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Dramming in Scotland 2011 #8 – Dufftown Distillery

by Oliver Klimek on May 17, 2011

Dufftown has the reputation of being “built on seven stills”. The number of distilleries in this small town right in the center of Speyside has been fluctuating over the decades with closures, mothballings and new openings, but it has been the place with the most distilleries in Scotland since the decline of Campbeltown after the 1930s.

One of those distilleries is aptly named “Dufftown”. It was established in 1895 on the banks of the River Dullan, right next to Mortlach. And just like its neighbour, it now belongs to Diageo and is only open to the public for the Spirit of Speyside Festival. The distillery tour that could be booked as a festival event was again led by the distillery manager.

At first glance, Dufftown looks like a cute little old-fashioned distillery. You would never guess that before the recent opening of Roseisle this was Diageo’s powerhouse distillery with a production capacity of 6 million litres of alcohol per year. The distillery started out with only two stills but in the 1970s it was expanded to accomodate three wash stills and three spirit stills.

The reason why the distillery still looks “small” is that all new stills were crammed into the exisiting stillhouse, so no new building had to be erected for this purpose. With the same number as stills as Mortlach, Dufftown produces significantly more spirit which of course is due to Mortlach’s complicated partial triple distillation method which takes much longer than the straightforward double distillation done here.

It is not surprising that also Dufftown is extensivley automated. We were lucky enough to be shown the control room with the computer “looking” after the entire production process, and we also were thouroughly explained all the different displays, including the monitoring of water level, temperature and flow of the river that supplies the cooling water for the condensers. The distillery also has a modern pot ale evaporator facility that is supplied by other distilleries as well for making syrup to be used as cattle feed.

Another parallel to Mortlach is that almost all of the production is used for the Diageo blends. But at least they have their own proper original bottling under the “Singleton of Dufftown” brand. Currently there is a 12 and a 15 year old version, but the distillery manager hinted on a possible expansion of the range in the future.

The style of whisky produced in Dufftown distillery has been changed from rather rich and nutty to light and grassy, a decision made by almighty Johnnie Walker for the optimization of the flavour profile of the house blends. Everything is set up to produce a spirit that is as light as possible. Extra care is taken that the wort contains as few solids as possible after mashing, and stainless steel washbacks are used to rule out any influence of microflora on fermentation.

The spirit is tankered away to Diageo’s centralized casking plant and like Mortlach it may be matured in any of the company’s warehouses. An interesting tidbit to close this report: The Dufftown distillery manager does not seem to be inolved with the Singleton bottlings, as he was not sure exactly what types of casks are used for them. Cask selection and blending obviously seem to be done at the headquarters only.

Again this proved to be a most insightful distillery visit, and I have to thank the people at Diageo that they provided the visitors of Mortlach and Dufftown with a lot of informations and answered questions very frankly, counteracting a notion expressed by parts of the whisky community.of being overly secretive about their distilleries,

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