The Singleton of Dufftown 15-year-old


Reviews of affordable whiskies with some entertaining tales along the way…

The Singleton of Dufftown is a single malt from the Diageo-owned Speyside distillery of Dufftown. It is one of many distilleries to reside in the town that shares its name.

Dufftown is steeped in history. It was established by James Duff, 4th Earl of Fife in 1817 but the Picts had lived in the Glen centuries before. Their way of life faded when the Christians arrived, an era change noted by the building of Mortlach Church in 566 AD. The church still stands today, proudly sandwiched between two of the town’s distilleries.

In the centre of Dufftown stands the Clock Tower, the face of which previously belonged to another tower in Banff. For many years it was known locally as the Clock that hanged MacPherson based on the story of the legendary outlaw of the late 1600s, James MacPerson of Kingussie.

MacPherson was a bit like Scotland’s answer to Robin Hood. He was a tall man with great intellect that fought well with a sword and played a mean fiddle. He travelled with a band of (merry?) men and robbed the rich to support the poor. The law finally caught up with him in the form of Lord Braco and Sherriff of Banff, Nicholas Dunbar, and he was sentenced to die at 3 pm on November 16th, 1700.

The public outcry was so great that a stay of execution was ordered but Lord Braco, determined to do away with MacPherson was incensed by this. Upon hearing that a rider was on his way with a reprieve, he put the clock forward 15 minutes, ensuring that the saviour would never arrive. Prior to his death, MacPherson played one last tune on his fiddle, before smashing it on the ground at his feet. The tune he played was later given words by none other than Robert Burns. The remnants of MacPherson’s fiddle can be seen at the Clan MacPherson Museum in Newtonmore.

Farewell, ye dungeons dark and strong,

The wretch’s destinie!

McPherson’s time will not be long,

On yonder gallows-tree.

Sae rantingly, sae wantonly,

Sae dauntingly gaed he;

He play’d a spring,  and danc’d it round,

Below the gallows-tree.

O what is death but parting breath?

On many a bloody plain

I’ve dar’d his face, and in this place

scorn him yet again!

Untie these bands from off my hands,

And bring me to my sword;

And there’s no a man in all Scotland,

But I’ll brave him at a word.

I’ve liv’d a life of sturt and strife;

I die by treacherie:

It burns my heart I must depart,

And not avenged be.

Now farewell light, thou sunshine bright,

And all beneath the sky!

May coward shame distain his name,

The wretch that dares not die!

Sae rantingly, sae wantonly,

Sae dauntingly gaed he,

He play’d a spring, and danc’d it round,

Below the gallows-tree.

– McPherson’s Farewell. Robert Burns.

Whisky officially came to Dufftown when Mortlach Distillery was established in 1823. It was followed by several more, including Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Glendullan and Kininvie. Dufftown Distillery itself was established in 1895 and later purchased by Arthur Bell & Sons in the early 20th century. From there, it went on to become part of Diageo.

Dufftown’s whisky became part of The Singleton brand when it was launched in 2006.

The Whisky

The Singleton of Dufftown 15-year-old

Singleton of Dufftown 15-year-old

This is a 15-year-old single malt from Speyside that was matured in a combination of European and American oak casks. The whisky is bottled at 40% and retails for around £50 a bottle.

Smell: The influence of sherry is noticeable immediately but it’s quite clean and surprisingly fresh. The subtle suggestion of the aroma of spice without any noticeable prickling of the nostrils. Chocolate Orange. Marmalade. Some old oak. Nutty. Dark chocolate. Nutmeg.

Taste: The arrival on the tip of the tongue is so subtle as to be almost imperceivable but it quickly develops some gently warming spice. Raisins and sultanas. Some caramel sweetness. Quite a dry, oaky finish. Dark chocolate. Feels a bit lightweight. Like it lacks body.

Thoughts: I found this a wee bit disappointing. Which is a shame because I rather enjoyed the 12 and 18-year-old versions. This one seems to come across as more delicate than I remember either of its siblings. It’s not unpleasant in any way but seems to lack power. Of course, not all malts need to be massive drams but it feels like the flavour profile of this whisky could have done with being backed up by a bit of muscle and sadly, it just isn’t there.

Price: Comes in around £50 which is actually very fair in today’s market – given that it’s 15 years old. Still not sure I’d be willing to stump up the cash for it, though.

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