Until fairly recently i’d never tried a Dufftown malt. That’s not surprising given only 3% of it’s annual output goes into blend. That small single malt output is currently branded under the Singleton label, a brand name which confusingly was also used for [Diageo’s] Auchroisk. Furthermore, Singleton currently contains either Dufftown, Glendullan or Glen Ord respectively – depending on where in the world you buy it.
Opened in 1896 by Mackenzie and Co, Dufftown was bought by Arthur Bell & sons in 1933 to become a workhorse for the Bell’s blend, and a very key one at that. In the late 1980’s it joined Diageo’s ever growing portfolio and remained a stable provider of malt for blend, increasing its production to around 5.5-6 million litres a year. Dufftown was Diageo’s highest producing distillery until the emergence of Roseisle in the naughties.
Last year in July 2015 i acquired a few samples of Dufftown to rectify my ignorance regarding malt from this illusive Speyside distillery. One of those samples was an Arthur Bell’s Dufftown-Glenlivet 10yo. It hasn’t found much favour amongst many enthusiasts which is all the better for me because I duly fell for this expression and acquired a bottle. That bottle comes to an end tonight, a situation which triggered ‘Dufftown Dimanche’. As part of Sunday nights celebration of Dufftown [any excuse], i’ll be opening a few other expressions from my modest malt archive.
There are five other distilleries in the Dufftown area, namely Balvenie, [Kininvie], Glendullan, Glenfiddich and Mortlach. Aside from Glendullan, the others were established before the Dufftown distillery which perversely is actually situated outside of the town.
There’s a superb article at scotchwhisky.com about Dufftown. It’s well worth a read and a visit indeed. Until then [i’ll probably coincide a trip with the Spirit of Speyside Festival in 2017], let’s enjoy some of its malt.
Dufftown-Glenlivet NAS ’De Luxe’ Ob. 70 proof [5cl]
This is an old 70’s bottling with a white distillery label. Theres an 8yo expression from the same era although this is the NAS version with the same label – but i fancy there’ll be some similarly older juice in here as in the 8yo.
N: Chocolate and roughly sawn wood initially with a sweet freshness and some ‘poke’ overall. It’s a little dusty on opening but soon becomes more polished, those staves giving/given a good first coat of varnish. The expected [ripe enough] stewed fruits are there alongside a little stewed tomato and crystallised ginger with the chocolate[>caramel] oak remaining stalwart. A malty-biscuit side develops later on. There’s some dark murkiness in there too, much of it desirable in that 1970’s kind of way.
- T: Pokey & peppery arrival & development with a clearly defined OBE taste. Its a zingy one, the flavour profile lost to the pep unless you let it settle, and then some. There’s a fleeting show of malty>grassy=biscuit<herbal=freshness with a [desirable] waxy<greasy=mechanics oil mouthfeel. It seems reluctant to move on, somewhat grouchy?
- F: Despite it’s rough and wayward nature, it gradually manages a more orderly finish with a fair amount of complexity similar in profile to that of the mouthfeel earlier on. It settles with a fresh, metallic<maltiness and a fair amount of caramel.
- C: Not as favourable as an 8yo i tried last year but it’s a good marker with some decent complexity nevertheless.
Scores 74 points
My notes of that 8yo i tried last year read as follows.
- N: Lots of density here from this pleasing old style blend. Sweet, over ripe apples, sherried raisins, prunes, figs, ginger cake, touches of Osmo Polyx Oil, husky & hammy notes and some caramelised vanillas – but this isn’t about clarity and details, its about the resulting consolidation from blending and its a pleasing moorish start. Plenty of sherry casks in the midst thats for sure.
- T: Light arrival after such a dense nose [that is the old style for you]. There are clear sherry casks in the midst with tempered, oily sugars mixing with fresher notes and some fine pepperiness. Doesn’t take well to water.
- F: Fresh garden mint, liquorice and more ripe apples join the sweeter woody sherry oils. Medium length finish.
- C: A pleasing drink to be drunk, one which [occasionally] hits that easy sweet spot – like a Balti curry.
[Scored 82 points]
Right, back to the session in hand and to the remains of the Arthur Bell’s 10yo.
- N: First impressions on opening were of an old style, peppery malt with a weighty malty body and perfectly adequate strength. It developed with notes of putty, blue-tac malt and cardboard changing to a little shoe polish and emulsion [lemon yellow] with fungal leanings – fusty dunnage basically with lots of bourbon but probably a little sherry in their too. More chocolate now, white chocolate, gooey caramel and caramac with that [Mackintosh] biscuit base, yet moving firmly to pastry – puff & light Cornish pasty pastry with a little icing sugar on top.
- T: However i dress this, there’s an acute sharpness on arrival. After such a pokey start however, an hour later [in the glass] it settles down to reveal more of a soft freshness coupled with a soft fruity-malt-putty-paste base. With the caramel sweetness to a minimum it leans to more a herbal/medicinal direction. Then months later it hit me after having a somewhat disappointing Inji curry. It certainly wasn’t one equal to 1000 curries, yet the flavour of it exists here – a ginger curry with the emphasis on the ginger. There’s a noteable change in mouthfeel with a waxy honeyed oozing into the finish, with water that is and more soft spices of saffron and cumin. Regrettably it always stays thin and a little sharp throughout.
- F: Woody~spirity~woody~spirity raisins initially but after an hour the cask & distillate have married in the glass with a subtle accompaniment of dingy dark notes from a workshop=greenhouse. There’s a momentary wave of lemon chocolate before it finishes with that soft malty-herbal-freshness and hints of cocoa/chocolate, little black raisins and a residue of the ginger, spirity ginger. The party bag contains a small dryish, malty-distillate chew.
- C: With hearts won, the mind was bound to follow, but it took some doing. Sometimes it’s a 10yo going on 12 and other times it seems more juvenile, similar to the NAS De Luxe. I guess what I’m saying is it’s petulant. Both share a similar profile in part but give this time and you have a far more superior malt on all levels with a changing complexity along the way, although it’s not without it’s own issues.
Scores 86 points
Dufftown 1997/2014 16yo SV cask #19495 [291 bts] 56% [3cl] WB87.50
Jumping ahead more than a decade, this is a wholly different proposition as a more modern, single cask, cask strength bottling. Let’s jump right in
- N: We have apple & pear drops right off the bat and equally so thirty minutes and an hour later. After those candy fruit notes it’s the bourbon cask character that occupies the column inches with vanilla ice-cream, vanilla cream [with dried lime pieces] and dry, papad-like nutty oak. There’s formidable strength here even with lots of water added.
- T: Its big, rich and bourbon-y. It’s also got that pepperiness of the first two. Is pepperiness a Dufftown distillery trait? Although that pepperiness isn’t so pronounced/sharp it remains throughout the development. Adding plenty of water successfully tames the seasoning and puts everything back on a legitimate course, albeit a rather straight forward one.
- F: The bourbon cask dominance stays true but not before a rich and salivating flowering to a pleasing journeys end. That flowering is suitably floral bound with a rich waxy juicy maltiness and resinous oak. The cask appears to be a first fill or a young second fill although balance is maintained by the end of a long-medium finish.
- C: Compared to the first two malts, I find this more modern expression somewhat more proficient if a little plain.
Scores 86 points
Ideally, I’d take the complexity of the Arthur Bell’s 10yo with the robust proficiency of the SV single cask as my Sunday desert island dram. Hey, lets do that!
The Dufftown Dimanche melange
So, we i have a Dufftown blend [still a single malt] of late 1970’s 10yo with a 1997 single cask 16yo, 50/50 married for minutes.
- N: Well incredibly the character of the 10yo comes across first before the single cask bourbon notes stream in. It’s neither the case of ‘the best of both worlds’ nor ‘two worlds collide’ yet something in-between with the higher abv of the SV promoting the character of the 10yo – how does that work? About fifteen minutes later i get the raisins from the 10yo combined with the nutty, papad-dry notes from the bourbon cask.
- T: Way more pepperiness than the SV offered, the 10yo peppery arrival doing it’s thing. It’s desperately scrambling around to collect itself, and collect itself it does, somewhat. The [subtle] complexity of the 10yo has diminished but its aniseed-herbal character nevertheless compliments the straight-shooting bourbon cask.
- F: Chalky at first and even a little raw but i can easily separate the SV single bourbon cask from the malty fresh complexities of the 10yo. It concludes with a complex-ish herbal-bitter liquorice, light-sour bourbon.
- C: Well it’s a marriage of sorts. I wouldn’t say it’s harmonious but both the 10y and the 16yo have such strong characteristics in their own right that they stand out equally well together.
That’s all for this week. Do enjoy tomorrow night’s Supermoon LINK