Daftmill
Distillery
Founded in 2005
Fife, Scotland, is a region along the east coast north of Edinburgh. It covers the entire peninsula between the Firth of Forth in the south, and the Firth of Tay to the north. Fife is the upper limit of the Lowlands.

We LOVE this story. The Cuthberts have been farming on this land in the Howe of Fife for six generations. They have grown potatoes, malting barley almost the entire time. It is a good farming practice to allow fields to lay fallow every few seasons, to let the land rest and recover nutrients.

So a few generations ago they started their own herd of Scottish beef cattle, that range the fallow fields in the off season (it actually speeds up the rejuvenation process). They have had an active artesian spring on the land as long as anyone can remember.

The life of a farmer is very busy at planting season and at harvest, in the off season not so much. The current generation of Cuthberts took inspiration from the distilleries that bought their barley, and transformed an old milling building on the property, into one of the first new distilleries in Scotland during the new millenium.

They were intent on ensuring that everything about this Whisky was to be as "local" as possible. In fact, everything about the distillery was bought and assembled from resellers and craftsmen within five miles of the site -- with the exception of the stills themselves, which were also sourced as closely as possible (Tothes in Speyside).

They applied for their license -- which was granted in on November 30th, 2005 -- Saint Andrews Day -- and the first spirit was distilled on December 16th of the same year.  

All the ingredients are baked at the Cuthbert farm. They use their own water, barley, and stillhouse. The wash still has a capacity of 2500 liters, and the spirits till 1500 liters.

Since they are farmers first and distillers second, they only work the still house in the summer and winter, so production is very limited. The spirit is being aged in ex-Bourbon casks on site.

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Distillery Details

  • Country
    United Kingdom, Scotland
  • Region
    Lowlands
  • Established
    2005
  • Owner
    Daftmill Distillery
  • Type
    Single malt
  • Number of stills
    1 wash, 1 spirit
  • Visitor center
    No
  • Status
    Inactive
  • Address
    Daftmill Distillery, Daftmill Farm by Cupar, Fife KY15 5RF United Kingdom
  • Phone
    +44 01337 830303
  • Website
Dog Dogson
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Smartass
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In the UK, the word "daft" means "crazy," So why "Daftmill?" Well, there is an optical illusion of the geography that makes the local stream look like it's flowing uphill.

So for centuries this stream has been called "the daft burn" or "the crazy stream." This stream turned the waterwheel at the millhouse that was converted into the distillery, thus, Daftmill.

Thus far all of their casks have come from Heavenhill Distillery in Kentucky.
About
Lowlands
Perching just above England, the Lowlands can play truant from peat or salinity. 

Triple distilled malts are characteristic of the region, offering a gentle, elegant palate reminiscent of grass, honeysuckle, cream, ginger, toffee, toast and cinnamon.

The Lowlands are master of the Whisky blend and are also known for their silent stills, which sadly no longer produce.
Lowlands
Video from Daftmill
Video transcription
Charles MacLean: I imagine that many viewers of Singlemalt TV might dream of owning a distillery. Well I'm with someone who has realized his dream, Francis Cuthbert. Who has built a distillery at Daftmill in Fife. How long have your family been living here, Francis?

Francis Cuthbert: My family have stayed here, oh...it'd be six generations now...

Charles: Wow. Francis: ...that my family have lived here. But we didn't actually own the state until 1984.

Charles: And it's made of farms... Francis: Yes.

Charles: ...essentially?

Francis: It's a farm. There's various houses and that.

Charles: And this is it, Daftmill Distillery. It is staggeringly beautiful. I mean, it really must be one of the most beautiful distilleries in Scotland. What was it originally, Francis?

Francis: Main building was an oatmeal mill, and some other buildings were farm buildings. These were grain sheds behind us here.

Charles: And in your time, a mill?

Francis: No, no. I don't know when the mill ceased operation. But old stones were removed in the 1940s.

Charles: Yeah. And how old are the building themselves?

Francis: Well I think each generation has changed the buildings and added bits. There's a date stone at the back of the building that says 1809. But which bit that pertains to, I don't know.

Charles: Yeah. But the great thing is, it looks as if it's being here for a couple of hundred years. You know?

Francis: Some of it will have been.

Charles: I wouldn't be surprised. Well what about this pagoda? The wee pagoda. It didn't have a pagoda originally, did it?

Francis: No. In my time it was just a flat roof.

Charles: Yeah.

Francis: That must have had some sort of vent on the top.

Charles: Because that was the kiln...

Francis: Yeah.

Charles: ...for the mill.

Francis: Yep. I think the kiln would predate the pagoda.

Charles: Yes.

Francis: And you know what? It was invented by Charles Doig.

Charles: Yes.

Francis: So I think the buildings were here before the...

Charles: Yes. And of course today, this Cameron Bridge and yourself in Fife. But if I'm right, I think there was once upon a time about eight or nine distilleries in Fife?

Francis: It must've been, yeah. Yeah. There was a lot small distilleries that didn't last very long just in the local villages round about.

Charles: Yeah. In the 19th century?

Francis: Yeah.

Charles: Yeah, yeah. What about this wonderful Celtic cross on the end of the building. I love this, it's the holy spirit.

Francis: The original one got frosted and broken half. Water got into the sandstone, and the frost broke it. So that's a new replica...

Charles: Yeah.

Francis: ...that the stone mason made for us.

Charles: Yeah, so that was originally there, or it's been something like...

Francis: Yes.

Charles: ...that'd been there for a long time?

Francis: Mm-hmm.

Charles: Great. But will you take me inside? Show me the around?

Francis: Yes. This is original kiln. This would've been used for drying the grain off the farm, and for roasting the oats.

Charles: Oh, yeah. And so there would have been a fire here in the middle?

Francis: Yes. And there was brick which curved up to the black mark on

Charles: I can see that.

Francis: ...the walls.

Charles: Yeah, yeah. And then the metal grill would...

Francis: Yes.

Charles: ...have been at the level of the [inaudible 03:15]?

Francis: Which why our floor on the top of it... For drying the barley sacks, it would just been sat on the top of that. And for roasting oats. And spread out across the floor.

Charles: Yeah and so your grist arrives here. You mill it somewhere else?

Francis: Yes. We mill it on another part of the farm into these wheelie bins. Which are very convenient for handling in through small doors.

Charles: Yeah.

Francis: And a wheelie bin holds...

Charles: Five [inaudible 00:03:44]

Francis: ...hundred kilos.

Charles: So looking for these ones?

Francis: No. These are our new paper recycling ones. It's not a doorstep collection. They're meant to take them to the road end. So I don't think my 80 year old mother is going to haul a bin full of paper two miles to the main road.

Charles: Yeah

Francis: Yeah.

Charles: So then they are emptied into this?

Francis: Just simply tipped into the hopper. And is elevated up on some screw conveyor through the wall, and to the mash tun.

Charles: And the mash tun's just through the wall.

Francis: Just on the back of the wall.

Charles: Yeah. Great, let's go and look at that. What a beautiful little tun room. And here's your tun. Isn't that a cracker? How much grist do you fill?

Francis: We do a one ton mash at a time.

Charles: One ton at a time?

Francis: Yeah.

Charles: Yeah. And how much water, first water?

Francis: We use 4000 liters at first water at about 64 and a half degrees. And 2000 liters of second water. And we can adjust it slightly. If we don't get quite as much out of the first water, we can add more second water...

Charles: Yeah.

Francis: ...or something if we need to.

Charles: Yeah. Well so tell me now, the grist comes up through here?

Francis: The next door. And comes through this screw conveyor, drops into the still's mashing machine where it's mixed with hot water coming up from underneath.

Charles: Yeah.

Francis: And it mixes into a thin gruel. A sort of watery porridge into the mash tun. And that's when the extraction starts.

Charles: And how long does the first... How long do you leave it? Do you stir it and then leave it?

Francis: We mash the full ton in first. Then we can stir it up for about 10 minutes, vigorous agitation. And then we let it sit for another 10 fews. Basically like making a good pot of tea.

Charles: Yeah, yeah.

Francis: Put it and give it a stir up, and let it sit.

Charles: Yeah, and then drain that off?

Francis: Drain it through the floor into the underbark here. And then it's pumped through the wort cooler and up along the wort line, into one of our two wash backs.

Charles: Right. Tell me something about this particular room,

Francis. This was the heart of the mill? Francis: This was old oatmeal mill. Yeah. The millstone sat approximately where the two brewing vessels are. The oats would come in the door, and will be lifted up through the three floors. There's another level above us just about up here. And another floor level in here.

Charles: Actually it's quite low.

Francis: Yep. And next door was the kiln.

Charles: Yeah?

Francis: We'd pile it through and and spit it out on the kiln floor. And then roasted and shoveled back through the little chute at the bottom to be milled.

Charles: I see.

Francis: To be bagged out.

Charles: So the bags would come up and they would go into the kiln. And then they would come back out into the floor above us. And then it would fall down...

Francis: Into the the hot...

Charles: ...onto the stones.

Francis: ...millstones. Which would be sitting slightly below us.

Charles: And they were driven by a water wheel?

Francis: Waterwheel next door.

Charles: With the laid that way?

Francis: Yes. It was outside of the building.

Charles: Yeah. Yeah. And having been ground, then they'd be bagged up here?

Francis: Yes.

Charles: And then shipped out of the...

Francis: Through the door.

Charles: ...door?

Francis: Into a waiting horse and carts.

Charles: Yeah. And what was the condition of the building when you started to convert it into a distillery?

Francis: It was getting quite tired. There'd been several hundred pigeons in residence for a number of years. So it was...

Charles: It wasn't really used or anything?

Francis: No. No, the last calendar hanging on the wall was 1942.

Charles: Wow. Yeah.

Francis: Yeah, yeah. It just been used for storing rubbish really.

Charles: Yeah.

Francis: "Where do I put this? I don't know. Stick it the mill..."

Charles: Yeah, yeah.

Francis: "...and out of the way."

Charles: Yeah, and so they all re-roofed everything.

Francis: Well we took the old roof off and repaired it. It's the same old roof that was on originally.

Charles: Oh, the pan tiles?

Francis: Yeah. Same wood. Charles: Oh really?

Francis: It was just all taken off, repaired. And the feet, the bits where the roof sits on top of the wall, were quite rotten. So there's new feet being...

Charles: I see them spliced on.

Francis: ...bolted twice on.

Charles: Yeah.

Francis: New sarking boards nailed on, new felt. And the old [inaudible 08:09] was put back on again.

Charles: Yeah. And you were saying that all that kind of work was all done locally?

Francis: Yes. We're quite lucky. Other than the mash tun and the stills, which were made by Forsyths at Rothes. Nearly all other work was carried out by a local tradesman within a five-mile radius.

Charles: That's great. That's great, yeah. Including all the metal work?

Francis: Steel work was done in Cooper. The wash backs were made in Cooper. The [inaudible 08:42] come from Ladybank. The [inaudible 08:46] from Kingskettle. So...

Charles: That's great.

Francis: ...very much a local affair.

Charles: That's great. Well what are you doing here? Let's go and have a look at the...

Francis: Yeah.

Charles: ...wash back.

Francis: We're just running the wort out of there. This is a first water. And we've dissolved most of the sugars out of the malt. And we'll run it through a heat exchanger to cool it down to 22.2 degrees at the moment. And we'll drain the mash in there until it's almost dry, before adding the second waters.

Charles: And now tell me about the yeast. You put a little bit in, and then pitch your yeast?

Francis: Yes.

Charles: Which is dry yeast?

Francis: Yes. We cover the floor of mash tun wash back to a depth about 18 inches at 36 degrees. Add the yeast to rehydrate it. And then pump the rest in at about 22 degrees. You have to try and guess what the temperature's going to be the next couple of days. During the summertime we will pitch at about 19 degrees. When it's really frosty and cold we'll go as high as 24, 25 degrees. We want to get the temperature. And once the yeast starts growing it regenerates it's own heat. And we want that to go up to about 32, 33 degrees. We don't wanna go much higher than that, or the heat will actually kill the yeast. But you need it that high to get the yeast cells to autolyze. Which then gives you a lot of really good fruity flavors.

Charles: How much yeast do you pitch?

Francis: One [inaudible 00:10:27] to a wash back of seven kilos. Which is slightly over-yeasted, but it's a convenient way to do it. Charles:

Yeah. And what will be your [inaudible 00:10:37]? How much wort will you put in?

Francis: We'll have between five and five and a half thousand liters of wort in there.

Charles: And then, how long do you ferment for?

Francis: We do quite a long fermentation, 96 to a 100 hours.

Charles: Wow, that is long.

Francis: Yeah.

Charles: Yeah.

Francis: Again, to try and generate fruity...

Charles: Yeah, that...

Francis: ...flavors.

Charles: ...should generate fruity flavors.

Francis: Yeah. Can I just check this a minute?

Charles: Do it, yeah.

Francis: [inaudible 00:11:04] There's the bed starting to show through there. The water's drained through, and the malt's starting to show in the mash tun.

Charles: Show me this ingenious thermometer you've got. I can't understand how it managed to balance that.

Francis: It's just wrapped around this. It's not...

Charles: It's very clever.

Francis: It's not very technical. It only works if it's in the liquid though of course. It's dropping now slightly. The flooring only decreasing slightly, 21.2.

Charles: [drinking] Mm!

Francis: It's still very sugary so...

Charles: Mm!

Francis: ...I'll have to keep...

Charles: [inaudible 00:11:44]

Francis: ...keep count of it.

Charles: Mm. Yeah, that's your whole [inaudible 00:11:49].

Francis: You know, it's not as sugary as it was. When you start off first, the sugars are heavy so they sink to the bottom.

Charles: Oh.

Francis: So you get the really sugary stuff first. Now it's starting to loose it a little bit.

Charles: But I was saying, it smells to me a bit like minestrone soup. It's got this nice sort of spicy smell to it. Mm, chocolate in the mouth.

Francis: It's quite addictive.

Charles: Yeah, I bet. Well the good old boys in the day, they used to drink it didn't they...

Francis: No.

Charles: ...as a joke?

Francis: No.

Charles: Once it's fermented.

Francis: Once it's fermented. Yeah, drink the beer. I can give you a taste, but it's pretty rough.

Charles: It tastes like wheat beer to me. It gives you wind when you taste it. Well that...

Francis: I've heard it described as giving you the "scoots."

Charles: The "scoots"? I believe that. Yeah.

Francis: I'm trying not to pump the liquid away fast from the under bark. Then it's able to run through to malt and the mash tun. You want the two in balance. So it's just a judging exercise, look in and see if this is lower than that. Which should have that right...

Charles: And do you have any instruments to help you? In other words, any way of telling how much liquid you've drawn off?

Francis: We can dip the wash back with basically a big tape measure. It's is technical as that.

Charles: Show me how to do it.

Francis: This is our dip tape. It's a modern one. It's metric. We know that the higher wash back is 366 centimeters. You wind it in. And there you have a wet dip of 136.4 centimeters. You refer to your calibration tables. Wash back number 2, 136.4 gives you 2,949 liters. It's not terribly accurate because it's sloshing about a wee bit in there at the moment.

Charles: And what would you expect from...

Francis: I'm looking for right at 3,000 liters at the moment. So it's just about there.

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