We approached Dufftown with the chorus of dirty dirty Dufftown ringing in our ears. Standing in the stillroom it was hard to disagree with The Tormore 4 sentiment that this is a producer of whisky and little more. Appearing ignored, tainted and industrial within its walls. Although it’s more authentic hinting of a bygone age compared to many of the new distillery structures, where you could move between the stills without catching yourself on a hot surface, or tripping over a pipe. In a way, I prefer the old claustrophobic layout none more so than the still room at Bunnahabhain or Blair Athol, but here at Dufftown it felt soiled.
Dufftown distillery was established in 1896 on the edge of the famous whisky town, not too far from Mortlach and later on another neighbour in the form of – and I apologise for swearing here – Pittyvaich. Its history is pretty benign, passing through a series of owners including Arthur Bell & Sons before being swallowed up by a series of corporate take overs that today means Dufftown is now in the Diageo stable.
It’s a major producer of around 6 million litres, working flat out for the past decade with its spirit destined for blends and the fake brand of Singleton. Now I say fake because it’s suggestive of a single malt from a single distillery, but is in fact a combination of producers with Glendullan and Glen ord. You just have to read the label a little more beyond the Singleton aspect. Diageo have a cunning plan to make this the world’s number one single malt, which I’d consider cheating as in reality its several different malts under one headline. The key aspect is whether upon tasting you’d go back for more from Glendullan or Dufftown and I’ve yet to meet anyone that actually holds these Singleton whiskies in any positive light. The Glen Ord, particularly the export editions of its Singleton are actually not too bad and deserve better.
What we have here is the Dufftown 12-year-old expression of the Singleton that I actually purchased after visiting Blair Athol distillery. I felt kinda dirty and uncouth paying for this sample but I felt inclined to return to the Singleton for Whisky Rover and to punish myself. Of course, this could be one of the great whiskies of the year for me, but for Diageo its meant to be an introductory whisky and is priced accordingly. The Singleton’s are mass produced and shipped everywhere. The problem with such starter whiskies is that if they aren’t any good, you won’t be coming back for more or investigating the brand further.
Nose: a gentle assortment that really requires some coaxing to open up the oranges and varnish. Then there’s cream crackers, with a little appearance of walnuts followed by a waft of pineapple and finishing with apricots. Very inoffensive and at 12-years-old its a dunce.
Taste: some sun withered oranges, a handful of bar nuts and the undercurrent of vanilla. The texture is light and vapid.
Overall: yeah I could say this is gentle, smooth and mellow. This is what the ass kissers will probably say, but in reality this is a pretty poor excuse for a whisky. Over a decade in age, its a combination of mass production over quality or character. The casks here seem very benign and translucent with little depth on show and it features the worst characteristics of artificial colouring and chill filtration. At 40% strength whatever body it once had has withered away leaving us with this liquid that its best served as mixer rather than a single malt.