Dufftown (Pronounced: DUFFtown)
57°26'9.61"N, 3° 7'40.93"W
Balvenie, Glendullan, Mortlach
3 Wash stills, 3 Spirit stills
5,800,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
UDV / Diageo (since 1985)
Dufftown, Banffshire, AB55 4BR
Sort of, for the last few years under the 'Singleton' name
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
1) Being named after the town itself, one might easily assume that the Dufftown whisky distillery was also the first distillery 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. One more 'fun fact' about the location;
The 'Dufftown' distillery is actually located outside the town of Dufftown...
2) 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.
3) 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) There are eight warehouses at the Dufftown distillery, holding almost 100,000 casks of malt whisky.
5) Only 3% of the malt whisky which is produced at Dufftown is bottled as a single malt; the rest is used as an ingredient for blended whiskies - particularly Bell's.
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.
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.
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.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Dufftown Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Dufftown page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Dufftown expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
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. To make up for the shorter maturation time, a larger percentage of ex sherry casks is used in the vattings. The Singleton of Dufftown is aimed at European audiences; 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.
2008 - The 'Singleton range becomes available outside the duty free channel - in regular liquor stores.
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 - but not Banff itself, oddly enough.
Much like Deanston, the Dufftown distillery 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 pure alcohol .
That makes Dufftown (roughly) the twelfth largest distillery in Scotland, measured in capacity.
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). UDV itself is owned by industry giant Diageo - Scotland's largest malt whisky producer.
Dufftown is a relatively 'low profile'
brand within Diageo's
large portfolio; the last proper official bottling I've tried for
many years was bottled around 1995. 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 Roseisle and Caol Ila.
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
name 'Singleton' - confusingly enough the same name that was used for OB's
from the Auchroisk distillery. It's also owned by Diageo, who used the name
'Singleton' dinstead of Auchroisk during the 1990's because that name was
considered too hard to pronounce. Well, that was the official story anyway...
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 from 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.
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. Confusing, eh?
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 didn't fit with this image of the product category. 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.
Is the distillery or