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New Whiskies

Batch 209: Daftmill 2006 single casks

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Daftmill 2006 Single Cask #21 (UK Exclusive); Daftmill 2006 Single Cask #39 (Berry Bros. & Rudd Exclusive); Daftmill 2006 Single Cask #44 (Royal Mile Whiskies Exclusive); Daftmill 2006 Single Cask #48 (Taiwan Exclusive); Daftmill 2006 Single Cask #77 (Europe Exclusive); Daftmill 2006 Single Cask #89 (Luvians Exclusive)

Scotland’s oldest new distillery might have taken a fair while to release its first whisky, but Fife’s Daftmill is now making up for lost time, as Dave Broom discovers in this week's new whisky reviews.

The latest batch of tasting notes covers a six-strong release of Daftmill single casks, all distilled in 2006, giving whisky enthusiasts a chance to work out its distillery character, and see how things are progressing.

Broom picks out a shared flavour thread of flowers (often elderflower and camomile), as well as a cereal accent which comes across as bready, or straw-like. The feel is always soft and silky (with one exception).

Single casks are always highly individual – something that is reflected here. While one whisky is restrained, another is already over the top. A couple are at a ‘still-coming-together’ phase, while another is on the way to the next stage in its development. All are fascinating.

‘This is a great distillery hitting its straps,’ Broom concludes. ‘Now: whoever buys a bottle, please open it and share.’

The playlist features Fife-related artists (with one notable exception), all offering mellow, summertime melodies to be explored by clicking the links in Right Place, Right Time.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Daftmill 2006 single cask #21 (UK exclusive)

    Score

    83

    Daftmill 2006 single cask #21 (UK exclusive)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    57.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    The punchiest of the group in terms of nose burn, it opens with an aroma reminiscent of fresh pizza dough, then comes barley straw with accompanying powdery florals. It is, however, slightly hard to get into. Water does bring some cinnamon and nutmeg into play, along with boiled sweets and jasmine, but it also retains the dry chalkiness.

    Palate

    It ripples gently through the mouth, while also possessing an intense, lightly acidic quality that indicates its relative youth. You get hints of the creaminess given by the first-fill ex-Bourbon cask, as well as some rhubarb and the signature elderflower element, but the alcohol is blurring things. Water does help to ease the tension, but it remains flinty and on the cusp of full integration.

    Finish

    Lightly nutty.

    Conclusion

    There’s some presence here, but it’s less well-defined than the others, remaining in a state of slightly confused adolescence.

    Right place, right time

    Drawn Like Bees to Foxglove.

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    Daftmill 2006 single cask #39 (Berry Bros & Rudd)

    Score

    80

    Daftmill 2006 single cask #39 (Berry Bros & Rudd)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    57.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Woah! Heavily Sherried and robust, this is all walnut and dense figs, fruit paste, treacle toffee, rum-and-raisin ice cream, and an almost smoky depth that moves to balsamic and lightly oxidised fruits. A drop or two of water makes it sweeter, with some over-stewed marmalade and a whiff of mature nutty cheese. Big and glossy.

    Palate

    It has a big, almost burnt quality that slots nicely into the molasses-like bitterness. In time you can pick out the start of a leathery quality. The tannins already hold quite a grip, but the fruits are sweet and concentrated. It’s slightly off-dry, but with a firm control.

    Finish

    Long; raisin and prune.

    Conclusion

    If you like Sherried whiskies, then this is spot-on. It’s hard to tell it is Daftmill, though.

    Right place, right time

    Sh- Sh-Sh- Sherry Bomb!

    Daftmill 2006 single cask #44 (Royal Mile Whiskies)

    Score

    88

    Daftmill 2006 single cask #44 (Royal Mile Whiskies)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Complex and gentle, starting bright and zingy with light fennel, lemon verbena and grapefruit, then carnation, elderflower (and nettle) cordials, before it sweetens into ripe banana with brown sugar. There are some tertiary aromas here: vetiver and scented wood. When diluted, things become more scented with those drowsy florals and camomile, fresh peach and some white chocolate Magnum.

    Palate

    Has a satiny texture alongside some perky red fruits (and unripe strawberry), William pear, the elderflower and (retronasally) a bouquet of fresh rose and jasmine. It’s retained some of the light citrus, while the oak has moved into cassia, dry grass and tobacco, adding discreet structure. It floods the palate when water is added, thickening in the centre, adding in hazelnut, runny toffee, light fruits and flowers. Elegant and balanced.

    Finish

    Rosemary, banana and light coconut.

    Conclusion

    This is Daftmill moving into a new phase of its maturity, becoming layered, longer and more complex – but without losing its character.

    Right place, right time

    A sunset walk through the fields with the King of the Barley.

    Daftmill 2006 single cask #48 (Taiwan exclusive)

    Score

    90

    Daftmill 2006 single cask #48 (Taiwan exclusive)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    59.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    The first whiff is estery, with a tiny hint of acetone, then something akin to cold butter and apricot jam on fresh baguette, before it shifts into the world of florals: freesia, nemesia, candied rose petal, then elderflower blossom. It seems delicate, but in the background is some subtle vanilla ice cream and lemon zest. Add a little water and it becomes like fragrant sunshine, along with jasmine, pineapple, lemon leaf, pine needles, then daffodil, some camomile and, finally, mixed fragrant herbs (rosemary/oregano).

    Palate

    A soft, silky start with a chewy mid-palate accompanied by light pricks of fresh ginger, then the sweet floral lift. Precise, with lovely balance; some soft marshmallow, then pink fruits and the heady, herby, floral elements. Gentle, but has real presence. It’s best with water on the side.

    Finish

    Zingy acidity, then a gentle fade.

    Conclusion

    A gentle whisper in the ear and a compellingly complex nose. One of those rare whiskies which manages to be delicate, yet with presence.

    Right place, right time

    As gossamer-light as a Summertyme Beeswing.

    Daftmill 2006 single cask #77 (Europe exclusive)

    Score

    84

    Daftmill 2006 single cask #77 (Europe exclusive)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    It starts with a slightly dry note, with cereal, oak and hints of vetiver, fresh white bread, then some pear and apple blossom. It jumps around a little between firm, dry oak and pine sap, then the reassuring softness of bread-and-butter pudding, then switching to fruit syrups, finishing off with light cereal and straw. Water pulls things closer together with an aroma of undiluted lemon barley water.

    Palate

    There’s some barley sugar in here, some tangerine, then that floral/ginger combination, along with hot sawdust and an aroma that brings to mind adobe houses on the side of a hot, dusty road (so not a lot like the Lowlands of Fife). It needs water added before you get ripe, soft fruits and the floral elements, but overall things remain crisp with a slight tension, similar to cask #21.

    Finish

    Light oak with zingy acids.

    Conclusion

    Soft, yet with a structural dryness that gives it some attitude. Good, but the whisky and the cask are still feeling each other out.

    Right place, right time

    Listening to A Prairie Tale.

    Daftmill 2006 single cask #89 (Luvians exclusive)

    Score

    86

    Daftmill 2006 single cask #89 (Luvians exclusive)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    57.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Lowland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    More cask influence here (it’s another first-fill ex-Bourbon), giving a rounded, clotted cream/Greek yoghurt sweetness, along with peach purée and caramel ice cream. Water makes it slightly drier, but adds in the now familiar fragrance – this time with added (old) Scots pine forest, mace, camomile, mashed banana, then finally some almond.

    Palate

    Quite full and mouth-coating, with an excellent, soft feel. The sweet spices are upfront, giving an almost ginger-ale-like quality. The wood is present without being overly dominant: there’s even a tiny hint of char. Water brightens things, upping the spices, adding lemon zest but without losing the thick, buttery quality.

    Finish

    Fresh cherry, peach stone and ginger.

    Conclusion

    Slightly more cask-driven, but not to the detriment of distillery character. One for American oak fans, but still balanced and gentle. All of these show a great distillery hitting its straps. Now: whoever buys a bottle, please open it and share.

    Right place, right time

    Hold that Yellow Flower under your chin and let’s see what it tells us…

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