scots word ‘Dean’ was coupled with the Scots Gaelic term ‘toun’, meaning farm/settlement, to make Deanston.
The distillery started life in 1785 as a cotton mill designed by Sir Richard Arkwright, and remained as such for 180 years. The turn of the twentieth century saw a significant decrease in demand for local cotton and things steadily got worse until the mill was closed on 2nd April 1965.
It was the collective efforts of James Finlay & Co, Brodie Hepburn & Co, and A.B (Sandy) Grant, known together as Deanston Distillers Ltd, who converted Deanston Mill into a malt whisky distillery in 1965. The constant supply of pure water from the River Teith contributed to the decision to turn the mill into a distillery and Deanston is now the only distillery in Scotland to be self-sufficient in electricity, with power generated by an on-site hydro-energy facility.
The distillery was opened on 17th October 1966 after an extensive refurbishment costing £300,000, employing 20 local people, but taking just nine months. Three floors were removed to make room for four copper stills and a mash tun. The constant, cool temperature of the weaving shed made it ideal for whisky maturation. The only completely new building was the tun room – where eight huge fermentation vessels now stand. When full each of these weighs 60 tonnes and they stand on top of the mill’s four underground tunnels leading from the turbine house back to the river.
Deanston started bottling in 1971 and the first single malt was named Old Bannockburn. Teith Mill, a blended whisky, was also produced at this time. Although it made business sense to sell Deanston as a single malt, it was mainly produced for blending purposes.
In 1972, Invergordon Distillers (bought by Whyte & Mackay in 1990) purchased Deanston outright and the first single malt bearing the name Deanston was produced in 1974.
After a downturn in the whisky industry, Deanston Distillery ceased production in 1982 for eight years, before being purchased by current owners Burn Stewart Distillers Limited in 1990.
Whisky production and character
Deanston Distillery looks very unlike a traditional Scotch whisky distillery and has a number of unique production features which contribute to its distinct character in taste and look. The spirit is handmade by a small team of local craftsmen who rely on traditional distilling techniques and their own eye to ensure quality; no technology or computers are used. Deanston uses only Scottish-grown barley and in 2000, was one of the first distilleries in Scotland to start producing organic whisky, certified by the Organic Food Federation and using barley grown in specially selected sites, free from pesticides and chemicals.
The distillery also boasts an 11-ton open-topped mash tun - the only one of its size in Scotland - and four unique pot stills with upwards sloping lyne arms and boiling balls, which help give the whisky its light character. The spirit is matured in the original weaving shed designed by Arkwright in the 1830s, which holds a capacity of 45,000 casks. Jim Murray said of Deanston: ‘Deanston is a cathedral to whisky maturation. In fact, with its gloriously vaulted ceiling built in the 1830s, you would swear you were in a crypt.’
In addition to generating its own electricity, Deanston’s green credentials were further topped in 2008, when Burn Stewart Distillers Ltd reformulated the liquid and redesigned the packaging to better reflect the Deanston brand essence. All materials are now either recycled or recyclable, and gift tubes were replaced by cardboard gift boxes in order to further reduce weight.
About 15% of the spirit produced goes into Deanston Single Malt and the other 85% is used for blends such as Scottish Leader and Black Bottle. Deanston is also in Drumgray Highland Cream Liqueur (which won gold medals in the 1993 and 1999 IWSC competitions) and Wallace Single Malt Liqueur. Deanston 12 YO was recently awarded Gold in the
Deanston Single Malt whisky is sweet, fruity and balanced with a malty spiciness on the palate. All spirit is not chill filtered, ensuring an authentic tasting dram.