Are you daft for Daftmill? If so, you are certainly not alone. Since the first release in 2018, every single bottle that has hit the market has been snapped up at light speed. Some have been opened and enjoyed, but a quick look at the auction sites tells you that many have been resold, often at eye-watering prices.
My first experience of one of Francis’ creations was at The Pot Still in Glasgow after a whisky tasting. I tried the 2006 Winter Release (2018) and, honestly, I wasn’t blown away. The problem was that I had had six drams beforehand, and the light Lowland whisky had no chance against my battered taste buds! I hadn’t bought the dram myself, but my friend Michael had let me try it, even though I advised him not to buy one. It was a bit on the expensive side and, as mentioned, we had just come from a tasting featuring several punchy whiskies. However, he is such a mega fan, of course, he didn’t listen. At least he enjoyed it, which was the main thing!
My second try was at The Fife Whisky Festival, where I was volunteering. After my shift, I went around to sample the offerings. My first stop was, of course, at the Daftmill table, where Francis’s wife poured me a healthy measure of their (at the time) new winter release 2007. And what did I do? I told her I didn’t like it… I went on to blubber my reasons as to why; namely, I had just had my lunch, and had scoffed too much-fried food and a huge and very indulgent custard-filled doughnut from the local bakery! [Ed. the legendary Fisher & Donaldson doughnut] My palate was screwed up once again, and not well-prepared to appreciate lighter or more subtle drams. I could have kicked myself for being so blunt, but she took it very well and even offered me one of her homemade Daftmill-infused fruit cake slices. Phew!
This experience was a reminder that, at times, I need to think before I speak! I have had trouble with this in the past: for example, the time I commented to a pregnant friend that she could get her teeth done while we were sitting with a large group of friends. I didn’t mean that she needed anything done, just that because she was pregnant she could get anything done for free at the dentist’s, and to take advantage of it. Fortunately, she understood what I meant, but everyone else looked at me with open mouths and incredulous faces until we explained. It was very funny at the time! I was mortified!
For my review today, I have gone back to try the winter release 2007. When I originally sampled this dram I found it hot and fiery, which I put down to the lingering effects of the sugary, custardy fudgy doughnut I had scarfed down. Let’s see if the third time’s a charm with Daftmill. This sample again came from Michael after we did a whisky swap during lockdown 2.0. Socially distanced, of course!
Daftmill Winter Batch Release 2007 (2019) – review
On the nose: this whisky is sweet, with the scent of dusty grapes that gives me a feeling of a light chalky dusting on the nostrils. There is a floralness from freshly cut flowers mixed with their newly-cut grassy stems. It is slightly mineralic and briny. There are muted tones of dried citrus skins, not as punchy as their fresh counterparts. The vanilla and creamy fondant icing presence reminds me of Fry’s Chocolate Cremes without the chocolate. Spice from white pepper and wood make their appearance. Very light and delicate fruits akin to flat peaches that have been honeyed. Cinnamon on dried apple slices, and an almost artificial sweetness taking me back as a child trying to get into a Gobstopper. Rhubarb crumble with almonds and a drop of custard from school lunches. Initially, there is a slight fusty note, barely there in the background, weirdly reminding me of the scent you get when opening a tub of flaked fish food. Not fishy, per se, but maybe more of a wet algae or damp hay.
In the mouth: sweet with chalky vanilla, delicate peaches and a hint of apple. Russet apples come through eventually, and there is a tanginess like you have just finished eating an orange. Nutty and caramel notes are there, reminding me of almond- and hazelnut encrusted nougat. The mouthfeel is oily and resinous. Well-cooked stewed oats with a subtle oak spice. Tannins are present, but not overly drying, giving a lingering bitterness with a sweetie embrace. The floral aspect translates through from the nose, and fairground-roasted nuts make an appearance.
The finish is medium to long, sweet and delicate. The flavour doesn’t die off quickly, considering how gentle this dram is. Lightly drying and soft, with bitter tannins ending in a nice warming heat on this cold winter’s night.
For me personally, I think Daftmills are probably best drunk on their own, or at least first in a line-up because they are so delicate and light. The flavour and subtleties can easily be lost or overshadowed. I have to say, after my first two mediocre experiences with Daftmill, I really, really like this whisky. It is very soft and elegant. This reinforces the habit of revisiting whiskies because you may not initially enjoy it, like I was with Springbank. I look forward to trying more in the future, assuming I can afford it (or even get my hands on a bottle), as I know lots of folk love collecting these whiskies. I now understand why so many people I have met love this distillery! Also, it is worth noting that I am not the first to review this bottling, Jason has previously given his thoughts on it as part of his Daftmill vertical, which is absolutely worth a read.
Photographs kindly harvested from Daftmill – cheers Francis!