Daftmill

Daftmill is one of the most interesting of the new wave of 21st century independent Scottish distilleries, being one of the first of those to actually start distillation but then subsequently famously reticent and reluctant to discuss when their spirit would actually be released.  

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Daftmill is one of the most interesting of the new wave of 21st century independent Scottish distilleries, being one of the first of those to actually start distillation but then subsequently famously reticent and reluctant to discuss when their spirit would actually be released.  

Daftmill’s owner and (sole) distiller Francis Cuthbert remained tight-lipped about the progress of distillation and maturation at the distillery for well over a decade and is likely still bemused at the fascination that accompanied any mention of his whisky during the many years in which not a shred of reliable news was ever officially released.

In the event, of course, when Daftmill’s first whiskies finally saw the light of day in 2018 it occasioned a frenzy within whisky circles that, at the time of writing in 2021, still shows no signs of dissipating.  Daftmill’s tiny output and - more importantly - the outstanding quality of their Lowland single malt whisky make it unlikely that the fuss will die down soon.

Founded: 2003 (License to Distil granted 2005)

Stills: 1 Wash 1 Spirit

Capacity: Theoretically 65,000 Litres, in practice 20,000 Litres

Water Source: Daftmill stream

Owners: Cuthbert family

Daftmill is a true farm distillery, being the side project of the Cuthbert family’s farm in Fife, where besides growing barley for the likes of Edrington they also grow potatoes, herd cattle and own and manage a quarry. Distillation is fitted around the farm calendar, taking place only in the quieter periods in July and August and November-February.

Brothers Francis & Ian Cuthbert began converting the farm’s derelict old mill building into a distillery in 2003 and were given their distilling license at the end of 2005. Unlike the vast majority of other new distillery start-ups, however, they decided not to rush a product to market as soon as the spirit reached the minimum 3 years of age, but opted to wait until they felt the whisky was ready.

Given that they owned the buildings and water source already, grow all their own barley and do all the distillation themselves, overhead costs have been kept low. The distillery is therefore almost entirely self-sufficient - only the malting is done away from the site at Crisp Maltings in nearby Alloa. In addition, Daftmill’s byproducts are used as fertiliser for the farm and the draff feeds the family’s cattle herd.

The distillery is set up to make a light Lowland single malt whisky, with long fermentation, clear wort, slow distillation and ascending lyne arms on the small, fat onion-shaped stills to encourage reflux and maximise copper contact. Only around 20,000 litres of spirit are made at Daftmill each year due to the restricted nature of the distillation seasons. This quantity is sufficient to fill around 100 casks annually, which are 90% ex-bourbon and the rest ex-sherry.

Daftmill’s first ever single malt whisky release finally appeared (to widespread hysteria) in June 2018. The inaugural release was a 12-year-old, a vatting of three casks distilled in December 2005.  Further small batch releases have followed, with the distillery bottling the summer and winter’s distillation separately due to the noticeably different characteristics of each.

Read more about Daftmill distillery, including Daftmill Inaugural Release tasting notes on our blog here.

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