Faced with the prospect of celebrating the bicentenary of the town of Dufftown itself. The organisers had a range of potential whiskies from several distilleries that call the settlement home. It’s a whisky paradise for any traveller with an assortment of themed shops, a museum, friendly locals and just enough drinking establishments to keep you occupied.
Then there are the distilleries themselves, with this being the power base of the William Grant & Sons operation. Dufftown is home to their trio of Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininivie. Diageo can also call upon Dufftown distillery itself along with the much-remodelled Mortlach. The fallen also exist with Parkmore and Convalmore standing idle with Pittyvaich thankfully reduced to dust, but the memory of its whisky remaining unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.
For this celebration, the urge I’m sure was to go with something different and rarely seen. Thus, a cask from the aptly named Dufftown distillery was selected for bottling. This Diageo workhorse is a real dogged producer, working night and day to provide content for its owner’s blends and the Singleton range. It was originally established in 1896, when the town was still prospering and took its water from Jack’s well and barley from Pittyvaich farm. Dufftown was acquired by Arthur Bell & Sons in 1933 to provide content for its blends and when the 1970’s arrived its capacity was not extended once, but twice.
Today’s capacity is around 6 million litres annually and its fair to say there isn’t much love for Dufftown as a producer. It’s an approachable malt – arguably why it was selected for the Singleton – but it’s rarely sought any exposure or fan base given its current predicament. There are no tours of the distillery but it is only a short walk from the centre of Dufftown and you can journey down and around the site before heading back along the riverbank towards Mortlach.
Within the stillroom there is little space for human movement and a steam punk industrial presentation with its 6 stills crammed into a small space leaving little elbow room for would be explorers. In some ways, I actually preferred this realistic old dog of a distillery, as opposed to the shiny and slick visuals at say Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie or Macallan. Dufftown distillery works flat out so others can enjoy the adulation and publicity of their single malts. It’s a dirty, hot and grimy business producing whisky and Dufftown bathes in these characteristics. The experience gave credence to the Tormore4 phrase dirty dirty Dufftown and a shaking of heads from some of our membership. It’s easy to be swayed by the slick presentation and lavish marketing of other distilleries, but give me the underdog and survivor that somehow keeps on going.
They say every dog, or distillery has its day and I’m a firm believer in this. A single cask Dufftown is a rare thing indeed, which is probably why given the opportunity this ex-hogshead was selected for the 200thcelebration. The mere of mention of Dufftown may have others running for the hills around the town, but I’m intrigued enough to purchase a bottle when I visited the Dufftown whisky shop recently.
Colour: barley husk
Nose: very malty and punchy even at the reduced 46% initially. Barley sugar and a light honey mingled with a butter biscuit crumble base. There is a dampness to it, albeit the Tormore4 guys would say a dirtiness, that reminds me of walking through reeds on a riverbank. The cherries and vanilla are there, but not forceful or to the front and there’s character in here after 8 years in a cask with lots of black spices. Water revealed some orange segments but I felt it was better without generally.
Taste: much lighter than the nose suggested, yes there’s honey and the interplay between apples and pears but its incredibly spicy. More of a creamy vanilla nature – almost Key Lime Pie – moving us into some cask char, white grapes and almost an icing sugar finish. Water brings out more sugars and a touch of bitterness.
Overall: a very solid whisky and a fitting celebration. This is a very pleasant, easy drinking example of what Dufftown distillery is capable of. It’s not massive, dominant or richly detailed, but rather is a whisky that just satisfies. With £10 of the £45 asking price also goes towards supporting the good work locally of the Dufftown and District Community Association, everyone is a winner.
You can purchase this whisky directly from the Whisky Shop Dufftown if you’re interested. I may acquire another soon as its a bottle you can sit down with friends and plough into quite easily, or open up a tasting with.