You have probably heard of Dunphail distillery, a soon-to-be distillery located a few miles south of Forres, in Speyside. Dunphail has been founded by Dariusz Plazewski, who already founded the deservedly hyped Bimber Distillery in London. Whilst Dunphail is not yet producing, and thus not making money (except by selling in advance founder packs and casks shares), they decided to add an independent bottling branch to the distillery. This branch is called The Dava Way, named after one of Scotland’s many long-distance walking and off-road cycling routes, between Forres and Grantown-on-Spey, and passing less than a mile from Dunphail distillery. My good friend Matt McKay, who started as director of communication for Bimber, is now also the Director of Whisky Creation and Outreach at Dunphail, and selected the first four ‘The Dava Way’ bottlings. Until Dunphail has a regular revenue, The Dava Way will allow Dunphail to gain visibility and help the operational revenue. Matt reached out to me to offer to send me samples of those bottlings, and obviously I could not refuse!
Glen Elgin 2008 The Dava Way Review
We start with a Glen Elgin distilled on October 28, 2012. Matured in a recharged hogshead for 13 years, it was bottled by The Dava Way in 2022 for their first outturn of releases. As they will do for all their releases, it is bottled at cask strength (51.8%), and without colouring nor chill filtration. It’s still available on the Dunphail Distillery website for £69.95.
Ripe corn. Large beads take ages to morph as slow descending thin legs.
Neat: The nose of this Glen Elgin starts with a strong aroma of tropical fruit syrup, followed by oak char and hints of apricot and peach. There are also some herbal notes present, along with a damp cellar-like note and a hint of liquorice.
With water: After the reduction, the nose exhibits a bit more sweetness with hints of quince jelly and icing sugar. There are also whispers of orange present.
Neat: The palate begins with a sour and oaky arrival, reminiscent of barrel-aged lemon juice if that existed. This initial burst of flavour quickly becomes clearer, with tropical fruit notes of passion fruit, pineapple, and mango coming to the forefront. There are also hints of yellow fruit, such as apricot and peach, adding to the overall fruity character. The mouthfeel is thick and syrupy, coating the palate. As the whisky lingers, a bit of oak bitterness emerges, bringing empyreumatic notes and a light smoky feeling. There are also hints of honey and caramel-flavoured cough syrup.
With water: The mouthfeel becomes even more coating and thick, though a little drying. The fruit flavours become even more prominent than neat at first, with the addition of a citrusy sourness and pepper.
The finish begins with a fizzy lemon note that quickly gives way to the familiar oak char and light smoky flavours present throughout the palate. There are also hints of candied apricot and ginger, adding a touch of sweetness and spice. Overall, the finish is quite long.
Glen Elgin is a distillery quite under the radar, at least for me. There are a few official bottlings I rarely see in an off-licence, but I’d say the most we see from them is thanks to independent bottlers. This Glen Elgin from The Dava Way has loads of fruit flavours, good depth and complexity, and a surprising light smoky note on the palate. The ABV is perfect as it has a good mouthfeel and no alcohol hit. I really like this Glen Elgin, and have ordered a bottle for myself.
Benrinnes 2009 The Dava Way Review
Our second The Dava Way release comes from Benrinnes distillery. This is a 12-year-old Benrinnes, bottled by The Dava Way (TDW) in 2022. This whisky was distilled on June 16, 2009, and aged in a hogshead cask. It has a stated strength of 54.0% ABV (cask strength), it is non-chill filtered and natural colour, and only 305 bottles were produced. It is still available on the Dunphail website for the very good price of £59.95.
Ripe corn. Small beads on the hairline change to slow thin legs.
Neat: The initial aroma is dominated by orchard fruits such as apricot, peach, and pear. There are also hints of dusty oak planks and traces of plum and quince jelly. The overall impression is fresh and earthy, with a slight bitterness from spent tea leaves.
With water: The addition of water brings out a more complex and nuanced aroma, with hints of petrichor (the smell of rain on dry earth) and a subtle minerality as well as some roasted malt.
Neat: The palate is characterised by a burst of tropical and orchard fruits, with the pineapple and apricot from the nose carrying over. The black pepper adds a nice spice to the initial flavours, and this is followed by empyreumatic notes of orangettes and black tea. Finally, hints of hazelnuts, unsalted cashews, and nutmeg bring an enjoyable nuttiness.
With water: The addition of water brings out a more pronounced spiciness, with a greater emphasis on the wood bitterness.
The finish is long and warm, with a dustiness that is balanced by a peppery kick. Dark chocolate and spent coffee grains add a nice bitterness whilst keeping some sweetness.
Tasty and interesting dram, warming, with a nice alcohol kick without being overpowering. Slightly more woody than the Glen Elgin, it’s, however, very fruity as well (more on orchard fruits) and quite interesting with its nutty side. Very nice, and quite a good value for money.
Dailuaine 2009 The Dava Way Review
Our third whisky comes from Dailuaine. I think the only official release from this distillery is in the Flora & Fauna range, so quite coloured and reduced, not the best way to showcase a distillery. Distilled on the 10 February 2009, it was matured for 13 years in a Cognac butt, before being bottled in 2022 at the cask strength of 50% ABV. The 510 bottles are non-chill filtered and with their natural colour. Still available on Dunphail’s online shop for £69.95.
Pale gold. Small beads take a moment to appear then to change to slow descending thin legs.
Neat: The nose starts on overripe plums and banana, with a bit of funk also present. Warm custard cream provides a smooth and creamy note, which balances out the fruitiness of the whisky. Traces of yeast add a slightly tangy and earthy aroma to the nose. The smell of grapes is also noticeable, adding a subtle wine-like note, whilst cereal and malt provide a background aroma of grains and toasty notes. Cherry pie notes add a final touch of sweetness.
With water: The nose becomes more subtle and nuanced. The aroma of dusty leather bound books appears, along with a hint of a dunnage warehouse.
Neat: This Dailuaine has a thick and velvety arrival on the palate, with evocative notes of cognac and brown sugar. There is also a light rancio note, as well as a nice sweetness from white grapes and lime. The palate is further livened up by spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper, as well as a hint of candied ginger.
With water: sweeter, though there is a light grapefruit sourness, chocolate and diluted orange juice. Some greasiness with churn butter as well.
The finish is characterised by notes of brown sugar, candied ginger, white grape, and malt, with a medium-short length.
This Dailuaine shows a similarity in my mind towards its Flora and Fauna edition, even though it’s not the same cask type. There is some kind of winey sweetness on the nose which, with the yeast, put me a little off. The palate shows some rancio and the cognac butt influence is there, without overpowering the character from the Dailuaine spirit. But the really impressive thing about this whisky is its price, as having a 12-year-old single malt single cask for just £60 is quite impressive these days.
An Orkney Distillery 2005 The Dava Way Review
Last but not least, we go to the isle of Orkney for our fourth bottling. This secret H*ghl*nd P*rk was distilled on May 25, 2022, and filled into a single hogshead. It matured for 17 years before being bottled in 2022, at the still potent cask strength of 61.3% ABV, without chill filtration nor colouring. This expression is the most expensive out of the four, but still available at the reasonable price of £89.95 on Dunphail’s online shop.
Ripe corn. Small beads take ages to form, before becoming thick and oily legs taking a long time as well to go down the glass side.
Neat: The nose of this whisky is characterised by a lovely heathery smoke aroma, with hints of a bonfire on the beach, crushed seashells, and sea spray. Stewed apple dipped in honey adds a sweet and fruity note, while the underlying cereal notes provide a subtle, grain-like quality. After a moment, the aroma becomes more complex, with softly sour and sweet notes of grapefruit dusted with sugar emerging.
With water: After some reduction, the nose becomes more vibrant and sharp. The reduction brings out more of the citrusy sourness, giving the nose a bit more edge and zest. The bonfire notes become more intense, as if the fire is now surrounded by hot stones. There is also a slight dustiness that appears.
Neat: The initial aroma is softly smoky, with hints of citrus and coastal notes, such as lemon and grapefruit, as well as sea spray and wet pebbles. As the whisky is tasted, bonfire ash and leafy extract flavours become more prominent, providing an earthy and smoky backbone to the overall taste. Finally, a roasted pineapple note that adds a touch of sweetness. The mouthfeel is mouth-coating, with velvety texture.
With water: When water is added and the whisky is reduced, the dry smoke notes on the palate becomes more pronounced and intense. The pepperiness becomes more evident, adding a nice spicy kick to the flavour profile. The mouthfeel becomes richer and more coating, making the whisky more enjoyable and satisfying on the palate.
On the lengthy finish, this whisky has a lingering dry smoke character, with a little salinity. The citrus and tropical fruits from the palate are also present, giving the finish a fresh and lively character.
The nose of this
Highland P Orkney offers a rich and varied range of scents, with smoky, coastal, and fruity notes all playing a role in creating an aromatic and inviting nose. The palate brings a lovely smoky citrusy character and the finish, despite its good length and complexity, just invites you to sip some more. Great whisky and quite a reasonable price for a 17-year-old Orkney. As for the Glen Elgin, I have ordered a bottle.
Samples provided by Dunphail Distillery. However, that doesn’t change what I think, and after the review I even have ordered the Glen Elgin and the Orkney.
But don’t take our word for it…
As you know, different reviewers might have different opinions. Ruben, from the famous blog whiskynotes.be also reviewed those four bottlings, as well as my friends Brian‘s MaltMusings and Wim‘s Dramgazette.