It is still summer in the northern hemisphere and while many prefer to enjoy whisky in the cooler months of autumn and winter, this past year I set out to find a single malt that works well under the summer sun. My criteria was as follows: it would have to be light, it would have to be refreshing and it would have to be approachable enough to be enjoyed by my non-enthusiast friends. After two months of “research”, I now bring you The Singleton of Dufftown Sunray!
The Singleton of Dufftown Sunray is a relatively new bottling from the legendary Dufftown distillery. Dufftown is a beautiful town in Banffshire, Scotland, recognized as the capital of the Scotch Whisky industry. The Dufftown distillery was founded by whisky tradesmen Peter MacKenzie and Richard Stockpole in 1895. They creatively converted and old saw mill into a distillery and set out to make the most popular whisky in Scotland. How popular? The balanced and approachable taste of the whisky produced by the Dufftown distillery ensured its survival through the whisky crash of 1898, the U.S. Prohibition Act of 1920 and the Great Depression of the 1930’s. With everything thrown against it, in time the Dufftown distillery became a global brand.
Today, the Dufftown distillery is one of three Diageo-owned distilleries marketed under the brand “The Singleton”. As such, it has been renamed “The Singleton of Dufftown” and it coexists with The Singleton of Glen Ord and The Singleton of Glendullan. As a global brand, The Singleton of Dufftown represents the elegant and approachable side of single malt Scotch whisky.
Sunray is one of three NAS (no age statement) expressions offered by The Singleton of Dufftown. Released just last year, Sunray won Gold at the 2015 International Wine and Spirits Competition. It is matured in American oak ex-bourbon casks and bottled at 40% ABV. If you are just getting started with single malt whisky, 40% is on the low end and this alone suggests the spirit will be relatively mellow. For all other occasions this is not my preference but for a refreshing spirit on a hot summer afternoon, it may just work. Every Singleton expression is packaged in a uniquely shaped bottle; tall, wide and flat with a blue-green hue. Overall, pretty cool. I certainly appreciate something different.
Let’s get to it. On the nose, a very fresh aroma of light citrus, sweet vanilla and warm oak. A hint of green apple with a subtle spiciness quickly follows suit. 40% ABV gives the spirit a smooth, mellow character and subdues any real sharpness one would typically find in a young whisky such as this. More sweetness, perhaps caramel, and even more citrus fills the glass. An added layer of black currant gives it a nice touch but overall, the aroma is very light and pleasant. Nothing too challenging or complex.
On the palate, a wonderful note of fresh citrus with a generous measure of honey. The bottle says, “Smooth, Honeyed, Intense” and while I was struggling to detect any honey on the nose, it is definitely here now. The sweetness evolves along with more green apple and hint freshly cut grass. It’s light and airy with a real sense of innocence to it. There’s a mild spiciness but overall the flavor profile is very straightforward. The finish is medium in length and quite enjoyable. A what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of dram. It reminds me a bit of Glenmorangie The Original in that the profile of each is built upon two main flavors; fresh citrus and light oak. At 10 years old, the Glenmorangie is a bit more intense and perhaps more citrus-forward than the light and airy Sunray but I suspect that most people would agree with this comparison.
Overall, The Singleton of Dufftown Sunray is a very pleasant single malt that can appeal to just about anyone. If you are a true whisky connoisseur you may find this one a bit lacking. It’s a young, straightforward spirit that could certainly benefit from additional maturation. If, however, you are new to single malts and are just beginning to develop your palate, this is a great place to start. My non-enthusiast friends absolutely love this one and next time I need to bring something to a party, I know exactly where to turn. If there is a time and place for every whisky, Sunray certainly has its own.