The workhorse distilleries of Scotland – those unheralded stills that churn out fodder for the blends that the average punter knows well – periodically make their way to us in their unadulterated form. Today, I consider one of these from Dufftown, burnished by a bit of exotic cask maturation.
The Dufftown distillery has been owned by Diageo since that company’s formation in 1997, and before that by Guinness since 1985 when it purchased Bell’s. Most of Dufftown’s 6 million litres of output has gone into Bell’s blend, the bestselling whisky in the UK.
A friend once noted tartly, “the world would be a better place if Dufftown had never produced a drop of the stuff.” This is what little regard the said distillery is held in by many. Historically, a cask or two made its way directly to consumers via independent bottlers (my first encounter was a Signatory hogshead aged 15 years, which did not send me scurrying around to find other expressions). The MALT team has considered the bicentenary commemorative bottling, as well as a punchy 7-year-old Càrn Mòr bottling, noted for its industrial qualities.
Officially, Dufftown made its debut as a Travel Retail Exclusive in 2006, under the “Singleton” label (confusingly shared with Glen Ord and Glendullan). The current range is comprised of three NAS expressions (Spey Cascade, Tailfire, Sunray, and Malt Master’s Selection), as well as 12, 15, 18, 21, and 25-year-old bottlings, all branded with “The Singleton of Dufftown” label. Jason previously reviewed the 12-year-old offering, describing it as “a pretty poor excuse for a whisky.”
Pedro Ximinez or “PX” casks will be familiar to MALT readers. Last year saw three reviewed here: Laphroaig, Bunnahabhain, and GlenDronach. The wine had its day in the sun when Robert Parker (the Jim Murray of wine) awarded a perfect 100-point score to the 2011 Alvear Pedro Ximenez de Añada Montilla-Moriles in 2013. In any case, this is a PX cask finish, “an expression of progressive whisky making artistry” per the label.
This dram was another generous donation from Carl, who has provided a few samples to grace the MALT pages of late. It has been bottled at 40%, and is available in 1L format from Master of Malt for £96.
The Singleton of Dufftown Artisan – Review
Color: Rusty orange
On the nose: Rich aromas of orange marmalade. Swiss Miss hot cocoa powder, a bit of perfumed hand soap and talc, as well as green apple-flavored hard candy and a green note of freshly-mown grass, soaked with dew on a spring morning.
In the mouth: Starts nutty, with a bitter note of almonds arriving at midpalate. More sweet powdered cocoa rounds off the tongue, cascading into dried sultanas and a bit of spicy wood. The soapy texture emerges once again; I almost want to re-rinse my glass. This evaporates on the back of the tongue and finishes with a watery woodiness as the only lingering memory of an otherwise evanescent whisky.
The dreaded “easy sipper.” I could see this as an amateur’s stepping-stone to cask-finished whisky, were it not for the premium price. Channeling the spirit of unbiased charity, I’d say that this is another example of an imperfect voice that resounds best in a chorus, rather than as a soloist. Strapping-on my tread worn cynic’s boots, I’d say this is a multinational conglomerate’s attempt at economic alchemy, trying to fetch gold prices from a pound of lead smothered in a semi-sexy cask finish. It’s about £40 worth of whisky, sold for closer to £100. MALT readers would be best counseled to find their kicks elsewhere.
Lead image from the Whisky Auctioneer and there is a commission link within this review should you feel interested enough to make a purchase. This, however, does not affect our opinion.