We’ve reached MacDuff in our journey through Scotland’s distilleries at Abbey Whisky. Despite being established as recently as 1960 near the coastal town of the same name, illegal distilling was prominent in the area going back to the 1700’s. The distillery has endured several name changes which has prompted confusion over the years. It’s original name of MacDuff comes from the founding consortium of MacDuff Distillers Group, some of whom had links to other distilleries including Deanston and Tullibardine. It’s also been called the Glen Deveron, as the local glen of the same name reaches the sea nearby. The resulting distillery build is very much of the period being clean and functional with a white washed and slightly industrial exterior.
The 1960’s were very much a boom time for whisky with many rediscovering the joys of a dram after the rationing of World War 2 and having cash to spend. MacDuff was traditionally a producer of content for blends and it proved a successful endeavour as by 1964 the number of stills were increased from 2 to 3, before being extended once again to 4 in 1968. The arrival of 1972 heralded new owners in the form of William Lawson Distillers who in 1980 became part of the General Beverage Corporation. The arrival of William Lawson also marked the prominence of MacDuff providing content for its blended scotch that has in recent years grown in popularity abroad with a particular focus on the emerging Russian market.
In 1990 a third spirit still was added giving MacDuff an unusual set up for Scotland with 5 stills on site that endures today with an annual production of 3.3 million litres. Of particular note regarding the stills at MacDuff, are the lyne arms that slope upwards but also have an angled kink, with one being very prominent. This arrangement was purely functional to enable all 5 stills to fit in the existing still room. However, all of the oddities at MacDuff come together to create a distinctive North Easterly coastal whisky.
A new owner arrived in 1993 when Bacardi bought MacDuff’s parent company and transferred ownership to its whisky portfolio under the historical name of John Dewar & Sons. As this purchase included the William Lawson blended scotch, MacDuff continued to support its principle blend and this continued until 2013, when a new range was launched under the name of the Glen Deveron. The Royal Burgh Collection was focused at the growing travel retail market and featured a trio of impressive age statements. Starting with the 16-year-old and then rising to 20 and 30 years, it’s still possible to find it occasionally if you’re passing through airports.
Then in 2015, Bacardi revealed their Last Great Malts range, which was a focused effort to showcase the distilleries within their portfolio including several fairly unknown producers. MacDuff was included, but now as The Deveron and a revamped image followed suit. A frosted green glass bottle is unusual in today’s whisky realm however along with the branding it does suggest a sea-like influence and overall is visually impressive. A trio of age statements make up the current official range with a 10, 12 and 18 offering a surprising affordability. Only time will tell if this sustained movement into the single malt market will be a successful venture for the Devon and Bacardi. In the meantime, you can explore the official range or seek out a wealth of independent releases that showcase a variety of ages normally bottled under its original MacDuff name.