It’s been more than four years since I wrote on this blog that I was hoping that this (2015) might be the year that Daftmill would be releasing its first whisky. As it happened, they patiently waited another three years, releasing their first whiskies only in 2018. The latest release from them is an exclusive single sherry cask for their distributor Berry Bros & Rudd. You had to enter a ballot in order to maybe purchase the whisky, and I was one of the lucky ones to be able to do so.
Daftmill, for any reader unaware of the distillery, is that rare example of a small, independently owned farm distillery, producing miniscule amounts of spirits only in summer (June through August) and winter (November–February), the farm taking up the time in spring and autumn. When the distillery came on stream in December of 2005, it was not just a historic day for brothers Francis and Ian Cuthbert, it was a historical day for the Lowland region. If you don’t count those tiny malt distilleries built within larger grain complexes, this was the first time that a new malt whisky distillery began producing whisky in more than a hundred years. Not one new stand-alone malt distillery was built in the lowlands during the entirety of the twentieth century.
Francis has always declared that he wants to make a ”traditional” lowland-style whisky, meaning a relatively light style. Hence Daftmill has disproportionately large condensers and is produced with long fermentations, small wash and spirit charges (i.e. low filling level when distilling), and very high cut points. All of this works to create a light but complex spirit. Almost all of the spirit is filled into first-fill bourbon barrels.
Today, however, we are tasting a sherry cask Daftmill. Cask 39/2006 yielded 621 bottles at a cask strength of 57,4%, the number of bottles revealing that we are dealing with a butt, not a hogshead. The mandatory link to whiskybase here. Here is what I thought:
On the nose: a sherry beast, and a good distillate. An expensive bar of dark chocolate and espresso, and underneath, a dark-fruit bonanza which would make any fan of GlenDronach drool: crushed fresh figs and dates, above all. Underneath that again, there is dried apple and apple juice concentrate; a dusty library filled with old books; cherries. There is a hint of citrus, but that note of orange is actually closer to Cointreau. The tiniest dash of cocoa powder. You have to nose this whisky very carefully for the alcohol not to burn. That dusty library is wonderful, making the whisky more that ”just” your regular sherry bomb. It feels like roughly its age, which is a little impressive given that this was matured in a butt (a five-hundred litre cask, in which the maturation process is slower than in smaller casks).
On the palate: younger than on the nose; even a tiny sip will give a strong attack of a little raw and crude alcohol. The larger cask/the relative youth of the whisky is revealed. It develops with coffee, insane amounts of blackcurrants (we are talking as in the intensity of a Cabernet sauvignon red wine monster). Dark pralines. A hint of leather, roasted hazelnuts. A little more one-sided than on the nose and it definitely feels younger here.
Finish: at first, very little save alcohol (that’s the youth). It develops with intense spices and grapefruit pith (pith is that white stuff between peel/zest and the fruit). Relatively short, and not wholly sort of ”in line” with the nose and the palate. However, at 57,4% and 12–13 years old, it is only to be expected. This whisky will only reveal its true self with water. So…
With water: was there marzipan on the nose before and I missed it, or was this whisky just massively transformed? The dark fruits move to the background, giving way to whole chunks of marzipan. The Cointreau becomes proper orange fruit. There is this Swedish candy with the taste of cola in the shape of pacifiers, I don’t know if these exist outside of Sweden. This:
More water gives raisins and porridge made from semolina, with cinnamon. The palate is much improved with water, yielding more figs and mulled wine spices (especially cinnamon and cloves). There is now also a thicker, almost oily note here. More water gives coffee and dried-up Coca-cola residue. Wonderful. The finish is still a little short, but way less fiery and sour, and more in line with the nose and palate: raisins, cocoa, that dusty old library, cherries.
Conclusions: this is a great whisky. I am normally not much of a lover of these screaming, cask strength sherry monsters, so it’s a difficult ”school” of whisky in which to impress me. I would say that this is an unusually tasty example of such a whisky, especially with water. It’s perhaps daft (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) to complain about the age of the whisky now that Daftmill is finally releasing things and have waited about a decade longer than most of the newer Scottish projects, but I do feel that Daftmill as a distillate will develop hugely with more time: there is in fact a rather bold distillate behind this whisky. It’s not that this whisky is not ready yet, it’s that for me and whiskies from sherry casks, I prefer them when the whisky has had a little more time to sort of, well…calm down. 87 points; for those who love modern screaming sherry bombs, the score will probably land around say 90–91.
I usually blog in Swedish, but every now and then I switch to English. For other posts in English, see here.