Do you think it is safe to step outside now? When I consider Daftmill today, I’m reminded of the calm after an intense storm, or the sense of relief once a virus has been expelled. For a while in 2019, things became somewhat manic, demented, sickening and upsetting.
Like a plague of locusts, the flippers have seemingly moved onto new targets leaving widespread damage. Who their next victim is remains to be seen. Perhaps these individuals are setting up camp, preparing to chase one of the perfumed Waterford bottles, the next hyped Bimber release or a well-priced single cask Ardbeg from Cadenhead’s. Speaking of which, last year’s 25-year-old Ardbeg was £250 and a year on and a year older, will now cost you £350. The sister casks are showing the rising cost of whisky, with the 2018 24-year-old Ardbeg costing £210. Even the value domain of Cadenhead’s has to respond to increased demand and increasing numbers of predators. A jump in cost, but an entry fee I’m sure many will pay for a variety of reasons. Personally, I was fortunate enough to get a bottle and immediately passed it onto my good friend and Ardbeg nut, Andy, for cost price.
I’m more than willing to help out the enthusiasts and the bottle openers. I’ve done the same with Daftmill, when able, and other releases from distilleries. In doing so, I’m pleased to say that thanks to the generosity of several individuals I’m able to bring you this Daftmill horizontal today.
Honestly, I’ve been torn about this article and covering Daftmill in general. My fondness for this distillery over the years is well known, being my local producer, there is a sense of pride like many can appreciate with their own local distiller. Yet I’ve also seen the distasteful behaviours around each release and the disappointment of Daftmill who want people to enjoy their whisky for its characteristics and not any residual value.
I don’t want to play any role in fanning any values on the secondary market: we’re already seeing such behaviours where bottle scores are being pimped to the benefit of speculators who are orchestrating such moves. It also shows the lengths that some will go to nowadays to maximise their return. At the end of the day, whisky is to be enjoyed and the only winners in all of this are the auctioneers.
You’ll be asking then, what’s changed to bring about this article? Simply, I was asked to write about Daftmill for Distilled Magazine and specifically Issue 8. I enjoyed the experience and working with Johanna to deliver the final submission. Around this time, I also took friends from California to Daftmill, as the last distillery in their marathon tour across Scotland. Watching their reaction as Francis took them around the distillery, offering a level of detail and access that few other experiences can offer, culminating in a marvellous tasting.
The Single Farm Estate dynamic resonated tremendously and the sense of enjoyment and appreciation was palpable and inspiring. Reflecting upon the day, we hear so much about terroir generally and yet here’s a small distillery growing and distilling their own whisky and not rushing it to market. There’s no need for cathedrals, choirs or corporate budgets. Only the sound of the countryside surrounds Daftmill and the casks that reside in traditional warehouses waiting for their moment. There’s a pleasing lack of bull, except for the produce from nearby cattle.
I cannot put my finger on why entirely, but ultimately this moment feels right. The feedback from the article worldwide has been humbling and I only hope that such inspired individuals are able to purchase a dram, or bottle, to continue their appreciation.
Since then, for full disclosure, I’ve taken on the role of Online Editor for Distilled and I’m honoured to do so, having read all of their issues. In an age of ineffective and biased magazines such as the SMWS Unfiltered and the Whisky Magazine. Here is a publication that sets a high standard visually and in terms of content. It feels like a printed extension of what we do here at Malt and has a broader scope and vision. The fact that a handful of the Malt team has chipped in with printed articles underlines many symmetries. If you do see a copy for sale, give it a whirl: I’ve learned so much about a world outside of whisky.
I’ve said enough and Francis will be telling me to get on with the whisky, so let’s do that right now. Thanks to the recent Fife Whisky Festival, I was able to acquire a sample of the latest Winter Batch Release, as a last minute bonus.
Daftmill 2006 Berry Bros – review
A sherry cask 039/2006, bottled in 2019, resulting in an outturn of 621 bottles, at a strength of 57.4%.
On the nose: cola cubes, vanilla, aniseed and resin. This is the dark side of Daftmill. Raisins, blackcurrant jam, porridge oats, dates, prunes and soy sauce. Cinder toffee, treacle, stewed apples, malted loaf, cinnamon and chocolate digestives. Water delivers more sweetness. With time tobacco, hemp and orange peel.
In the mouth: it is all about the cask. Totally dominant. Heavy sherry. Suffocating. Resin, all-spice, cinnamon, coffee beans, drying and cloves. It’s drinkable but not what Daftmill truly is about. Some much-needed water brings about a more rounded affair. Dark chocolate, bitterness, ginger loaf, cloves and liquorice.
Daftmill 2006 Royal Mile Whiskies – review
A 1st fill single cask bourbon 044/2006, bottled in 2019, resulting in an outturn of 231 bottles, at a strength of 56%.
On the nose: almonds and the staple of duo of apples and pears. Some white chocolate, a density to the nose initially, buttery, caramel and popcorn. Some cereals with shortbread, marzipan, blackberries and pencil shavings. Given time some orange zest appears and water unlocks a touch of smoke and a custard tart.
In the mouth: a pleasing chewy mouthfeel, toffee, vanilla, white chocolate and cinnamon. An oily richness, cinnamon, cask char, liquorice and blueberries. Some honeysuckle, lots of barley and zesty with limes an orange oil. Water didn’t unearth much apart from a rich oiliness.
Daftmill 2008 Summer Batch UK – review
Bourbon casks 056/2008, 058/2008, 060/2008, 062/2008, 065/2008, 066/2008, bottled in 2019, resulting in an outturn of 1760 bottles, at a strength of 46%.
Colour: white gold.
On the nose: an assortment of apples and pears, icing sugar, light honey and a little yeast. Delicate peaches combine with a floral aspect, all-spice, vanilla pod, barley drops and sawdust. Very crisp and clear, which is becoming a Daftmill staple. The addition of water reveals some freshly plucked mint leaf and green apples.
In the mouth: more assorted meadow fruits, boiled candy and an enjoyable approachability. Lychees, more honey, some gooseberries and cinnamon. Adding water isn’t really beneficial, it brings out some bitterness on the short finish.
Daftmill 2006 Taiwan – review
A single cask 048/2006, bottled in 2019, resulting in an outturn of 201 bottles, at a strength of 54.9%.
Colour: a golden sunset.
On the nose: a very light nose initially, which lulls you into a false sense of security. Vanilla, mustiness, cardboard, white grapes and raw dough. Patience is rewarded as the choir arrives to hand out apples, poached pears, porridge, gooseberries, wine gums, lime zest and almonds. Water doesn’t bring out a cathedral, instead there are bananas and lemon cheesecake.
In the mouth: a real surprise on the palate as a rich barley sweetness descends. Overly ripe apples and pears, vanilla marshmallows, raw pastry and a noticeable maltiness. Chalky on the finish with cream and white pepper. Water showcases a pleasing floral aspect, a gentle and calm nature with more oils.
Daftmill 2008 Whisky Bars of Scotland – review
A single cask 068/2008, bottled in 2019, resulting in an outturn of ?? bottles, at a strength of 55.5%.
On the nose: apples, pineapple and melon. A tinge of alcohol and butterscotch. Buttery popcorn, caramel, sweet pastry dough, nutmeg, Caramac, honey and a pleasing nuttiness. Water brings out more alcohol and wood spice
In the mouth: very dense initially, with caramels and vanilla, pears and honey. Some chocolate, amber, oatcakes and toasted oak. Adding water here just echoed the limitations of this robust and angular cask.
Daftmill 2007 Winter Batch Release – review
Your latest batch, bottled in 2020 at 46% and limited to 1690 bottles.
Colour: white gold.
On the nose: a signature Daftmill nose with a lovely array of juicy meadow fruits and a touch of cinnamon with a slice of orange peel. Vanilla doesn’t hide the presence of depth or body, with a rich oiliness and buttery pancakes. Then there are wafer cones, toffee, Royal icing, peaches and a floral note throughout. Water makes things creamier and more honeyed.
In the mouth: creamy vanilla mixed in with those meadow fruits once again. Some marzipan, almonds and pecans with caramel on the finish. An enjoyable slice of bitterness in what is an elegant and gentle dram. Water reveals more fruits and a tangy nature with more oils unlocked.
It was certainly very enjoyable and provocative to sit down with these whiskies over the course of 2 evenings. Hopefully, our Patreons supporters enjoyed the extra video footage of the tasting via Instagram a few weeks ago as well. I appreciate for many out there a single Daftmill is a rarity, but 6 is heady stuff.
The Summer release was immediately the most vibrant upon nosing. Displaying its characteristics with aplomb early on. The other whiskies in comparison took longer to open up with the Taiwan cask being the most muted of all. When I returned to it the 2nd night, it displayed more zest and fruit amongst the musty cereal fog. The Royal Mile cask was the most intriguing, while the Whisky Bars cask was the most pungent in terms of alcohol.
Adding water to these whiskies didn’t move me in any great direction whatsoever. I did enjoy the opportunity to do so given the limited nature of each of these releases. The exception to the water rule was the sherry cask. This really needed some patience and water. Without, the cask is all dominant and ridiculously so. It has just gone too far in the wood. Water cannot repair the sizeable damage, but it does tone down the assault on the palate.
Overall, a selection of whiskies that confirms the benefits of the long wait. There are subtle differences between the single cask releases with the alcohol of the Bars release being an oddity when pitched again the rolling sweetness of the Taiwan cask.
As for the latest Winter Batch? I think it’s a close thing, but I’d put it slightly ahead of the 2006 Winter Release, which was my favourite until now. A lovely, joyous reminder that good whisky can be made with the simplest of ingredients and the desire to find perfection. Such a shame that finding a bottle is going to be a nightmare for many of us.
My thanks to Coldorak from MoreDramsLessDrama for the Berry Bros. and Royal Mile Whisky samples plus the excellent photograph. Stuart from Whisky Whims chipped in with another with the remainder coming from Francis.