Today we bring you just a single review, but it's of a "unicorn" bottle, so we hope for forgiveness. Interestingly, acquiring this "unicorn" proved easier than past releases. It might've been sheer luck on our part or perhaps it was due to its UK exclusivity.
Encouragingly, we're optimistic this trend continues, as we've recently noticed a dip in secondary market prices for several sought after releases. Here’s hoping some sense is returning to whisky pricing and that we may even one day be able to get a bottle of a limited Springbank release without selling a kidney. Anyway onto today’s review…
Daftmill 15 Fife Strength
The latest Daftmill 15-year-old release was distilled from Optic barley, harvested back in 2007. The spirit then rested in 13 first-fill bourbon barrels for a full 15 years, until its bottling in June 2023. This particular release was exclusively produced for the UK market.
On first sip, we detect notes of barley sugars, caramel, sherbet, and toasted marshmallows. After letting it breathe in the glass for a bit, we can detect some icing sugar, tobacco, passion fruit, and strawberry Chewits. While the nose is pleasant, it lacks the notes we typically associate with Daftmill like orchard fruits and instead has more of a synthetic sweetness.
Right off the bat, there are notes of lemon juice, orange rind, tobacco, and a grapefruit-like bitterness. While there's a sweetness present, it's accompanied by a a substantial amount of ginger spice. The finish has a good length, but the spice persists long after the sweetness dissipates. The mouthfeel is pleasing, offering a bit of texture. As it breathes in the glass, hints of fudge and barley sugars come through. However, much like the nose, the distinct Daftmill character seems overshadowed, leading us to believe the casks might be overpowering the spirit.
Nose (with water)
With reduction, the barley sugars become more pronounced on the nose, accompanied by notes of burnt toast and whipped cream. The toasted marshmallows are distinctly noticeable now. Interestingly, some of the sweetness seems to have diminished, and if judging blind, we might have guessed this was younger than fifteen years. Unfortunately, adding water doesn't seem to have improved the nose and it could be argued has actually detracted from the dram.
Palate (with water)
Post dilution, the bitterness we didn't quite appreciate has diminished, and the spice has evolved to resemble black pepper. However, much of the original sweetness seems to have faded. The mouthfeel continues to be satisfying, and while the finish retains a good length, it is still dominated by a lingering spice.
Last year's cask strength 15 ranked among our favourite Daftmill releases, surpassed only by the Fife Whisky Festival single cask and the 2022 summer release. With that in mind, this offering feels a tad underwhelming. While we typically rave about Daftmill, this doesn't quite meet the standard set by its predecessors. However, despite our critiques, when judged solely on its own qualities and setting aside any preconceived notions, we'd rate it a 6.5/10.
We've touched on this in the past, but it bears repeating. Daftmill releases might seem pricier compared to some competitors, but to be fair to to them, one should take into account their smaller scale of production. To our knowledge, the distillery produces only about 100 casks annually. This scale doesn't afford them the economic benefits that larger distilleries enjoy. Given this, it's understandable that their prices might be a tad higher, and we don't hold it against them.
- 10 - Perfection. One in a million
- 9 - Outstanding. Exceptional whisky.
- 8 - Great. Would seek this out.
- 7 - Good. Quality whisky.
- 6 - Above average. Happy to have a dram.
- 5 - Average. Drinkable whisky.
- 4 - Below average. Passable.
- 3 - Flawed. Noticeable negatives.
- 2 - Defective. Significant faults.
- 1 - Offensive. Pour it out.