Thanks to /u/smoked_herring for this first sample!
Not many people care about whiskies from the Lowland region. And I don’t really blame them. From the start the Lowland region wasn’t established to make great whisky. I won’t get into the Wash Act of 1823 (keep it in your pants) but I’ll sum it up by saying it didn’t help the Lowlands.
Jump to the “now time”, when you’re living (presumably, I don’t know if the afterlife or time travellers are reading this), and the amount of Lowland distilleries, while growing, isn’t what it used to be.
Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie are good at cask strength, and finding them at that strength is difficult. There’s some new Lowland distilleries, and they are hard to get your hands on. Others like Alisa Bay are industrial and are special release only. Bladnoch is still in the process of re-establishing itself, and I haven’t made my mind up about it just yet.
Then there’s Daftmill, one of those new distilleries that I have no idea about. I’ve been meaning to have them, but let’s be honest: I live in Canada, a country that has so much self hatred towards alcohol that it needs therapy. I wasn’t seeing some unless I had friends hunting them down.
I know, I’m as surprised as you that I have friends.
Established in 2005, Daftmill has built their new distillery in a converted meal mill, with a capacity of 20,000 litres per year, making them a low-volume distillery. Daftmill itself is a family farm that grows all of the malting barley used in its whisky. Not used in it’s whisky are the beef cattle, carrots, broccoli, and potatoes also grown on the farm
Thus they grow the barley, make whisky, and then feed the cattle the spent grain.
That’s all well and good. I love the idea of a distillery in Scotland mirroring aspects of a still on a farm, and it makes sense as you can work in the distillery during the slower months, like Winter.
But how does it taste? That’s what we’re here for. As someone who loves to talk about his love of Lowland Scotch, it’s about gosh-darn time I get to try some. Let’s see how these taste, shall we?
Daftmill 11 2009 Summer Batch Release (Asia)
Price: $200.00 CAD
Distilled in 2009
Bottled in 2020
Barrels used: One First Fill ex-Oloroso sherry butt / Four ex-bourbon barrels
Distilled and Filled in June and July 2009
Casks: 016/2009, 020/2009, 022/2009, 023/2009 & 027/2009
Number of barrels: 1,790
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Peach, lime, grass, powder drink mix
Fruity, some grassiness, and some peach. It’s mirroring the Lowland profile, which is what I’m here for. It’s a little light though, and I don’t think the alcohol is doing it favours.
Blind it nosed like a Lowland, though younger or without the strength to really draw me in. That powder drink mix note is something that I’ve run into younger malts or new make.
Taste: Peach, mineral, butter, black pepper, jujubes
More to it now, and I love the eventual fruity, sweet note of jujubes. That’s a flavour we forget as adults that is amazing. Like how your parents actually like Werthers. Some day we’ll all crave the old snacks of our youth.
That was a bit more wistful than I wanted… There’s some mineral, no grass and the citrus is gone, which is sad. I don’t mind it though, reminds me of some older Lowlands that I’ve had, if lacking some complexity.
Finish: Dry apple, mineral, heather, juniper
Goes more herbal and fruity than I expected. The grassiness isn’t there really, which I’m sad about, it’s closer to the harsher cask influence you get now from other regions.
Conclusion: Simple, light, okay whisky. Seems youthful and needs some work. Should have had more to it, given the decent casks used, and I think the distillery is still testing things out. That said, a lot of distilleries would just have dumped this after 4 years and charged you twice as much for the chance to just look at it, so not too bad.
That all said this does have some youthful notes to it. Feels like it was pulled early. Also I would have preferred, given the light nature, a higher abv. Now I don’t know what this tasted at full cask strength at all. I don’t know the finances of the company or the overall thoughts on whisky and what they want to put out. That all said, if you want to start getting people into Lowlands again then a lighter strength that is hiding some of the subtle notes is not doing you any favours.
Guess: 4 year old, Lowland or a Highland on the border, ex-bourbon cask, 46%, Glenkitchie?
Actually: Daftmill 11 2009 Summer Batch Release
Daftmill 12 2007 Winter Batch Release (USA)
Cask type: First Fill Bourbon
Cask number: 028-031,034,036/2007
Number of bottles: 1,680
Colour: 5Y 9/6
Nose: Jujube, caramel, floral
Fruit and sweet right off the bat. Then just sweet. Then proto-fruit (I’m being told that’s called flowers).
Simpler note, especially given the age and a first fill bourbon cask. Giving it more time isn’t really wowing me too much, keeps on being sweet and simple.
Taste: Floral, black pepper, peach, sweetheart tart candies
The floral subtleties are missing, and I don’t know if that’s Daftmill or if that’s 46% alcohol Daftmill. Which I only bring up because I’ve found that with Auchentoshan.
More peach and pepper, and this strong candy note. Starting to think powdered sugar is in the flavour profile.
Finish: Plastic, floral, arugula, earthy
Wow there’s an off, “not food” note right off the bat. Yes, it is grassy and floral and even some nice earth that I expect and enjoy, but that plastic note is… wow, that’s a bit much.
Conclusion: Way too simple, needs more going on, and there’s an odd off note in the finish. The casks were good, the use of multiple casks and a decent age was appreciated. That’s all great. On paper? Seems like a no brainer. Heck, they could have released it at 40% and told whisky geeks to go pound sand, and didn’t.
That all said, it’s time to tweak it some more. The dream for companies is to have a full profile that can work at lower abv. Based on the two above? I’d say that’s not in the cards for Daftmill. I hope I’m proven wrong in the future, because I’ll be looking for more of these.
Scotch review #1514-1515, Lowland review #65-66, Whisky Network review #2223-2224