Mortlach is the ancient parish within which this three street town is situated, and the distillery of the same name produces one of the finest malts in Scotland.
Until 1887 Mortlach was the only distillery here (licensed in 1824, on a site - and source of water, 'The Highlander's Well' - long used for illicit distilling) and as early as the 1890s 'Mortlach-Glenlivet' was known as far afield as London. Its product is unpromoted, but has been ranked among the top half dozen in Scotland for as long as books about malt whisky have been written.
Today there are seven distilleries around Duffiown:
Balvenie, Convalmore, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glenfiddich, Mortlach itself and Pittyvaich (recently dosed).
Glenfiddich and Balvenie are the stars. Both are owned by William Grant & Sons, one of the few family owned companies left. Glenfiddich is far and away the best selling malt whisky in the world - in a sales league of its own, with a 35% export market share. One of the reasons for this is that the family decided to promote it as a single malt in 1963, a good fifteen years before any other distillery wised up to the potential market for single malt. Another is that Glenfiddich is a light-bodied, fragrant whisky, supremely 'accessible' and therefore having a very broad appeal. A third is vigorous promotion abroad, not least in the duty-free trade (which was in its infancy when they started out). And a fourth is clever packaging (in 1957, the company put its products into triangular bottles and tubes - considered wildly eccentric at the time).
Balvenie Distillery bought by William Grant in 1892, five years after he had founded Glenfiddich, has also distinguished itself by attractive packaging. In style it is utterly different to its sister: rich and sherried, with honey and orange notes.
The Speyside Regions