A whisky tasting is the opportunity to try new things and engage with others. I feel at times we overlook the opportunity to experience new liquid delights and generously share, like those who did with me, all those years ago. There is no need to be abused by the term masterclass or whatever, which I often suspect is just to increase anticipation and the ticket price.
Justine thankfully decided upon the title of Fife Firsts for my foray into all things from the Kingdom as part of the Fife Whisky Festival. Both tastings sold out, and that’s a reflection of the value offered by the ticket price. For just £35, you were being granted the opportunity to try whiskies that could have been sold on the secondary market for much more. That would have been the easy route to take, and the money would have been welcome, given some of my forthcoming bills. However, I felt compelled to not only make a statement about opening your bottles (as I have been doing on my Instagram channel), but also supporting the efforts of those who organise the Fife Whisky Festival.
If there is a tasting to highlight how the whisky landscape can change in just a mere 12 months, then this is it. For the debut festival, it was not a possible avenue to include Daftmill, Eden Mill or Kingsbarns simply because they had yet to bottle their first whiskies. We could have done a Cameronbridge-come-blend type tasting, but the mystery and interest arguably would have been fairly flat. The public want their single malts and as local as possible please.
In total Malt Truth honesty, my costs for the bottles were covered for the tastings and a small appearance fee as a thank you was also included. Overall, I’d probably have gotten the same figure from selling just the Daftmill Inaugural Release, but where’s the fun in that, I ask? The enjoyment personally for me comes from seeing the reactions from the attendees and the banter across the room. Both audiences seemed to have a good time according to feedback received from the organisers, and possibly we’ll do something a little different in 2020.
My own connection with Fife goes way back decades; I’ve spent most of my life here, thanks to my father’s naval posting to Rosyth. After bouncing around the UK for what seemed like an eternity, we finally settled in Scotland and the Kingdom. Fife does have its characters and a distilling history. I wouldn’t go so far as to join the fanfare calling for the county to become a whisky region in its own right. I find such calls misguided by other forces, as if you’ve had a Daftmill, then you know it is a Lowland whisky along the lines of a Littlemill or Rosebank. And where do you think those distilleries resided? Correct: not in Fife whatsoever.
As promised to the attendees, my impressions on all the whiskies now follow. Having previously enjoyed a bottle, the opportunity to revisit the score of the Daftmill Summer Release was too good to miss. In my conclusions, I’ll also tell you the outcome of the groups and what they thought as well. Ready? Then let us begin with a chorus of Fife whiskies.
Kingsbarns Dream to Dram – review
Distilled in 2015 and bottled at 46%, this is the first widescale single malt from the distillery. Featuring 1st fill ex-bourbon casks from Heaven Hill and 1st fill STR (shaved, toasted and re-charred) casks, this will set you back a pleasant £44.95.
Colour: Diluted appled juice.
On the nose: Timmid apples give way to an envelope gum strip. It’s light and fresh and somewhat spirit based. Melted butter, apricots and a hardened cherry sponge cake. A drop of water smoothes the experience revealing a touch more fruit.
In the mouth: A fresh vanilla and a touch hot and youthful. Stork margarine, balsa wood and a faint raspberry followed by green apples. The addition of water renders the whisky fairly inoffensive and forgettable. This clearly needs more time to delivery on any promise.
Dimple De Luxe Scotch Whisky 1970’s – review
Bottled at 70 proof (40%), this old blend has its roots in Markinch, Scotland and will feature Linkwood, Glenlossie and Glenkinchie. Possibly Mannochmore depending when this was bottled in the 1970’s as this is a later 70’s release.
On the nose: Quite sappy and woody at first. Well worn leather, balsa wood and stewed plums with rhubarb and brown sugar. Some dried fruits, resin, toffee and a twist of pepper. Also wet copper sheets – thanks Andy!
In the mouth: A robust caramel, pulped apples and butterscotch. There’s black pepper on the finish and dried bark. Beforehand a little smoke, musty and a drying quality.
Daftmill 2005 Inagural Release – review
Bottled at 55.8% this is the first and rarest (than rocking horse shit apparently) Daftmill with an outturn of 629 bottles and a vatting of casks 05/02, 05/03 & 05/07.
Colour: Chopped melon.
On the nose: Sliced apples sprinkled with sweet cinnamon and a floral malty style; lovely. Caramel and banana chips, buttery with all-spice and a surprisingly inviting degree of complexity. Yet it remains approachable with coconut flakes, a tinge of dust, orange pips and a Scottish summer in a glass. With a touch of water pine nuts and white chocolate.
In the mouth: A lovely oozing texture with soft vanilla and juicy apples. A light honey wrapped around oat biscuits with a flourish of grapefruit. Almonds, a Highland toffee and a crème brûlée. Water showcases more oils, a white cheddar and freshly baked shortbread.
Daftmill 2006 Summer Release – review
Bottled in 2018 at 46%, this was an outturn of just 1665 bottles.
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.
Eden Mill 1st Release – review
Bottled at 47% this is the first and rarest Eden Mill. An outturn of 300 bottles and a vatting of French virgin oak, US virgin oak and PX casks.
Colour: Rubbed brass.
On the nose: A strange brew of floral notes with Fisherman’s Friends – robust lozenge. Pencil shavings and a sharp raspberry tart. Oaky it must be said and some vanilla as well before being assaulted by cranberries and woodspices. Hazelnuts, oats, rosehip oil takes us into toffee and freeze dried strawberries
In the mouth: Toffee apples, cranberries and plenty of copper. A touch drying midway with plenty of oilness and a syrup flapjack before toasted wholemeal bread kicks in. More cask driven on the palate but some skillful deployment but a point deducted for the price of £395.
I bet you thought the Dimple would kick off the event? That’s a reflection of timid blends we see nowadays, but this De Luxe has a style and body from a bygone era. Some interesting flavours within but the opening honour fell to the Kingsbarns Dream to Dram. Generally, this was well received by both sets of attendees who had realistic expectations noting the age. The design of the bottle and the price point received plaudits, but the whisky was felt to be more a marking of the moment than anything other than an easy drinker.
The Daftmill’s it must be said dominated both sessions. The Summer Release was the most popular across both tastings offering a level of complexity and balance that the inaugural couldn’t match; although it did come close during the final session.
Both are impressive whiskies and sadly I don’t have another bottle of the inagural to share with everyone, but Francis did have some interesting whiskies at this stand. The future looks promising for Fife.
The Eden Mill was a rare opportunity to see this bottle open and engage with the contents. The #1 bottle in the outturn went for a ridiculous £7,100 and that’s alot of Glen Mhor in my book!
Again, there wasn’t any negativity around the contents itself and it failed to attract any votes during the initial session. However, part 2 and 3 attendees felt it warranted their vote over the powerhouse combo from Daftmill. Personally, I think it shows some skillful blending and useage of casks with the outcome being better than anticipated. Still not worth £7,100 or the £395 my bottle cost.
Finally, my thanks to all the attendees for supporting these tastings and to Karen and Justine for organising such a relaxed and enjoyable festival. Maybe, we’ll do something fun in 2020.
Photo’s kindly provided by The Fife Whisky Festival, Dan Mosley and Karen Patel.