Distell Limited Releases 2018 – Deanston, Tobermory & Bunnahabhain

Distell Limited Releases 2018 Header

We’re all familiar with the Diageo Special Releases, yes? This annual, limited edition, ten-expression-strong line up is one of the most anticipated events of the year, as whisky lovers all over the world wait to see what goodies will be bottled from Diageo’s vast inventory. Distell look to have done something similar themselves, with the release of six limited edition expressions from their three distilleries – Deanston, Tobermory and Bunnahabhain – including the Ledaig and Mòine variants from their island distilleries. There’s also a wide variety of casks on show; Brandy, Red Wine, Fino, Oloroso, Pedro Ximénez and the rare Palo Cortado casks all make an appearance. Varied and eclectic, to say the least.

Speaking of the releases Derek Scott, Brand Director for Distell’s Malt Whisky, said: “Each of these new releases is unique. They tell their own story of where they came from, by maintaining the flavour profiles known to each of the brands, while having individual enhancements from being finished in carefully selected casks for their final maturation.”

So here we are. Three distilleries, six whiskies, and more cask types than an apprentice cooper knows what to do with. Let’s dive in.

Deanston 2008 Brandy Cask Finish
56.4% ABV
£59.95 here

Nose: Quite oaky and spicy initially, with pepper, mace, freshly sawn oak and some dried ginger. Then some dusty muesli, honeycomb, beeswax, polish and syrupy fruits; pears, figs and peaches.

Palate: Quite cereally and malty; honey on cornflakes, a peppery spice, brunt fruit loaf, toasted sultanas, some chestnuts, cooking chocolate and praline. There’s an almost coppery, meaty thing too – a slight savouriness with some leather.

Finish: Baking spices, rich toffee and some sticky dried fruits along with thick oak notes.

Tobermory 2005 Fino Cask Finish
12 years old
55.1% ABV
£110 here

Nose: A nutty, savoury thing straight off, with Brazil nut, walnut and some brie. Then salted caramel, honey, vanilla Angel delight, currants and a drying sherry note. The Fino certainly comes through towards the end.

Palate: Very juicy to begin, with red currants, brambles, cranberries, gooseberries and some fruit and nut chocolate. That savoury thing is back – maybe a hard smoked cheese now? Orange peel too. Then drying oak and some tea leaf.

Finish: Cherry liqueur, chocolate and dry oak.

Ledaig 1998 Pedro Ximénez Sherry Cask Finish
19 years old
55.7% ABV
£159.95 here

Nose: Quite smoke-forward, with dry and slightly medicinal smoke, singed heather and rosemary, wet pebbles and sand. Then the PX influence comes through, with dates, prunes, some treacle and orange oils. A sticky, sweet BBQ whisky glaze too.

Palate: Whisky glazed ribs, fat soaked BBQ embers, some leather, raisins, faint espresso and chewy oak with cigar, cinnamon swirls and coffee liqueur.

Finish: BBQ smoke, dried fruit and a bit of clove.

Ledaig 1998 Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish
19 years old
46.3% ABV
£130 RRP

Nose: Really quite earthy and nutty, with conifers, sweet compost, seaweed, and some mineralic notes. The oloroso finish is quite subtle – some chocolate mousse, glace cherries and chocolate covered raspberries.

Palate: Black Forest gateau, chocolate orange, gentle peat smoke, lime peel and toasted vanilla pods. Underneath, there’s red currants, some leather, prune juice, blackcurrant cordial and gentle oak tannins.

Finish: Waves of smoke, some coffee liqueurs and earthy, dunnage notes.

Bunnahabhain 2008 Mòine Bordeaux Red Wine Cask Matured
58.1% ABV
£74.95 here

Nose: Very barbeque-y, with BBQ’d seafood, embers, beach bonfire, coal dust, soot, smoked fish and a peat hearth. Then cooked apples, dried apricot, red grapes, soy sauce, smoky bacon crisps, some vinegar too, and burnt almonds.

Palate: Thick and chewy, with rolling woodsmoke, some creosote, industrial smoke, a little oiliness, blackcurrants, raisins, some burnt caramel, sweet pipe tobacco and pencil shavings.

Finish: Lingering woodsmoke, drying tannins, cinnamon and a bittersweet red vermouth note.

Bunnahabhain Palo Cortado Cask Finish
54.9% ABV
£275 RRP

Nose: Very dark and brooding; muscovado sugar, manuka honey, walnut loaf, cacao nibs, and some sandalwood. Then a slightly musky note, some teak, polished old mahogany, charred steak, cloves, cinnamon stick and all spice.

Palate: Morello cherries, molasses, liquorice, star anise, old leather, more cinnamon and mulchy forest floor. Some toasted oak, hazelnut praline, blackberry and cranberry too.

Finish: Tobacco, black tea and grippy oak.

Overall: Six very different, and very interesting whiskies. I wondered how all these different cask finishes and maturations would work, and generally speaking, they have worked, and worked well. The Deanston and Tobermory don’t quite do it for me (they are maybe just a bit too weird), but once you get some sherry casks involved with some smoky/coastal spirit, it makes for very enjoyable whisky. My top pick is possibly the Bunnahabhain 2008 Mòine Bordeaux Red Wine Cask Matured – the Palo Cortado Finish runs it close, but given the chasm in price, the red wine cask just nicks it. I enjoyed the Ledaigs too, and so in terms of variety of flavour and price points, there really is something for everyone here. No matter what weird shit you’re into.




  1. I love the variety that is coming out of the Distell stable. The cask variety is amazing. I just wish a few more of these releases made their way to SA.

  2. Hi Jeannette,
    Thanks for your comment. I also applaud the variety, even if a couple of them weren’t to my taste (!), but I suppose with slightly experimental stuff like this, there’s always going to be limited production and therefore allocation. Who knows, if this becomes a more frequent thing, hopefully more weird stuff will make its way to SA!

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