For a Deanston, this is pretty good. Some very attractive nose and palate notes. On the nose is quince and jolly rancher strawberry, along with caramel, cinnamon, and stroop waffle. The mouth turns viscous with a jealous salivation, then comes yellow raisin, dates, dark chocolate, and angel food cake.
As thy palate shifts and turns, licking like a restless worm, thy mouth doth seek only to find the fruit has gone and changed to rind . . . but in a good way if that makes sense. A minty sour note contrasts with what was formerly sickly sweet very nicely, along with leathery tie straps that keep the shoes on your feet. Untie the leather, and you will find dirty sweat socks, dank wood, and rotten fruit notes that many Deanstons tend to have, at least the ones aged in sweet fortified grape wood casks. So it is with this whisky's rather long finish.
Just to give you a perspective, here are a few of my favorite distilleries: Springbank, Bunnahabhain, Bruichladdich, Lagavulin, and individual cask highlands, islands, and speysides. I just loved a single cask Oloroso 18 year Glendronach 2012, and then I became more and more disappointed with Glendronach's single cask releases.
Anyway, this Deanston is up there with the single cask SV 2008 10 Deanston. I bought three of those and I only kept one. I gave two away to friends for what I paid. One of those friends detests peat. He liked the Deanston just fine. I think some people will mistake the rotten fruit notes in the late developing mouth of this 2002 Deanston whisky for sulfur. They did that in the 2008 SV when there was no sulfur to speak of. I hate sulfur, generally, as a rule.
If you already tend to like Deanston, then you will probably really enjoy this one a lot, especially considering it's not a single cask release. For a small batch, it's way above average for Deanston. In fact, it makes me feel like the master distiller there is getting his or her act together and my hat's off for that. The cask wood is improving and so is the wash.
This 2002 whisky has something going for it that is rare: I call it the "changeling" quality. It changes on the palate considerably and unpredictably but pleasingly. You start out feeling as though you are a sweet (human) baby, innocent round the chops, only to end up smacking the leathery lips of a charmed (yet vaguely rotten) elvin child, ha. Then again the metaphor breaks down due to the fact that you are not, in fact, the whisky you are tasting, ha. Anyway, suffice it to say this whisky has a magical quality to it. Yes, the fruit turns rotten, sort of like the Goblin Market of Rossetti.
Dear, you should not stay so late,
Twilight is not good for maidens;
Should not loiter in the glen
In the haunts of goblin men.
Wear your masks, they called,
Stay isolated or you will fall.
And if your store or market's gone,
All the better for Amazon.
Fear the corvid, fear the crow,
Don our crown where daisies grow.
Another bottle that I really liked and which was even better than this one was Ledaig's 12 YO Future of Whisky TWE release. That was just stellar, IMO, if that helps to give a sense of my sense of things (and inborn handicaps due to personal preference). Ledaig can also have that less than ideal musty wood thing happening. But in the case of the TWE single cask sweet wood (sherry?) bottling, it was just about perfect.