...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Daftmill 2006 Summer Release (2019)

Whisky distilling is an optimist's business. Not whisky branding, though. Here in the US whisky branding enterprises require a good dose of huckster's cynicism, allowing one to spin bullshit stories — with nary a blush — about historical figures, family recipes and America itself. On the other hand, building a successful distillery demands myriads as one first has to master the spirit through barley types, water sources, yeast strains, fermentation times, still shape, still temperatures and cuts. Then there's cask sourcing, warehouse building and management, maturation times and blending. All of those elements, all of that time, commands funding, especially in climates that result in slower whisky production.

The need to generate revenue for the investors, and to keep the stills running, compels distilleries such as Bimber, Ardnamurchan, Kingsbarns, Kilchoman, Wolfburn and Abhainn Dearg to release "spirit drinks" and three year old whiskies. These early funds are grasped at with the risk of tainting one's brand with incomplete products.

Daftmill Distillery seems to be a unique case. It was built on an active family farm (the primary business) with minimal outside investment. This gave the owners more flexibility with maturation times. Less demand for return, more patience.

Through 2020, Daftmill will have released at least 18 different whiskies, all of which are in the 11-13 year old range. The distillery produces only 100 casks a year (which also keeps costs down), yet when cask counting through the releases one may see only 20-40 total casks used for each vintage. So perhaps older expressions are in the works.

Having just made a stink about hype on a Wednesday, I need to be conscious about not overselling Daftmill on a Friday. Six months ago, I reviewed another Daftmill whisky and gave it an 84-point rating. Does that count as "hype" around these parts? I don't know. Though the review's final sentence, "It's actual whisky", is some hot stuff.

Today I'm trying 2019's Summer Release, distilled in 2006.

Distillery: Daftmill
Owner: Francis Cuthbert
Region: Bow of Fife, Lowlands
Age: ~12 years (2006 - 2019)
Maturation: 7 bourbon casks (067/2006, 068/2006, 069/2006, 070/2006, 071/2006, 072/2006 and 073/2006)
Outturn: 1680 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%abv
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant Added? No
(from a bottle split)

Tried neat and diluted to ~40%abv.

NoseIt starts with wort, witbier and canned peaches, then orange juice takes over. Make that orange juice and tangerine Emergen-C. Hints of roses and yeast. It gets more floral and toasty with time. With water, it tightens up for a while. Eventually the citrus and pineapple juices arrive. Then wildflowers and creamy pastries.

Palate: Sweet, fruity and loaded with toasted barley grist. The fruits read like in-season raspberries and blackberries, sugary and almost floral. Hints of orange juice and orange candy begin to arrive. Suddenly I'm reminded of some barley-heavy pancakes that once made up a lunch (with berry jam and matcha ice cream!) I had in Japan in 2015. Can't remember the place, just the flavors. The whisky gets very tart with water. Think limes and grapefruit. Wort, jasmine tea and maybe some toasted oak.

Finish: Berries, barley and orange juice. A good citric tartness meets subtle sweet and floral notes. With water, limes and floral teas lead the way, followed by hints of confectioner's sugar and bitterness.

Another Daftmill leads with its barley heart, revealing a bright and unique drinking experience. I'm a sucker for all those fruits, as well as the lack of pushy oak. It would make for very pleasant sipper during the coming spring and summer months, except......the price. It's $250-$300 here in the US. And we can't blame the tariffs since similar Daftmills carry nearly the same prices in Europe. What a shame. I recognize we'll have to pay a premium for such limited whisky, and the cost seems to have controlled demand since this expression hasn't totally sold through. I'm curious to see how this plays out with time, once Daftmill is no longer New. These aren't sexy immediate whiskies, rather they're modest and peaceful. It'd be nice to see prices drop by half, but perhaps I'm just priced out of this one.

Availability - Still on the shelves in the US
Pricing - $250-$300
Rating - 87