Dufftown Sunray and Tailfire


Dufftown is a distillery that has flown a bit under the radar really. Over 100 years of history, and it has done what any distillery should do really; continue to make whisky. There are no epic stories of pirates, gangsters or people talking in hush tone about the magical secret whisky at Dufftown Distillery, just good honest stories of men and women getting up and working every day at the distillery, to make whisky to sell to blenders (mainly Bell’s). It has grown to be a rather large distillery as a consequence, and is one of Diageo’s biggest Single Malt distilleries (over 6 million litres).

Diageo have decided to start doing more with Dufftown of late, with these two bottlings being developed to go alongside the Dufftown 12 year old & 15 year old. As I have said before, I am a fan of distilleries releasing NAS whiskies in this manner, as it shows that they are holding with their 12 & 15 year old, but releasing other expressions to show off the whisky at the distillery. In my view, it can take the pressure of your age statement whisky, without getting rid of it completely. They have done this with Talisker too, and I reckon it is a pragmatic response, with a good result; I get to try new whisky from the Diageo Distilleries. When I started in whisky 6 years ago, I wished for more expressions from the Diageo portfolio, as I got to try more, and it made my life as a sales person (at the time) more varied.

Here’s a bit of the official stuff about Sunray: The smooth yet intense character of Sunray comes from maturation in a higher proportion of toasted Bourbon casks specially selected to deliver a honeyed, vanilla sweetness with aromas of blackcurrant and baked apple.

Anyway, let’s get on with my favourite bit (tasting them):

Dufftown Sunray
Matured in Ex Bourbon Casks
NAS, 40% ABV

Nose: Lemon and lime jelly, apricot. Dash of vanilla and banana cream on the nose. Pepper notes, and grapefruit. Honeyed and biscuity notes. Bit of an orange oil note.

It is a nice fresh nose. Pleasant, delicate, and clearly well put together. It is light, but would work as an aperitif dram. From this, it shows off good ex Bourbon casks well.

Palate: A burst of lovely oaky notes, apricot, honey. A minty, lime note on the mid palate, with berries on the finish.

I think it’s a well made whisky that shows off the casks well. I find it to be a really great bottle to have in the house, as it is a relaxed dram for when you are just in from work.

Now on to Dufftown Tailfire. Official Info: Tailfire has a vibrant and enticing character, which comes from maturation in a higher proportion of European oak casks specially selected to enhance the juicy red berry freshness and sweet aromas of vanilla and fresh cut grass.

Dufftown Tailfire
Matured in European Oak Casks
NAS, 40% ABV

Nose: Raisins, apples, pear aquavit, apple sourz, grainy. It’s a bit sharp on the nose. Not bad, but a bit raw.

Palate: Vanilla, pear, oaky. Bit of caramel, chocolate and a slight apple cider vinegar.

Sunray is the better whisky for me. Tailfire tastes slightly harsher. It’s almost as if the European oak casks make it a little rougher for some reason. It’s not bad, but I’d pay the extra 3ish quid for Sunray.

I have been hearing quite a bit about mixing whisky with tea of late, so I thought I would take a bit of Tailfire and mix it with my evening cup of Twinings Camomile and Honey (it relaxes me after work). Twinings Camomile & Honey with Dufftown Tailfire: becomes, grapey, limey, oaky with a kind of elderflower, blackcurrant note. The tea actually seems to bring out the oakiness. I kind of wished I’d mixed the tea with Sunray, as I think they would have complemented each other.

What I would say is if you have a bottle of any whisky, why not try it in a hot toddy, hot chocolate, in tea or in a cocktail? If you have a whole bottle, you have 20 shots (my home pouring), so why not use one out of the 20 for an experiment, like in a Camomile tea?

Oh and give the Dufftown’s a go if you see them in a bar. Particularly the Sunray. It is delicate, but a class act.

Chris Hoban


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