The Dufftown distillery is located in the part of Speyside and Banffshire
that carries the same name: Dufftown. According to the late Michael
Jackson's geographical classification, other distilleries in that area are
Balvenie, Convalmore, Glendullan, Glenfiddich, Mortlach and Pittyvaich.
Oddly enough, the Banff distillery itself was located in another region .
Much like the Deanston distillery in the Midlands, Dufftown was not
originally built as a malt whisky distillery; it was converted from an old mill
by the Dufftown-Glenlivet Distillery Co. in 1896. Just one year later in
1897 Dufftown was acquired by MacKenzie & Co. who also owned the
Blair Athol distillery in Pitlochry to the south. They managed to hold
on despite the 'Pattison Crisis' that shook the whisky world.
In 1933 Dufftown and Blair Athol were purchased by Arthur Bell & Sons Ltd.
from Perth. Since that moment Dufftown has been an important component
of the famous Bell's blend. The number of stills was doubled from two to
four in 1974 and just five years later in 1979 two more stills were added,
resulting in an overall production capacity of 4,000,000 litres of alcohol.
Around the year 2000, this made Dufftown the twelfth largest distillery in Scotland (measured in capacity).
Dufftown used to be Diageo's 'powerhouse' with the largest capacity of the dozens of distilleries that the company
owns. Around the year 2012 Dufftown has dropped to a more modest third place in the Diageo 'stable', after
Caol Ila and the new Roseisle distillery.
Since 1985, Dufftown is in the hands of United Distillers (UDV)
who merged with International Distillers and Vintners (IDV) in
1998 to form United Distillers and Vintners (UDV). That
entity itself is owned by industry giant Diageo - Scotland's
largest malt whisky producer for many years now.
Dufftown is a relatively 'low profile' brand within Diageo's large portfolio.
In fact; the last proper official bottling that I've tried for many years was bottled around 1995.
It was replaced with a semi-official ‘Flora & Fauna’ bottling during the late 1990s
Obviously, the pronunciation of the name 'Auchroisk' was considered no longer to be a
problem when Diageo decided to use the name for the whisky produced at a number of
other distilleries in 2006. From that moment on, clients in the 'duty free market' (mostly
airport liquor stores) could buy a litre bottle of Singleton - and receive a bottle of Dufftown,
Glendullan or Glen Ord - depending on where they happened to be at the moment.
Diageo owns by far the largest number of distilleries in
Scotland, but the production capacity of their 'average'
distillery is relatively low compared to those of for example
William Grant (makers of Balvenie and Glenfiddich) or, say,
the Edrington Group (makers of Macallan & Highland Park).
These days, official bottlings of the Dufftown malt whisky are sold under the 'Singleton' name.
Confusingly enough, that very same name was also used for OB's from the Auchroisk distillery in
the past, which is also owned by Diageo. They used the name 'Singleton' instead of Auchroisk
during the 1990's because that name was considered too hard to pronounce.
Well, that was the official story anyway...
So, whisky lovers on different continents can enjoy very different single malt whiskies under
the name 'Singleton' these days. If you buy yourself a bottle of Singleton in Europe it will actually
be a Dufftown malt whisky, but if you're buying a bottle of Singleton in the USA it will contain
Glendullan whisky while shoppers in Asia receive a bottle of Glen Ord single malt whisky.
In a way, Diageo has now managed to achieve what they were trying to do when they replaced the Cardhu single
malt whisky (wholly produced at the Cardhu distillery) with the Cardhu vatted malt whisky (a mixture of malt whiskies
from different distilleries) in 2002. This move ignited a storm of protest from malt whisky consumers that had been
attracted to single malt whisky with advertising that stressed that each single malt was a unique product, very
different from other malt whiskies. A Cardhu vatted malt didn't fit with this image. Granted, the name of the distillery
is still printed on the 'Singleton' labels and packaging, but when Diageo introduced this new (well, actually second
hand) brand that could include the products of a few different distilleries, they set out on a risky course.
The Dufftown distillery is located in the town of the same name, which is
home to a large number of other distilleries - Glenfiddich and Balvenie,
as well as Convalmore, Glendullan, Mortlach and Pittyvaich.
The water source of the Dufftown distillery is Jock’s Well - at least as far
as the process water is concerned. Whisky distilleries need a lot of water,
and only a small portion of that water eventually ends up in the bottle.
Given Dufftown’s massive production capacity (and the large number
of nearby distilleries) I assume that the cooling water for the Dufftown
distillery is obtained from other sources.
It is not possible to tour the Dufftown distillery - which is another example
of the relatively ‘low profile’ character of the distillery. Fortunately, there
are many other distilleries in the Dufftown area that do provide tours of
the premises, like the nearby Balvenie complex.
1) Being named after the town itself, one
might easily assume that the Dufftown
whisky distillery was also the first one to
be set up in Dufftown. Well, it wasn't.
Mortlach (1824), Glenfiddich (1887),
Balvenie (1892) and Convalmore (1894)
were all established earlier. Glendullan
followed in 1898. The next distillery to be
built was Pittyvaich in 1975. Unfortunately,
that adventure ended in 1993 when the
distillery closed again in 1993. William
Grant's 'token' malt distillery Kininvie
(1990) was located in Dufftown as well.
2) One more 'fun fact' about the location;
The 'Dufftown' distillery is actually located
outside the town of Dufftown...
6) Dufftown was once the Diageo distillery with the largest production capacity. Even though the maximum annual capacity was increased from 4,000,000 to 5,800,000 litres of pure alcohol in recent years, it ranked as #3 among the Diageo distilleries in 2012 - Roseisle and Caol Ila produce even more whisky every year.
3) Only 3% of the malt whisky produced
at Dufftown is bottled as a single malt
7) The Dufftown malt whisky distillery has a full lauter mash tun with a capacity of 13 tonnes.
That makes it one of the biggest in the entire Scotch whisky Industry.
4) Even after The Singleton was introduced, most Dufftown whisky is used for blended whisky - particularly Bell's.
5) There are eight warehouses at the Dufftown distillery, holding almost 100,000 casks of malt whisky.
9) Dufftown is one of almost two dozen malt whisky distilleries that were founded over a century ago during the 'whisky boom' of the late 19th century and which have managed to survive until this day. The other survivors include Aberfeldy, Ardmore, Aultmore, Balvenie, Benriach, Benromach, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Dalwhinnie, Glendullan, Glenfiddich, Glenrothes, Glentauchers, Knockandu, Knockdhu, Longmorn, Tamdhu and Tomatin.
8) In 2006 the 15yo ‘Flora & Fauna’ bottling was replaced by the 12yo ‘Singleton’. To make up for the shorter
maturation time, a slightly higher percentage of ex sherry casks is used in the vattings.
2006 - The 15yo semi-official bottling of the Dufftown malt
whisky in the Flora & Fauna range is replaced with a 12yo
version under the name 'Singleton' for the duty free market.
The Singleton of Dufftown is aimed at European customers;
shoppers in Asia can buy the Singleton of Glen Ord while the
Singleton of Glendullan is available for American (duty free)
customers. I've been told that customers in South Africa get
the 'Dufftown' variety as well.
2009 - An expensive ‘Manager’s Choice’ bottling is released. It was distilled in 1997, so it was only twelve years
old - just like the more affordable ‘Singleton’ bottlings.
2014 - Diageo adds to the growing number of young ‘No Age Statement’ bottlings with the release of three new
‘bargain bin’ releases; Spey Cascade, Sunfire and Tailfire.
2008 - The 'Singleton range becomes available outside the duty free channel - in regular liquor stores.
Dufftown 27yo 1982/2010 (55.7%, Riverstown, Sherry c#18582, 104 Bts.)
Nose: Austere & quite strong. Hard to describe. Opens up & improves a LOT after a minute; sweet & deeply fruity.
Taste: Forced sweetness in the start, followed by bitterness and some smoke. Ginger? Menthol? It remains odd.
Score: 85 points - although I should point out that it starts off much weaker in the nose.
Singleton of Dufftown 12yo (40%, OB for duty free, Bottled +/- 2009, 1 litre)
Nose: Light, soft fruits. Young, sour apples. Whiff of rhubarb? Hints of chloride and oil?
It's not very expressive to begin with and it shuts down almost completely within a few minutes.
Taste: Sweet and altogether quite pleasant. A whiff of oil. There's an odd fruitiness to the palate.
Some 'plastic' characteristics. Loses a few points in the harsh 'plywood' finish. Pine; some herbal traits.
Score: 72 points - it lacks some complexity and staying power that's needed for a score over 75 points.
This score also suggests that the rumours that this is a 'blendification effort' from Diageo could be true...
Dufftown 25yo 1984/2009 (57.5%, Signatory, Sherry Butt #80, 455 Bts.)
Nose: Rich, big and sherried. Very fragrant. The age and type of cask lift this out of the realm of Dufftown.
Spices come to the foreground, along with something vaguely phenolic. A surprisingly complex malt whisky.
Granted, the cask has a stronger voice than the distillery in this case - but frankly I don't mind too much.
Taste: Round and fruity. Oak and smoke. A lovely heavily sherried profile. Excellent tannins in the finish.
Score: 90 points - which makes this the highest scoring Dufftown I've tried so far. One for the sherry freaks...
The Dufftown 11yo (58%, Von Fass Cask Strength, Bottled +/- 2000) was a sample sent by Olivier.
Nose: Fudge. Sweet and malty. Yeah, this is the 'Dufftown' profile I remember. Then a hint of lime.
The citrussy side grows stronger, evolving into stale, warm beer. Now the beer grows stronger.
Now it transforms into something dusty and fruity like dried apples. Very intersting development!
And it goes on. After ten minutes the organics move in. Wet pipe tobacco. Quite remarkable.
Oddly enough, it has sort of an allergic reaction to water, becoming metallic and sharp.
Taste: Sweet. Mouth coating. Once again, this profile reminds me a lot of the 10yo OB.
Hmmm. Now a hint of something smoky and fishy. Perfectly drinkable at cask strength.
Unfortunately, a splash of water breaks up the palate. The smooth finish grows dry and flat.
Score: 82 points - I had it somewhere in the lower 80's first, but then it slowly crept into the upper 80's.
That's thanks to the amazing development in the nose. However, a poor response to water pulled it down again.
Dufftown 12yo 1987 (43%, Chieftain's Choice, Bottled +/- 2000)
Nose: Started off with some malt and sherry. Hint of spices. A lot of volume at first, but disintegrates quickly.
Taste: Nice. Malty. Smooth start, then it gets a bit 'chewy'. Decent Burn. Not very complex, though.
Score: 73 points - this whisky is just a little too bitter in the finish for me...
Dufftown 15yo (43%, Flora & Fauna, Bottled +/- 1999, Kingfisher on the label)
Nose: Nice! Starts soft, but grows more complex and powerful with time.
Sweet with hints of citrus. Malty. Some smoke, but not as much as earlier drams.
Taste: Sweet & malty burn. Toffee. Coffee. Mocha? A hint of menthol?
Sherry and wood in the finish; a bit dry, a little gritty. Above average whisky, but little more.
Score: 77 points - better than average, but ultimately not interesting enough to capture my imagination.
Dufftown-Glenlivet 21yo 1978/1999 (55.2%, Cadenhead's, Sherry Hogshead, 264 Bts.)
Nose: Aaaah! Lovely sweet sherry fruits. Passion fruits. Not a lot of development, but I love this profile.
Taste: Teeters on the safe side of perfumy. Sweet and fruity. Feels hotter than its 55% ABV.
Score: 88 points - the cask speaks louder than the distillery, but I'm not a fundamentalist in these things.
Dufftown 10yo (43%, OB, Bottled early 1990's, 100cl)
Nose: A sweet, oily aroma with hints of syrup and pepper. Full and malty - a blend-beater.
Taste: A soft, round taste with a long afterglow. Lack of taste development and complexity?
Score: 76 points - although the Bang-For-Your-Buck value was considerably higher.
Dufftown-Glenlivet 'Over 8yo' (80 Proof, Bells OB, Black Label, Italy, Bottled +/- 1985).
Nose: Creamy & well rounded. Coffee? A little sellery. Smoke. A nice dram, but not very expressive.
Taste: It seemed quite 'veggy' on the palate. A little bitter, but not unpleasantly so. A tad MOTR.
Some wood and tannins, drying out towards the finish. Once again: pleasant enough but not great.
Score: 76 points - Davin (who enjoyed it with me in Glasgow in 2005) went for 75 points.
Dufftown-Glenlivet 14yo 1966/1980 (45.7%, Cadenhead's, Dumpy bottling, 75cl)
Nose: Hah! Mint and antiquity. Very pleasant on my nose, but no development to speak of.
Taste: Dusty sweetness. Fairly flat, could be oxidised. Even then, it's an interesting and 'austere' dram.
Score: 81 points - proof that single malts don't need a LOT of time to mature.
As (bad) luck would have it, many of the Dufftowns I tried were sampled under less than ideal 'administrative' conditions - either during the early 1990's before I started taking serious notes or at a festival or in Scotland being distracted by the manical behaviour and rantings of my fellow malt maniacs.
For example, the Dufftown-Glenlivet NAS (70 Proof, OB, Black & Red Label, Bottled Late 1970's, an unremarkable Scottish malt whisky, 71 points) and the Dufftown-Glenlivet 8yo (70 Proof, 40%, OB, Black & Red Label, Bottled Early 1980's, very light in style, 73 points) were sampled on Islay in 2005 and I only made rudimentary notes on them.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Dufftown malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Dufftown I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Dufftown.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.