Located in the heart of Speyside this distillery unsurprisingly stands on the outskirts of Dufftown. The town itself can claim to be home to several distilleries today including Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Mortlach and a couple of closed examples in Convalmore and Pittyvaich. Of all the current distilleries in production, arguably the most overlooked and least appreciated is Dufftown itself because it is mainly a producer for Diageo’s blended whiskies.
The distillery was established in 1896 and was formerly the site of a meal mill by the company Dufftown-Glenlivet Distillery Company owned by a consortium of entrepreneurs. The site was selected not only for its proximity to the town, but also barley from Pittyvaich farm, plus a plentiful and excellent water source locally named Jock’s Well. Whilst production commenced later that year, it’s another tale of owners underestimating the cost of actually running a working distillery beyond merely building it. A new ownership model takes over in 1897 as P. MacKenzie and Co. Distillers Limited, which is a new firm created by the owners of Blair Athol distillery. Fortunately, the owner is financially robust enough to withstand the storm of the Pattison Crash and remains in charge until 1933, when Arthur Bell & Sons purchases Dufftown for the fee of £56,000.
Arthur Bell was a prosperous blending company widely known for its Bell’s Scotch whisky and by purchasing P. Mackenzie & Co. acquires both Dufftown and Blair Athol. The distillery has been fortunate as the buoyant demand for blended whiskies has kept it in operation without too much to highlight. The boom period of the 1970’s brought with it a series of expansions with the number of stills doubling to 4 in 1974, before this was increased to the current total of 6 in 1979. Today, Dufftown works around the clock and produces an admirable 6 million litres annually.
A new tun room was installed in 1998 which prompted the distillery to close for 4 months but there’s little else of note. The 1890’s exterior gives the distillery a well-worn look and sadly it isn’t open to the public, but with various paths around the site you are able to walk around easily and take in the exterior. Having been allowed access to the still room upon a previous visit, it is a concentrated affair with little room between the dark and dingy stills that continue their relentless production. It’s a stark contrast to distilleries such as Glenfiddich that offer tours and a series of spotless of environments, prompting some to dub the distillery dirty Dufftown.
Much of Dufftown’s output heads towards the blends but it does have a role to play as a single malt. It has been bottled by the independent bottlers on a regular basis, but today is mainly known for its role within the Diageo Singleton brand. This is one of Diageo’s largest selling brands and the company harbours ambitions to make it the largest selling worldwide. Under the banner of the Singleton that was originally bottled by Auchroisk, today a handful of distilleries support the brand with Glen Ord and Glendullan sitting alongside Dufftown.
Originally starting with Dufftown in 2006, it was a travel retail release before venturing into other markets. Nowadays Dufftown is available as a trio of age statements with the 12, 15 and 18-year-old expressions being the staple offerings. The it becomes a little more complicated as the Far East received an exclusive duo in the form of a 21 and 25 years old, before a series of No Age Statements have been released with names such as Tailfire, Sunray and Spey Cascade forming a complex range of whiskies. Traditionally, Dufftown is seen as an entry level whisky that does not require much perseverance from the drinker. A malty experience it also harbours honey, sugary tablet and hints of chocolate and for many is a gateway to new whiskies.