It’s not often that a distillery sees such a persistent and fervent clamour for their releases, but distillery size, production output, a great name, continuing popularity, and, of course, the quality of the whisky all drive the somewhat nutty race to grab a bottle.
Entering a ballot for the chance to obtain a bottle from Daftmill is usually fruitless and you have no chance of finding one languishing on a dusty shelf. The chances of securing a bottle are even slimmer when you factor in that Daftmill is a prominent target for the flippers: small batch release, reasonable RRP, and continued acclaim mean any ballot swells in entry size and lowers your chances. Hey ho, that’s the whisky consuming world we all inhabit and it isn’t changing any time soon, although, in fairness, retailers like Royal Mile Whiskies have started a Drammers Reward in which buyers are encouraged to open their bottles at the store. In return they will receive a discount on future purchases – pishing in the wind on a wider scale, but fundamentally it is brilliant to see a retailer attempt to tackle the issue in this way. Maybe others will follow suit.
In terms of size and output, Daftmill are close to the bottom of the scale with the still house only being worked in Summer and Winter. This is due to the site being a working farm where the Cuthbert family have grown barley for six generations, means production is limited to 20,000 litres a year, and each batch release only has approximately 1700 bottles. The Single Cask releases are even more sought after and bottle quantities are even less, usually numbering from roughly 300-600 bottles.
There are other positives that drive the Daftmill frenzy though. The Cuthberts first laid down casks in 2005, but they held off releasing their whisky until they felt it was truly ready. No rushed 3 Year Old bottlings or romanticized Scottish gin were released to supplement the running of the distillery, only patience and a commitment to bottling once they felt the time was right.
Daftmill also puntastically seems to have put the Lowlands back on the map with the region usually a footnote in current whisky times due to being populated by (apologies in advance to fanboys) uninspiring distilleries such as Glenkinchie, Bladnoch, and Auchentoshan. In the interests of parity, it does seem only fair to mention that The Glasgow Distillery are doing their bit for the Lowlands too, including winning a recent award.
Anyway, the whisky. This review is for the 2007 Winter Batch Release which was bottled at the end of 2019 and retailed for £95.00. There were 1785 bottles released at an ABV of 46% and it is an unpeated malt which, like the majority of Daftmill’s releases so far, was matured in Ex-Bourbon casks. I was lucky enough to grab this from Aberdeen Whisky Shop.
Rested in a Glencairn for 10 minutes.
Colour: Pale gold.
Nose: Bourbon-forward with vanilla, hay, and hints of lemon. There’s sweet honey and faint floral notes. It’s light and crisp, like a cool Spring morning in late March. Nothing jumps out of the glass and overpowers – they all just work in harmony, high-fiving and back slapping one another. Lovely stuff.
Palate: A strange one for me. That abundance of freshness has become very peppery – there’s a lot of bite for being only 46%. I hold off adding any water to see if we can become bedfellows with a little more time. A maltiness appears, slowly fresh melon joins the party, and vanilla too. It’s good, but it’s a bit of a letdown after that wonderful nosing.
Finish: Medium finish with smatterings of woodiness and vanilla from the oak.
A nice whisky from a lovely wee distillery, yet I can’t shake the feeling that much of the hype is driven by low bottle quantities, flippers, and the collective desire within the whisky community to try something new and hard to source. It’s a good whisky and £95 is a decent price when you consider how limited it is, but anyone paying double at auction has more money than sense.