About Dufftown

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  • Dufftown History
  • Whisky & Tourism
  • Walking & Wildlife

Dufftown

Dufftown - A brief Introduction

The settlement that is now Dufftown began by the Picts, (the painted ones), who settled in the Fiddich valley over 4,000 years ago, little is known about the Picts as no written records were left. Throughout history, these Picts have been shadowy, enigmatic figures. From the outset, they were regarded as savage warriors and by the time the Norsemen were compiling their sagas, and histories, the memory of the Picts had degenerated into a semi-mythical race of fairies. The earliest surviving mention of the Picts dates from 297AD in a poem praising the Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus, the orator Eumenius wrote that the Britons were already accustomed to the semi-naked 'Picti as their enemies'.

The term "Picti" or "Painted Ones" was more than likely a Roman nickname used to describe the people north of Hadrian's Wall. Traces of the Pictish occupation remain in the shape of the mysterious 'Elephant Stone' and a weathered Pictish cross almost six feet high. There are a few stones from around the area that have come to light over the years, mainly around the Rhynie area, which is just a few miles from Dufftown.

Dufftown Clock TowerA Christian community was started in 566 AD when St Moulag founded Mortlach Church, one of the oldest Christian settlements in Scotland. It was also the site of a Scottish victory against the Danes in 1010 AD. There is a legend that King Malcolm II extended the church three spears' lengths as a thanksgiving after defeating the Danes on the haugh below the church. The north wall with its postern door has a leper's squint and in the graveyard is the watch-house used to guard against body-snatchers.

Dufftown itself was founded in 1817 by James Duff, 4th Earl of Fife, It was built close to the hamlet of Laichie to give employment after the Napoleonic wars and was originally called Balvenie. As with other villages of the period, Dufftown has spacious streets laid out in a regular plan with the four main streets converging at the Clock Tower, which was completed in 1839. Originally the town jail, later the Burgh Chambers and lately the home to the Tourist Information Centre.

Whisky

Dufftown & The Whisky Industry

Dufftown is unique in the world. There is nowhere else, even in Scotland, with such a concentration of distilleries: "Rome was built on seven hills, Dufftown stands on seven stills" The name of Dufftown has become synonymous with Scotch Whisky, its famous "seven stills" having risen to nine since the rhyme was composed. It has been said that Dufftown raises more capital for the Government per head of population than any other place in the UK.

The first of the seven stills was Mortlach Distillery which was granted a license in 1823 and the owner, George Cowie, was the first to create new markets for whisky as far south as London. William Grant spent twenty years at Mortlach until he purchased some secondhand equipment and set up on his own.

Glenfiddich DistilleryThe distillery he then founded became Glenfiddich, which became the first distillery to sell single malt whisky, as opposed to the normal blended whisky, to the UK and export markets. Glenfiddich was also the first distillery to open its doors to visitors over forty years ago.

William Grant opened another distillery some five years later, next door, this was Balvenie. Balvenie remains different to most other distilleries, even today, by having its own maltings floor and farmland to grow most of its own barley. It has nine stills which have longer necks than Glenfiddich stills and as a result produces a distinctly different single malt.

Dufftown Whisky The Convalmore Distillery, now forming part of the Glenfiddich site is also sadly closed, established in 1894 as the Convalmore-Glenlivet Distillery Co Ltd, suffered a major fire in 1909 and was subsequently rebuilt. This distillery experimented with a continuous distillation process, similar to grain whisky distillation, but abandoned the experiment in 1915. Two more stills were added in 1964 to boost production but finally closed in 1985. The site was then purchased by Glenfiddich in 1990 for warehousing.

Parkmore Distillery was opened in 1894 but closed (became silent) in 1931 due to water source problems, although its maltings continued to be used up until the 1960s and the warehouse facilities are still in use today. Unfortunately Parkmore whisky is no longer available, rumour has it that all casks were smashed when the distillery closed its doors for the last time.

1887 saw Glendullan Distillery built just upstream from Parkmore with two stills. It was renovated in 1962 and had a new building next door to boost production erected in 1972 with three stills, the original distillery becoming mothballed in 1985. Glendullan was supposedly the favourite whisky of King Edward VII.

Dufftown Distillery was founded, with two stills, in 1895 as the Dufftown-Glenlivet Distillery in a converted meal mill by two entrepreneurial Liverpudlians. Dufftown Distillery decommissioned their maltings in 1968, underwent expansion in 1974 with a further two stills and was further expanded in 1975 with the building of a sister distillery in the same complex, Pittyvaich Distillery. Pittyvaich Distillery was mothballed in 1993 and then, sadly, demolished in 2003.

Spirit of Speyside Whisky FestivalAutumn Whisky Festival

Speyside Whisky Festivals

Apart from the constant stream of visitors to Speyside for it's beautiful scenery, many distilleries, fantastic variety of attractions and activities available, twice a year Speyside is taken over by whisky afficiandos from all corners of the globe for the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival and the Autumn Speyside Whisky Festival.
Unique tours and tastings, many at distilleries not normally open to visitors, opportunities to meet the experts, matching food and whisky events, a local food fair, masterclasses and lectures, wildlife walks with whisky treats, drama and comedy, mountainbiking tours and many more entertaining events.

Ben Rinnes

Walking and Wildlife

Speyside is an area much favoured and visited by the keen hillwalker and walking in Speyside is very varied, from flat, level routes to almost extreme hill walking and is very rewarding with stunning views and vistas around every bend. Speyside is also home to Ben Rinnes and at 840m can afford views of nine counties on a clear day.

meikle ConvalThe Speyside Way is one of four official Long Distance Routes in Scotland, first opened in 1981 and runs for a distance of 60 miles following the valley of the River Spey for much of the way. There are also many smaller, local walks throughout Speyside taking in some of our villages and towns. The Glenlivet Estate has high hills and sheltered glens with many different trails and tracks for you to explore, again with stunning views around every bend and Speyside. Two festivals now showcase Speyside’s varied walking opportunities, with the Moray Walking Festival taking place in late June and the Tomintoul Walking Festival being held in September and both festivals attract thousands of visitors each year.

Black GrouseA large proportion of Speyside is completely wild and provides home to a vast variety of wildlife which cannot be found anywhere else in Britain, ranging from Red Squirrels, Ptarmigan and Pine Martens to the elusive and endangered Scottish Wildcat. Buzzards, Sparrowhawks and Kestrels are ever present and sometimes a Peregrine Falcon, a Merlin or even a spectacular Golden Eagle can be seen soaring in the skies around Speyside. There are many migratory birds that make their home in Speyside including Oystercatchers, Curlews, yellow wagtails, cuckoos, swifts and as a result attracts thousands of keen bird-watchers for some of the best bird watching opportunities in the entire UK.