Scotland Travel Blog

Speyside’s Whisky Capital: Dufftown

Every town in Scotland has its own unique charms. Dufftown, halfway up the road between Aberdeen and Inverness, has several. There are a couple of castles in the area, a few excellent golf courses, and no end of fantastic scenic views. But this quiet Moray town is known above all for one thing: whisky. The self-proclaimed “Whisky Capital of the World”, Dufftown is home to six major distilleries, and produces more malt whisky than any other place in Scotland. For Scotch drinkers, especially those who prefer the Speyside malts, this is heaven on Earth.

Glenfiddich barrels. Creative Commons photo by Martin Abegglen.

Glenfiddich barrels. Creative Commons photo by Martin Abegglen.

The Distilleries

  • Dufftown’s biggest employer and most famous brand is Glenfiddich. Founded by William Grant in 1887, Glenfiddich prides itself on being the most awarded single malt whisky. In 2013, Glenfiddich exported over a million cases, making it also the most popular single malt Scotch with foreigners.
  • The Balvenie distillery is owned by the same company as Glenfiddich, and their 30 year old whisky was named best Speyside single malt at the 2013 World Whiskies Awards.
  • Dufftown, the town’s namesake distillery, was founded in 1895, and has a capacity of four million liters per year, some of which is kept for single malts and the rest used for various blends around the country.
  • Glendullan was the last of Dufftown’s seven original 19th century distilleries, a few of which have since closed and been replaced by new brands. The 12 year Singleton of Glendullan is their most famous and high-quality whisky.
  • Kininvie is the newest distillery in town, located on the Balvenie property, and only started production in 1990. Until recently, almost all of the whisky produced here has gone into blends, but there have recently been limited releases of Kininvie single malts. This is one of the rarer single malts, so if you get a chance to try a dram, take it.
  • Mortlach is primarily known as an ingredient in Scotland’s most popular blended whisky export, Johnnie Walker, but you can find the occasional bottle of single malt from here too. Some of the younger ages of Mortlach have been discontinued, and it mostly survives now as a luxury brand, so don’t be surprised if all you can find from here is a 25+ year old whisky with a hefty price tag.

Glenfiddich and Balvenie both give excellent distillery tours. The town itself hosts a weekly “whisky nosing” each Wednesday throughout the summer. There is also a “Whisky Museum”, otherwise known as the Dufftown Whisky and Heritage Centre, on Fife street, and a famous whisky shop with an overwhelming selection of over 600 whiskies.

Other Attractions

Dufftown is hardly a one-trick pony. There’s more to do here than sniff, taste and drink fine whisky. Balvenie Castle is one of the oldest stone castles in Scotland, built in the 13th century by Alexander, Earl of Buchan. Just southwest of town lie the ruins of Auchendoun Castle. This 15th century castle was destroyed in a battle between clans in 1592, and actually had its stone cannibalized to build an addition to Balvenie Castle, but the ruins are worth a visit and far enough off the beaten path that you will often be the only tourists there.

Balvenie Castle, Creative Commons photo by Stuart Gordon.

Balvenie Castle, Creative Commons photo by Stuart Gordon.

Dufftown Golf Club is one of the highlights of any Highlands golf tour, with two holes listed in the book “Britain’s 100 Extraordinary Golf Holes”. The 10th hole tee is over 1000 feet above sea level and offers maybe the best view of the whole town, so stow your camera in your golf bag if you hit the links.

Dufftown Golf Club's 9th hole bridge. Creative Commons photo by Stuart Gordon.

Dufftown Golf Club’s 9th hole bridge. Creative Commons photo by Stuart Gordon.

Getting to Dufftown

Dufftown is conveniently located halfway between Aberdeen and Inverness, so if you’re driving between these two northern Scottish cities, you have no excuse not to stop. The A96 will get you from either one to Dufftown in about an hour and a half. If you aren’t driving, ScotRail will take you from Aberdeen to Keith, then a short ride on the #360 bus will get you to Dufftown. From Inverness, the closest rail station is Elgin, and you’ll need to take the #36 bus south from there.

Places to Stay

Dufftown is pretty low on hotels, but luckily the area has some great bed and breakfasts. Some of the best local places aren’t on any of the big hotel booking sites, but I’d recommend talking to these three:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *