Out and About

The Seven Stills of Dufftown

The excellent Seven Stills tour; part of the Speyside Festival.

As festival season is approaching I thought I would take a look back at an event that has sprung up on this years Spirit of Speyside listings – The Dufftown Distilleries Walk.

We were lucky to get a spot on this tour during last years Dufftown Whisky Festival in September, and we can’t recommend it highly enough!

Our tour started off at the Dufftown Whisky Shop, where about 30 eager whisky drinkers were put on a bus and taken to the first distillery (yeah we took the lazy persons version of this tour!!).

Our first stop was Pittyvaich Distillery, which was mothballed in 1993 and demolished in 2002. Whilst the actual site of the distillery building is now a gravelled square, the many bonded warehouses still exist. Here our guide gave us a brief history of whisky making in the Dufftown area and showed us some impressive hip flasks – or chest flasks as they really should be, used by the workers to sneak a dram or 20 out of the distillery.

This is where we had our first dram of the day, a now pretty rare 12 year old from Diageo’s Flora and Fauna Range. If you get a chance to sample this wonderful dram, savour it as it may be your only chance!

Our next distillery was Dufftown Distillery, just down the hill from Pittyvaich. This distillery was opened in 1876 on the banks of the River Dullan in a former meal mill. Still going strong today it produces the well known Singleton of Dufftown range. Here the Distillery Manager, Sean Phillips showed us around. The distillery was in operation at the time, and it was kind of warm in the Still House!

The next dram we had was the Singleton of Dufftown 12 year old, a smooth whisky with vanilla tones. A pleasant dram!

Back on the bus and off we went to Mortlach Distillery, founded in 1823, this makes it Dufftown’s first distillery. Again, Sean kindly showed us round the distillery, which was in a maintenance period at the time, so nice and quiet and cool! He also shared the new exciting expansion plans that Diageo have for the distillery, which will see the output pretty much double. Which makes Stuart happy as Mortlach is one of his favourites!

Our dram here was another from the Flora and Fauna range, the 16 year old Mortlach. Sweet and sherried this went down well!

Glendullan Distillery was the last of the Diageo distilleries on this trip. Opened in 1897 this is Dufftown’s ‘youngest’ distilleries, and you can easily tell that in the 1970’s the distillery was extensively rebuilt, as it has that very 1970’s look about it! Sean showed us around for the last time, the distillery was in operation during the visit and we got to see the magic happen inside the mash tuns. Interestingly, Glendullan have their washbacks outside, to make more room inside the distillery for making the whisky!

Usually, Glendullan is used in blended whisky, but over the last few years a 12 year old Singleton of Glendullan has been available, and this was what we tasted on this stop.

As it was approaching lunchtime the next distillery was well timed. Parkmore Distillery is a closed distillery. Opened in 1894 it sadly closed in 1934, and remained unused since then, with the exception of the maltings, which were in use until the 1960’s and the warehouses which are still in use today. It is quite a beautiful building and in good condition, general chat amongst the group would seem that most people agreed it would make a great hotel!

Since its been closed for so long, there is definitely no whisky available to taste, so we took this opportunity to have a picnic of cheese and oatcakes and chat with our fellow whisky travellers!

Moving on, the next stop was The Balvenie. Founded in 1892 by William Grant, this is one of the few distilleries who still carry out the full whisky making process from end to end on site. We had a quick tour around, seeing the Malt House and the Still house. The smell of smoking peat was pretty good!

Here we had a dram of the 12 year old First Fill Bourbon Single Cask. This gave a sweet, spicy and very tasty dram.

The following day we actually did the full Balvenie Tour, which you can read about here.

Hidden in the grounds of The Balvenie is Dufftowns ‘Secret’ Distillery, Kininvie. Opened in 1990, Kininvie is not bottled and sold as a whisky in its own right, but is the main component of Monkey Shoulder. Very different than most distilleries, it’s pretty much a large shed out the back of The Balvenie and houses just stills. The actual liquid is made in the Balvenie distillery and pumped round to the Still House of Kininvie.

As you can’t buy Kininvie we were lucky to be able to try a sample bottle of a 21 year old cask strength, which I found bitter with a rubberyness and a long finish. In Monkey Shoulder the 12 year old is used and blended with whiskies from Balvenie and Glenfiddich.

Hopping next door we visited our penultimate distillery on the tour – Glenfiddich. Glenfiddich opened in 1886 and is the world’s best selling whisky. As time was marching on and we had seen loads of still and mash tuns before we were taken straight to the warehouse at Glenfiddich.

Our guide talked us through Glenfiddich’s Solera System and our dram came this time straight from the large Solera vat in front of us, it was a tasty Glenfiddich 15 year old.

Our final distillery of the day was Convalmore which was founded in 1894, destroyed by fire in 1909, rebuilt but sadly closed its doors in 1986. The site still stands, and it was here we enjoyed our last dram of Connisseurs Choice 26 year old Convalmore.

This was a smoky little number and again like the Pittyvaich is becoming rarer and rarer.

As we stood round re-living the day and the drams with our fellow tourers we were lucky to be able to go back and try again some of the others ones we had during the day. Even though they said it was a Seven Stills Tour, we managed to find nine which I don’t think is bad going!

Our samples!

This tour is pretty much sold out for the Spirit of Speyside festival, if this has whetted your appetite, I would say be quick and nab those final places. If you have already booked on the tour I hope this review makes you look forward to it even more! We had a great day, informative, fun and some fantastic drams – it doesn’t get better than that!

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