All aboard the hype train

Posted 16 September 2019 by Matt / In Daftmill
The Dramble reviews Daftmill 2006 Single cask 021

Bottle Name: Daftmill 2006 Single cask 021

ABV: 57.1%
Distillery: Daftmill
Region: Lowlands

Don’t be too tough on yourself. We’re all hard-wired to mentally reward ourselves for fulfilling our “needs” for in-demand products. This isn’t just a facet of 21st Century consumerism, it has existed since the dawn of humankind. When a person obtains something they really crave, the brain releases dopamine – a chemical both critical to our mental health, as well as responsible for that familiar warm fuzzy feeling of contentedness. But, if you factor in hype – which could be a combination of anticipation, limited access, increased expectations of quality or simply that of status – this chemical reaction is magnified several times over.

There’s been countless psychological experiments conducted since the dawn of consumerism and some of the results of these have been rather surprising. Take for instance a study conducted at Stanford which sought to examine how the brain delivered consumerist pleasure. Subjects were presented with photos of objects available to purchase (DVD’s, books, games, electrical items etc) and then after a short break presented with the price of each item and asked whether or not to make a purchase – The study looked at the reactions within the brain at three separate times during this process – when the product was first presented, when the price was displayed and when the subject made a decision to either purchase or not. For some the dopamine release was diminished when the price was presented, but for others, no matter how high the price, the chemical release was just as strong – in essence, the pleasure received was identical whether it was a small item or a larger, bolder purchase.

You can see this with the whisky world, both with particular desirable bottles, but also with the entire outputs of whole distilleries. Folks love to back a ‘team’ – another psychological discussion for another day. In terms of the newer distilleries, both Daftmill and particularly Chichibu seem to draw out a near sea of enthusiasts, some who demonstrate almost infinite buying elasticity. This new whisky is not all just about ego (though that certainly pays its part in some quarters). It is being actively driven by corporate anticipation and deliberate supply limitations in the knowledge that these drive hype. The more in-demand a new bottle is, the harder it is to obtain, ergo, the more some consumers simply have to possess it. And some will spend countless hours sourcing that bottle. What is it they say? For some, it’s all about the chase...

This Daftmill single cask was released earlier this year as part of a parcel of UK exclusive releases. It was distilled in 2006 and matured in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel before being bottled at 57.1%. 234 bottles were released at a cost of around £150 and were shared across a selection of UK retailers, all of whom received a small allocation. Take one too many breaths and you’d have missed it. A combination of hysteria and arch-profiteering saw all of these bottles evaporated immediately. Save for Master of Malt’s allocation which was split between drams, a bottle ballot and a bottle auction. Just about as fair as it gets all things considered.

Fast forward a mere month and you’ll find the hype and sheer greed accomplishing things such as this and rather more unscrupulously this. Daftmill seems to be at the sharp end of whisky exploitation - It’s relatively new to the world, but has developed a solid reputation and a small army of fans. It has a tiny overall capacity and releases infrequent small batches – with no intentions to be changing either of those things. And yet, it’s already over 12 years old. And that’s potentially the differentiating factor here.

Across the UK we’ve seen a period of incredibly growth over the last 10 years – accompanied by a tranche of new openings. This has brought with it a growing heap of three year old whisky. Some of it quite lovely, some of it decidedly average. But, nevertheless, it’s not unfair to suggest that the market wants more diversity than a pool of young malt. Daftmill’s decision to wait 12 years before bottling has paid off in terms of its ‘new and shiny’ appeal. Here, the foam mouthed anticipation is joined by a level of liquid maturity not available from the younger distilleries. The combination is a perfect storm for both fandom and unbridled hype – to a point where those who see themselves as ‘true Daftmill fans’ take the dimmest of views on the flippers and profiteers. It’s not just our global politics which seem to be getting more and more polarised...

Nose: Golden barley, yeasty bread and cookie dough sit with a flinty minerality – quartz-like, chalky and with a touch of baby powder. Lemon chapstick and sunflower oils are joined by orange fruit tea, hay and plenty of garden florals – daisies and buttercups. The addition of water adds lemon drops and anise spicing, whilst upping the floral complement further.

Taste: Bigger, bolder and exceedingly sharp on the arrival. Flints again (if this was a wine, the French would describe it as “goût de pierre à fusil”), limestone, cold wet steel and granite powder – alongside a fair whack of raw alcohol. Tart grapefruits and under ripe gooseberries are sweetened by white choc chip cookies, coconut shavings and vanilla extract, whist the mid-palate offers toasted bread, grassiness and mentholated oak. Reduction improves the balance with white grapes, garden stems and cut grass – nevertheless, this is bone dry and with flintiness still dominating.

Finish: Medium in length with plenty of oak character, and spirit rawness.

Despite the hysteria, it turns out that the Daftmill spirit is just as susceptible to the vagaries of single casks as any other liquid. Here, whilst the light, approachable floralness of the distillate is still present, the cask has repeatedly beaten it over the head with sharp flinty minerality. It’s well known that filling rubbish spirit into an amazing cask is not going to product stunning whisky – but the same is true of great spirit – it too needs quality wood to truly shine. Here, sadly that’s not the case and the end result is over-powered, under-developed and poorly balanced. Don’t believe the hype.

Score: 77/100


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