Having met Francis Cuthbert at the Edinburgh Whisky Fringe back in August of this year, we were lucky to arrange a tour at the wonderful Daftmill distillery, one of Scotland's smallest whisky distilleries founded in 2005. Being a working farm, coupled with the massive success of their first 2 releases, it was a bit of a long shot to ask but we were welcomed for an in-depth tour.
Located in the picturesque settings of Cupar, the distillery is tucked away amongst the sprawling farm lands of the country. On our arrival, we were in awe of the amazing scenery, the out buildings and of course, the copper stills proudly displayed behind glass.
Francis was in fine form, laid back and chatty which makes a change from the more formal/structured tours and even better, we were allowed to take pictures anywhere within the production area. A big no-no for most of the distilleries out there, which is a shame as it dilutes the experience and leaves nothing to share with those who are unable to visit the distilleries themselves.
After a quick chat we were led to where the new mill and silo are being constructed, doing away with the current methods of manually wheeling the grist in for storage. We weren't able to get in there for pictures but from what we could see, it looked impressive and no doubt provide a great deal of storage.
The distillery only uses their own barley, grown and harvested on the fields of Daftmill Farm. After harvest, around 100 tonnes of barley is trucked up to Alloa where it's carefully prepared for production use. Francis explains that his barley is meticulously separated from other stocks at the maltings to ensure Datfmill receives their own stocks back, of the 100 tonnes - they receive around 80% back.
Although the distillery was not in production for our visit, there's usually activity between June and July but can extend to August, then November to February. We asked how many people are on hand to help with the whole process, we were surprised to hear that the entire distillery is run by Francis having taught himself the art of distilling, whilst keeping on top of the farming duties - now that's real dedication, highly commendable and rewrites the meaning of a Passion Project!
Currently, production is filling around 100 casks per year, most of which is first-fill Bourbon - although there's some Sherry casks kicking around as we were lucky enough to sample the stock back in August along with the Inaugural Release. All their casks are sourced from Speyside Copperage which many of the big brands use so definitely no scrimping on the quality of wood being used to store Daftmill's spirit.
Our first glimpse in to the distillery workings was the building housing the copper topped mash tun, steal washbacks and water tanks. The distillery's water source is from an artesian well which feeds the water tower. Moving through to the adjacent building where 2 copper stills stand proud - 1 wash and 1 spirit, and of course the spirit safe.
Time for us to get a peak at the cask stores!
There's something special about being around casks of whisky, sitting silently and maturing undisturbed. The dank musty smell, the cobwebs and low lighting - it's just so magical and there's nothing that really compares to experiencing it. Perhaps it's the geek in us and it's not often we get that close to the cask stores, it's simply unforgettable, no-doubt Francis thought we were mental!
Having only released 2 bottlings so far (3rd due soonish), the first only being available via a ballot and the second selling out within days of release, there's certainly a lot going for Daftmill. The spirit has been compared to Rosebank, a legendary Lowland whisky that's no longer available, although there may be some comparison, Daftmill is still unique enough to stand alone.
After spending some time checking out the resting casks, in awe of the amount that Daftmill has actually managed to produce in its short life, we headed to a cosy tasting area where we were presented with a sample that's being considered for a single cask bottling. Having been the second cask strength Daftmill that we have ever tried, the first being the Inaugural Release - it was an honour trying spirit that's untouched, straight from the cask and of the quality of Daftmill.
So after 3 hours, that was our tour finished - we were asked to sign the visitors book which was a nice end to what was a superb visit. Having the opportunity to be so close to the distillation equipment and casks was a real privilege. A big thanks to Francis for hosting us and being patient with our many questions.
End of blog...
We'll be visiting another distillery very soon so stay tuned!
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