Glendullan is arguably the least known and unfashionable of the existing Dufftown distilleries today. Established in 1898, this was at the height of a whisky boom across Scotland that prompted a series of distilleries to be built. Its site is located in-between Mortlach and Parkmore on the outskirts of this famous whisky town. The water source comes from the Convall hills and the Dullan that runs from this viable outlet. Fortunately, Glendullan was not affected by the pollution that prompted the closure of Parkmore distillery in 1931 due to the presence of a nearby mining operation.
Founded by William Williams and Sons Limited, this blending firm based in Aberdeen was seeking new resources, as so many did during this flamboyant period of growth. The company was responsible for the Strathdon and Three Stars blends before it changed name in 1919. Shortly after this it was acquired by a forerunner to Diageo who retain ownership today.
Glendullan is another example of a consistent distillery that supports the blended scotches of its parent company and over the years has supported significant blends such as Bell’s, Johnnie Walker, Dewar’s and Old Parr. There is a tale from 1902 concerning King Edward VII and the Royal Court being supplied Glendullan whisky, as the favourite tipple of the then King. More recently, Glendullan was selected by the then Speaker of the House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd, as her official whisky during her tenure. History therefore shows us that Glendullan has friends in high places and enthusiastic support.
Very little happens at the distillery until 1962, when the two stills and buildings are refurbished. Then a decade later in the midst of another whisky boom, the owners decide to build a completely new distillery next door. This is where the ‘dull’ that some enthusiasts comment on comes from, as the new distillery is not a lovely sight amidst some stunning Dufftown examples. It’s a more functional design in keeping with many distilleries that were rebuilt or modernised during the 1970’s. The change also results in 3 sets of stills and a significant increase in production, which today is approximately 5 million litres. The original Glendullan was finally mothballed in 1985 amidst the whisky downturn across the industry. The most significant change apart from output, was the move away from the traditional worm tubs towards the condensers we now see in use across the industry.
Fortunately, the original Glendullan still stands right beside the modern replacement and has not been lost to time like Aultmore or Glen Elgin to name but 2. Tours are not available at the Glendullan site but Dufftown does offer a wonderful walking tour, where you can trek past both additions. The original Glendullan is very traditional, featuring stonework and signs that hint at a bygone age. In-between both distilleries there is a recent addition in the form of a biomass plant to improve efficiencies on site.
In whisky terms, Glendullan is now most widely recognised as a distillery that supports the Diageo super whisky known as the Singleton. This one brand features support from several Diageo distilleries including Glen Ord and the plan is to achieve the top spot in the single malt market from the behemoths of Glenfiddich and Glenlivet. Both of these distilleries produce on a larger scale hence why Diageo has created the Singleton brand. For Glendullan, it’s never really had a single malt presence prior to this with the only exceptions being a Rare Malt entry in 2005, an 8-year-old export bottling from the 1990’s that was released alongside a UK 10-year-old.
The staple bottling that you might find when visiting a Diageo distillery is the 12-year-old that appeared as part of the Flora & Fauna range. It’s perfectly pleasant without being anything special and suggests why the Glendullan is popular with large scale blends. Nowadays with the arrival of the Singleton, Glendullan is everywhere with the core trio being the 12, 15 and 18-year-old expressions. These have been joined in recent times by a trio of No Age Statement releases that offer unique cask finishes, before Diageo as part of its Special Release programme delivered a 38-year-old from 1975.