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The town of Dufftown was founded in 1817 at the meeting point of two rivers. It was built in an attempt to provide employment for men returning from the Napoleonic Wars. Located in the Speyside region, the town would find itself at the centre of a distillation boom, following the passing of the Excise Act in 1823.
The town housed seven distilleries at one time. Such density of distillation inspired the slogan “Rome was built on seven hills but Dufftown stands on seven stills”. The seven were Mortlach, Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Convalmore, Parkmore, Glendullan and Dufftown itself.
Dufftown was the sixth of the town’s distilleries, established in 1895 by Mackenzie & co. Early success caught the attention of Arthur Bell & Sons who bought the business in 1933. The Dufftown malt would go on to become a key component in the Bell’s blend.
Bell’s was later absorbed by DCL and Dufftown joined their impressive portfolio of distilleries. Though it continued to produce spirit for use in blends, Dufftown as a single malt would soon have its moment in the sun.
The Singleton name was first applied to the single malt from Auchroisk in 1986 after the distillery was deemed too difficult to pronounce. When Auchroisk was later added to Diageo’s Flora & Fauna series, however, “The Singleton” was dropped.
The name was revived in 2006 in a plan that involved the malt of three distilleries, combined to create a single malt super-brand that could challenge the likes of Glenlivet and Glenfiddich for sales. Dufftown was chosen along with Glendullan and Glen Ord. The Singleton of Glen Ord was originally earmarked for Asia, while Glendullan was destined for the US and Canada. The Singleton of Dufftown, meanwhile, remained in Europe. Today, however, all three brands are available worldwide in an attempt to boost sales. So far, it’s been working. The Singleton regularly resides among the top five best selling single malt brands in the world.
The Dufftown range includes 12, 15 and 18-year-old expressions and there have been various no-age-statement releases including Tailfire and Spey Cascade.
*Full disclosure: This sample was included in an advent calendar which I was sent for free. As always, I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.
The Singleton of Dufftown 12-year-old is bottled at 40% and retails around £35.
Smell: Lots of classic Speyside fruits at first. There’s apple, pear and citrus – both orange and lemon. Aromatic cinnamon spice. Hobnob biscuits. My high school woodwork classroom! Caramel and honeycomb. Perhaps a touch of peach.
Taste: The first thing I noticed was an impressive weight for a spirit of 40% abv. It’s quite a rich arrival with caramel and toffee at the forefront. More honey. Some gentle dry woody spice develops and remains well into the finish. Towards the back you get the apple and pear notes from the nose.
Thoughts: It’s perhaps not the most complex whisky I’ve ever come across but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I had a similar reaction when I first came across Cragganmore. I expected a delicate dram in the style of Glenlivet but found something more robust, instead. As much as people sometimes like to portray Diageo as the Evil Empire, they really know what they’re doing when it comes to bottling single malt Scotch whisky. This is a Speyside I can get on board with. Fully flavoured and very satisfying.
Value for money: An impressive 12-year-old malt for a reasonable price of £35.
For more on The Singleton visit here