Whisky hype is at an all-time high. These days, to buy a highly sought after release like a Daftmill takes a combination of effort and luck. Online, you need to constantly refresh pages and react to new releases with lightning click speeds. In person, you might need to camp on concrete for a night or even longer. Post-purchase, many bottles from hyped releases are delivered straight to auction houses, where the hype and the chase continues. It’s all a bit much. No wonder some people get disillusioned.
Some producers and retailers want to keep the hype going but without turning people off. They want people to drink and talk about the whisky rather than just queue for it and so they have started coming up with more creative ways to encourage – or even enforce – their whiskies to be opened. For example, if you’re lucky enough to buy a Buffalo Trace Antique Collection bottle from Master of Malt, you’ll find that your name is engraved on the bottle as part of an oath not to sell it, meaning that auctioning the bottle would expose your betrayal to the world. Fat shaming may be controversial, but in whisky circles flip shaming is pretty popular.
Milroy’s of Soho go a step beyond. At their Pappy Van Winkle raffle tastings, each person who buys a Van Winkle bottle must open the bottle on the spot. The atmosphere buzzes and every tear of the seal receives a good-hearted cheer, though the scene would surely turn ugly fast if someone refused to open their bottle. When Milroy’s recently released their own exclusive Chichibu single cask, they went even further. To prevent the bottle being flipped, buyers had to sign a purchase contract. If the buyer opened the bottle on the spot, they would be guaranteed the option to buy the next exclusive Milroy’s bottling. Extreme conditions demand extreme responses.
A nice thing about these methods of sale is that they make the purchaser happy to open their new bottle. We all have bills to pay and can face unexpected expenses, both of which whisky sales can help with. Understandably, people end up too afraid to open bottles they know they would fetch hefty sums on the secondary market. I know I’m guilty of this. But most whisky drinkers do want to open and enjoy their special bottles. If opening a bottle upon purchase is compulsory, then there’s no option to stress and you can instead focus on enjoying a dram. And that’s a bit like how I experienced today’s whisky.
This Daftmill bottling takes a different anti-flipping approach. Bottles are impossible to hoard or flip because they have not been made available for purchase at all. The only way to taste the whisky is to go to one of seven Scottish whisky bars and buy a dram.
The whisky is from cask #063/2008, a first fill bourbon barrel filled in December 2008 and bottled at 55.5% ABV in August 2019 for The Independent Whisky Bars of Scotland. It was distilled from Optic barley, which was harvested at Daftmill farm in summer 2006 and malted externally in summer 2007. A total of 160 bottles were produced. I paid £13 for a 35ml dram at the Bon Accord in Glasgow.
Nose: Sweet and layered, with malt on top, honey underneath, plus cinnamon and ginger baked in. This recipe would make a good granola. There’s also a slight citrus edge and hints of linseed oil. Adding water emphasises a dry woodiness, adding black pepper.
Taste: The honey and cinnamon granola is still here, with more malt and vanilla than the nose and some orange oil in the development. The mouthfeel is medium to oily. Water turns up the spices and further water introduces a flinty mineral element.
Finish: Long and spicy on cinnamon toast. With water, woodier with drying sawdust and tannins.
Daftmill produces very good whisky and this is a fine example of the distillery make. But although they must have high production costs by industry standards, the whisky is still expensive for its age and quality. Good as it is, it’s not the kind of transcendental liquid that I would go well out of my way for. Still, I am glad that I’ve tried it. This bar-exclusive release is ideal for me and for people who haven’t sampled Daftmill yet, as it lets us taste the whisky without fighting crowds or F5 buttons. I would welcome more and more widely available by-the-dram releases from Daftmill and others in the future. Sometimes it’s better to try a dram and never have a bottle than to have a bottle and never try a dram.
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