What's the Deal with Dufftown As A Scotch Powerhouse Region? - The Whiskey Wash

What’s the Deal with Dufftown As A Scotch Powerhouse Region?

By Margarett Waterbury / November 16, 2016

“Rome was built on seven hills, Dufftown stands on seven stills,” goes the local saying, and although today there are just six functioning distilleries in this small town in Northern Scotland, Dufftown remains a name to conjure with in the Scotch whisky industry.

This modest town of just 2,000 in Scotland’s Speyside region has long been known as a “the whisky capital of the world,” and it produces more malt whisky than any other town in Scotland.

Duftown

This Balvenie 50 year old Scotch, one of the most expensive out there, heralds from the Dufftown area. (image via The Balvenie)

These days, Dufftown’s finest is produced by six different distilleries, all but one of which dates back to the 1800s. In order of age, they are:

  • Mortlach (Established in 1823)
  • Glenfiddich (1886)
  • Balvenie (1893)
  • Dufftown (1895)
  • Glendullan (1897)
  • Kininvie (1990)

So why are there so many distilleries in Dufftown? Well, it’s relatively centrally located in the Highlands, near the shores of the River Fiddich and River Dullan, and it’s accessible by train. But in reality, the reason Dufftown is so dominant in whisky might be pure chance.

It just so happened that William Grant, the founder of the famous William Grant & Sons whisky company, was born in Dufftown in 1839. There, he got his first job in the spirits industry: as a bookkeeper at Mortlach. Young William learned the ropes quickly, and eventually rose through the ranks to become a manager.

In the 1880s, William decided it was time to strike out on his own, so he left Mortlach and founded Glenfiddich, selecting a site near his home of Dufftown. His timing was just right: the “Whisky Boom” of the 1890s was about to start, bringing several other distilleries to the town, including now-defunct Convalmore, Parkmore, and Pittyvaich.

Today, the remaining distilleries are split evenly between Diageo (Mortlach, Dufftown, and Glendullan) and William Grant & Sons (Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Kininvie). Combined, they have a production capacity of about 40.4 million liters of spirit a year. Because of the taxes paid on all that whisky, Dufftown is said by some to raise more tax dollars per capita than any other town in the United Kingdom.


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