Sunday, 17 June 2018

Daftmill Inaugural Release

The most exciting whisky release of 2018, despite the high cost, is undoubtedly the first official bottling from Daftmill.

I was lucky enough to taste a wee sample of it, brought back from the launch event by colleagues who were in Fife to see the first bottle opened, and then tasted it again the other night at Glasgow's Whisky Club.

Most new distillers have a pressing need to bring in some cash to recoup their outlay, but the Cuthbert brothers were in the fortunate position of growing barley and also of having some old buildings going spare that could be used for distilling and warehousing. Hence, despite the endless questioning as to when it might be bottled, Daftmill has only now been released, as a twelve year old (I would have asked the question myself, but we were forewarned by Francis Cuthbert not to do so, on pain of eviction from the distillery).

And so to the liquid. Bottled at 55.8%, this is a vatting of three casks filled in December 2005, all first fill ex-Heaven Hill bourbon barrels.

nose: white chocolate or chantilly cream, soft, but also somewhat spirity. Is that mocha coffee?
something sharp and grassy - perhaps a minty note? The oak spices are beautiful.

palate: it's malty, dry, and rich, getting more and more malty in the finish. The texture is slightly oily. There are flavours of coconut, loads of sweet boiled fruit notes, plus something fresh - green apples and mint I think.

conclusion: it's a very good twelve year old. Is it outstanding? I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it is lovely. Is it a Lowland whisky? Well, it certainly doesn't conform to my mental model of that style. It's too rich and malty, although there is something light and grassy in there somewhere.

Is it worth £210? Of course not, but while whisky's equivalent of tulipomania continues, it makes sense for Daftmill and Berry Brothers to benefit, rather than the *!?@$** flippers and auction houses.

Future releases will consist of a regular Summer Distillation and a Winter Distillation, plus occasional single casks. The regular releases will be priced around the £100 mark - still expensive compared with, say, Glenfiddich 12, but considering how Daftmill is made, not at all unreasonable.

£210 is far beyond my whisky budget, and indeed the consensus at the club was that most people wouldn't buy it. So much the better, then, that we were able to taste it as a group.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

A New Dufftown

Dufftown is one of three malts bottled with near-identical labelling, and in a slightly unusual hip-flaskish bottle. Why this should be the case is a matter for another day.

Aside from the twelve and eighteen year old expressions, there are some fancifully named releases without an age statement. Similarly, this latest expression lacks an age, but bears a more traditional or old-fashioned name.

In full then, it's The Singleton of Dufftown Malt Master's Selection.

If you have the patience, you can click or tap on the picture of my tasting note and read it in full. For those of you in a hurry, here's the executive summary, plus analysis.

It's a gentle, easy drinking, well balanced dram. I found flavour notes of:-

  • chocolate sweeties (Chelsea Whoppers)
  • clootie dumpling (specifically, the outside bit. If you've never enjoyed this delicacy, then I'd make the comparison to flapjacks or raisin-studded biscuit dough)
  • lavender & rich tea biscuits
  • more chocolate sweeties (orange matchmakers)

In other words, a mild mannered refill sherry barrel whisky.

I think many seasoned malt drinkers would find it a bit too light, or would use it as their warm-up dram. On the other hand, if you're looking for a change of pace from Johnnie Walker but want to keep that ultra-smooth palate and texture, then this is for you.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Some Grain Whisky Samples

Inspired by a recent vlog from Aqvavitae about samples, I pulled these four grain whiskies out of the cupboard to taste, as well as a few other samples to give away. As Roy says in the video, if someone has gone to the bother of sorting you out with a sample, you shouldn't leave it to gather dust.

So what do we have (let me translate those spidery labels for you)

  • A D Rattray North British 25 Year Old (unknown strength)
  • Whisky Barrel Dumbarton 30 Year Old 1987-2017 56.5%
  • Sovereign Cambus 1985 (age unknown, strength unknown)
  • Whiskybroker Cambus 25 Year Old 1991-2017 56.9%

I've tasted the Whiskybroker Cambus and know I like it, but what of the others?

North British in my mind is a solid distillate but I've never had one reach the heights that Cambus or Invergordon or Garnheath can manage.

Dumbarton is an unknown unknown. Never tasted it, I know nothing about it, people never seem to talk about it. So....

A quick sniff along the glasses and I think I still like the Whiskybroker Cambus best, perhaps because of its sherry overtones. The Whiskybarrel Dumbarton smells interesting but perhaps not very friendly, the Cambus is worryingly vodka-like, and the North British is what I'd call canonical grain whisky.

Taking them one by one, here are my tasting notes.

A D Rattray North British 25 Year Old (strength unknown)
nose: mild, sweet, even a little wattery. Over time there's more oak spice and increasing woodiness.
palate: rich and spicy, with orangey boiled sweets, then a roasty toffee note. It's hot in the finish.

Whisky Barrel Dumbarton 30 Year Old 1987-2017 56.5%
nose: light, clean, sweet, with a burnt note. Cinder toffee. A green note, and slightly mineral. With water it gets really complex, herbal, old fashioned, and also old.
palate: light and fairly dry. The alcohol is grippy. There's sweet coconut cream and/or very creamy condensed milk. With water there's a suggestion of smoke (which must be from the barrel somehow). It's less herbal than the nose and slightly bitter in the finish.

Sovereign Cambus 1985 (age unknown, strength unknown)
nose: rather boozy - the ghost of vodkas past. A wee bit of fust, plus some creamy toffee. Mellow oak spice, but definitely boozy.
palate: mild and sweet, with vanilla. With water it becomes soft and rounded, with juicy sultanas. Cake and a burnt toffee note. With another splash of water it reminds me of an oaked Chardonnay.

Whiskybroker Cambus 25 Year Old 1991-2017 56.9%
nose: rich and sweet, like boozy brandy. Spicy (again like brandy), with almonds and a clear sherry note. Herbal and complex. With water, the sherry grows stronger, and a baked apple plus sultanas note appears. It's very sweet and welcoming.
palate: Sweet brown sugar, and sherry (fino I think!), plus crème brûlée. It's complex, soft, and welcoming. With water a citrus note appears, plus royal icing and nutty toffee. Adding more water really emphasises the sherry notes.

It's fair to say that the size of each of these tasting notes reflects how much I enjoyed the dram, and perhaps also how good each one was. I found most enjoyment in the Whiskybroker sherried grain, but I'm so very glad I had a chance to taste the Dumbarton, which I'd say was interesting and challenging. The Cambus was a disappointment - I've had far, far better - and the North British was perfectly acceptable, the vin ordinaire of the line up.

Now, let me go and label up those other samples...