Finally, the moment you’ve been playing out within your mind arrives and you’re anxious as to whether to continue or not. Before you proudly stands the prize, a bottle of whisky you may have searched high and low for, across continents and auction sites for months, if not years. You may have successfully won a ballot or fought off onlookers to grab the latest release. Whatever the target or methodology, this moment is now yours.
Daftmill has been a long time coming. Knowing Francis Cuthbert, Co-founder and distiller, he may have taken even longer if he wanted to. Such is the man and his passion for the Lowland style and whisky in general. Having tasted a handful of cask samples in his presence over the years, you can sense his mind is focused upon the dram at hand. This was universally met with the same outcome. It’s not ready yet, more fruitiness required, almost but not quite. And with that proclamation, the warehouse door slammed firmly shut and the prospect of a Daftmill release was consigned to the darkness.
In 2018 we have seen miracles in whisky amidst a growing sense of madness and sheer disbelief. There have been some positives amongst the diatribe of events, bottle prices and profiteering. The success of MALT since its launch last October for instance and what we’ve done daily since. The realisation for several social media channels that transparency is key and having to revisit their blinkered ways. Even in the realm of the negative, there are always shoots of promise. The onslaught of inaugural releases from Scottish distilleries with an increasingly mind-blowing price tag – see my New Bottle Order piece – and arguably the whole gold rush was kicked off by Daftmill. When the announcement of the Berry Bros deal was revealed I checked the date on my calendar. No, it was finally happening.
The inaugural release hit the shelves briefly at £210 and for a 12 year old whisky is upon reflection a very good price lets face it. These debut releases are trophies and not everyday drinkers. That’s the madness of the climate today where I can say a 12 year old at £200+ is well priced. I know, perhaps I’m also infected with the gold rush fanfare around anything new?
I’m sure if you managed to grab a bottle, Francis would be telling you to sell it. An example recently was the £210 Daftmill flipped the following month for £735 on a recent auction site. That’s the modern swell we’re living in when it comes to whisky and for those who wish to enjoy the contents, it’s a competition with the financially invested to secure a bottle. For the record, I managed to secure the inaugural Daftmill for myself. A fortunate slice of luck and a review will appear here in 2019.
Why the delay? Well, simply because I’ve promised to do a special Fife whisky tasting. This means both Daftmill releases to date will be opened alongside the single cask Eden Mill, which is their inaugural whisky in an edition of just 300 bottles. We’ll have a historical blend with links to Fife to open up the tasting and another debut bottling once secured. It should make for a memorable event and something I won’t be able to repeat given the rising prices of these bottles on the secondary market. Yes, selling would make financial sense and pay for a holiday to the States or wherever, but where’s the fun in that? Several of my greatest whisky memories are opening, sharing and seeing the reactions. I’m sure on looking whisky consultants will be livid as there is no profit model at work, simply the enjoyment factor.
The deal between Daftmill and Berry Bros seems a worthwhile one. The bottles are pleasingly restrained and devoid of packaging. The pricing is refreshing and the company has a well-established distribution framework meaning you have a greater chance of trying a Daftmill. For Francis, it takes away the inconvenience and hassle of actually bottling his whisky. Instead, he can concentrate on next year’s crop and distillate, meaning we will have more Daftmill to enjoy on what I hope is a regular basis.
The distillery itself is situated on the family farm just outside the Fife town of Cupar. Situated in a stunning spot and in 2003 started the process of establishing their own distillery in the old mill buildings that date back to Napoleonic times. As farmers, the Cuthbert brothers are the sixth generation to grow their own barley in the Howe of Fife. Most of this is sold back to the industry for whisky production, but they do keep enough for themselves. Daftmill’s production is minimal by Scottish standards with only 100 casks being filled each year, mostly in the off-season when Francis isn’t too busy with the farm and its daily upkeep.
This particular Daftmill release was distilled in 2006 and is almost 12 years old. Matured in the farm warehouse in ex-bourbon barrels, it was distilled using 100% Chariot barley from the farm itself, giving the whole product a Fife exclusivity. Bottled at 46% strength, it was released in a minimal style that replicates the down to earth nature of its origins. It should be about the whisky after all.
Daftmill 2006 Summer Release – review
Colour: a light olive oil
On the nose: a lovely fruity arrival, classic Lowland in nature. The gentle caress of the cask and the principle of patience. Let mother nature do its thing. Sliced apples, white grapes, cotton sheets, a light vanilla, pears and tinned pineapple juice. White chocolate, peach stone, an old style lemonade, lychees, a floral daisy note and a delicate strawberry. An evocative nose and a promising start.
In the mouth: a satisfying summer whisky. Juicy, not to the extent of the old school fruit bombs, but it certainly is on the right road. A lovely poise and elegance. Rememnicient of some teenage Littlemills I’ve had from Signatory such as that 1990 13 year old. Lemon zest, vanilla sponge, tinned peaches, green bananas and spun sugar work. Refined and not a style you see much of nowadays if at all.
I’m actually ecstatic that Daftmill is finally out there for enthusiasts to try and not just us mere Fife locals. A very emotional whisky for me, that’s hard to summarise. Finally, Daftmill is here and within this liquid are so many memories captured in time. I’m sure the inaugural release is solid enough but this Summer Edition is well priced and representative of the style Francis was seeking to emulate. A beautifully balanced whisky, with crowd-pleasing aromas and flavours. Bravo!
My thanks to Ed for the sample – top man!