Earlier this month Daftmill announced that their latest bottling (single cask #068 from 2008) would only be sold in 25ml drams in venues operated by The Independent Whisky Bars of Scotland group. At £10 a pop (ergo extrapolated to £280 a bottle) and only to be found in a handful of bars north of the border, it’s fair to say that enthusiasts are now starting to see the problems inherent with Daftmill. Few bottles are being opening. Many (including myself) thought that after the initial hype for the inaugural release back in the summer of last year things would start to quieten down. We were wrong.
A winter release followed and subsequently seven single casks – all have been sucked up with the force of a high-end Dyson. All have been heavily flipped on auction sites.
The problems are partly production based, and party greed based. The distillery is relatively tiny – 100 casks a year. That presents supply issues – though Daftmill is far from the only small operator out there. But, waiting 12 years before bottling their first expressions built up a particularly effervescent head of fan steam. People like to get in on things early doors – you see it with all new openings. Daftmill fans though have 12 year old whisky – and that’s a different proposition to the 3 and 4 year old whisky which is available from the other new players. Both the waiting and the limited stock add a premium price to Daftmill. It’s expensive 12 year old whisky – but, it’s not made in the same fashion and same scale as that of the bigger players across Scotland, so direct comparisons are not really fair – prices are different because costs are different. But fans are always the same – loyal, but continually demanding.
Daftmill fans are a very motivated bunch. And looking at some of the Facebook forums, they’re also a very vocal bunch. But they’re up against it – expressions from the distillery are a flippers paradise – obtain bottle, sell bottle – profit. Totally Ferengi. Let’s see over time as more of the annual summer and winter releases come out whether the situation improves – I certainly hope that we’ll witness more open bottles in time. And the fanbase must desperately want this also – realistically, it’s the only way it’ll grow longer term.
At some point the Daftmill bunfight must surely calm down. And there’s a danger then that when folks have moved to the next big shiny that the core audience for the distillery have not been exposed to the spirit itself. I.E. if it’s so hard for anyone to actually taste, people will eventually give up trying to do so.
So, whilst the newly announced cask by the dram sounds limited in terms of its distribution (it’s just one single cask), it’s still a positive move - there are more options for sampling Daftmill then there were before. Oh and you’ll find drams of the 2008 available at these locations: The Ardshiel (Campbeltown), Artisan (Wishaw), The Bon Accord (Glasgow), Dornoch Castle Hotel (Dornoch), Fiddlers Inn (Drumnadrochit), The Highlander Inn (Craigellachie) and The Malt Room (Inverness).
Today’s Daftmill review is of one of more ‘chasey’ bottles that have been produced – take a single cask, and add sherry, and you’ll have fans and flippers salivating alike. This single cask in question was a 1st fill oloroso sherry butt (#039) which was laid down in 2006 before being bottled at 57.4% as a Berry Bros & Rudd exclusive. 621 bottles were produced with an original RRP was £145, but given the already palpable furore around Daftmill, BBR wisely decided to sell this via a ballot limited to one per person. But, gamers be gamers, so I’ve seen photos of the more unscrupulous who’ve somehow managed to obtain 2, 3, 4 or even more bottles. Clearly registering your dogs and cats for ballots and using your grandma’s address details is still a common practice.
It’s safe to say that this bottling is rarely being opened – of the 109 listed on Whiskybase – only 6 are presently marked as open (and remember, some folks use WB as a system for tracking the drams they’ve had rather than the bottles they possess). Either way, a look at online auctions reveals the dizzyingly heights this bottle did reach - £540 on SWA – cripes. Though it has now fallen back to around £300 – people have moved onto the next shiny. Nevertheless, that’s over double the RRP. A stiff proposition for a modern 12 year old whisky and a stiff proposition for a fan to be forking out for with the intention actually drinking the stuff.
But, some people have opened their bottles – and to them, I doff my cap.
Nose: Intense dark chocolate, spent coffee grounds and molasses are joined by heavily reduced cherries and plums – stewed down in a herbal liquor of liquorice, aniseed and arrowroot. Fresher sherry notes of red berries punctuate and are joined by a slight, but perceptible underlying minerality – not quite chalkiness. Dilution adds a mustiness to the composition – earthy basement floors, mushrooms and mossiness.
Taste: Powerful and concentrated on the arrival with an array of deep, syrupy flavours – cough medicine, well-steeped black tea, plump raisins and sultanas, orange peels and reduced plums. There’s a savouriness in the mid palate – air dried ham alongside mahogany wood panelling, leather armchairs, old books and charred cask heads. And there’s also sweetness with chocolate cake and Armagnac soaked prunes. Oh and bitterness – quite a lot of bitterness from pepper and cloves. Reduction lowers this astringency whilst adding juiciness to the fruit complement – in short, it’s just easier going – though arguable less penetrating and defined.
Finish: Long, with ground chocolate and walnuts. Quite oaky too – dry with a chance of tannins.
This Daftmill single cask is well-made, modern, and the most complex I’ve experienced from the distillery to date. The 1st fill sherry has had a profound influence on the usually clean and sharp spirit, soaking up every ounce of deep and dark flavour from the cask. It’s fairly challenging – an intense ride through sweet, bitter and savoury - and a heavy-style profile is the end result. I’m OK with that – though I find the bitterness here a little distracting on the palate, and do wonder where the Daftmill distillate is lurking in the sea of sherry influence.
But don't take our word for it..
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