Balblair

Balblair is one of the most northern distilleries of Scottland. It lies right next to the Dornoch Firth and was established in 1790. The distillery character is best described as 'very fruity and sweet Speyside Malt'. Balblair means fertile valley, but also battlefield. This is traceable to a battle between the Picts and the Vikings many centuries ago.

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Information about the Distillery
135 Bottles
Scotland, Highlands
-4.181177 57.839926
Active
Inver House Distillers Ltd
1 x 12,000 l
Pear
2 x 8,500 l
Pear
6 x 21,000 l
4 t
1790
1,400,000 l
http://www.balblair.com/
Average tasting notes Tasting Notes
Calculated from 190 Tasting Notes
i
Nosing
Sweet:
Fruit:
Vanilla:
Zitrus:
Sherry:
Honey:
Spices:
Oak:
Herbs:
Malt:
Caramel:
Nuts:
Lemon:
Pear:
Raisin:
Chocolate:
Apple:
Heather:
Peat Smoke:
Orange:
Oil:
Herb:
Cinnamon:
Pineapple:
Plum:
Green Apple:
Floral:
Banana:
Lime:
Almonds:
Alcohol:
Tropical Fruit:
Cake:
Dried Fruit:
Melon:
Berries:
Leather:
Peach:
Lemon Peel:
Grass:
Dark Chocolate:
Hay:
Tobacco:
Ginger:
Seaweed:
Cherry:
Grapefruit:
Fig:
Maritime Notes:
Red Currant:
Tasting
Sweet:
Spices:
Fruit:
Oak:
Vanilla:
Sherry:
Nuts:
Zitrus:
Honey:
Herb:
Malt:
Chocolate:
Oil:
Dark Chocolate:
Herbs:
Orange:
Pepper:
Caramel:
Almonds:
Chili:
Lemon:
Peach:
Dried Fruit:
Peat Smoke:
Apple:
Plum:
Coffee:
Heather:
Floral:
Raisin:
Green Apple:
Ginger:
Nutmeg:
Pear:
Berries:
Leather:
Wheat:
Alcohol:
Cake:
Mint:
Banana:
Barley:
Tobacco:
Date:
Grapefruit:
Tropical Fruit:
Pineapple:
Grass:
Melon:
Seaweed:
Fig:
Clove:
Cinnamon:
Maritime Notes:
Lemon Peel:
Finish
Sweet:
Spices:
Oak:
Fruit:
Malt:
Vanilla:
Herb:
Nuts:
Sherry:
Zitrus:
Peat Smoke:
Oil:
Dark Chocolate:
Pepper:
Herbs:
Chocolate:
Coffee:
Alcohol:
Leather:
Honey:
Orange:
Heather:
Peach:
Chili:
Raisin:
Dried Fruit:
Plum:
Banana:
Floral:
Caramel:
Lemon:
Grass:
Salt:
Apple:
Hay:
Tobacco:
Green Apple:
Lime:
Ginger:
Cherry:
Cinnamon:
Cake:
Mint:
Maritime Notes:
Details about the Distillery

The Whisky

The Balblair's distillery character is best described as a very fruity and sweet. It is often combined with the freshness and taste of grass or hay. A few of the Malts were matured in a way to balance this out with spiciness or oak flavours.

In the earlier years the Balblair distillery didn't do their own distillery bottlings. All the Single Malt bottlings were done by Gordon & MacPhail. Even today you can still see a lot of Gordon & MacPhail bottlings of Balblair. Today the Balblair has a very modern bottle design. In 2019, the Highland distillery's core range has been updated along with the bottle design. Until now, Balblair's range consisted of vintage bottlings, which have now been replaced by three standard bottlings: A 12-year-old from Bourbon casks, a 15-year-old finished in Sherry butts and an 18-year-old matured in both Bourbon and Sherry casks. A rarity is the 25-year-old with a finish in Sherry casks

View from the street on the still house.
View of the Balblair Distillery

The Production

The production of Balblair has significantly increased over the last years and has now reached nearly 1.4 million litres of alcohol per year.

The water comes from the water source Allt Dearg. The water from the burn is used both in the mash tun for the Whisky and as process water, for example for cooling. 

The Pot Stills

The Balblair distillery has a wash still with a capacity of 19,000 litres, in which exactly the contents of one washback can be distilled. The spirit still contains 11,500 litres, with each distillation producing approximately 1,800 litres of heart piece Whisky. The shape of the stills is very flat and they don't have any reflux bowls or constrictions. With a normal distillation rate this would result in a very sharp and Vodka like character. The critical stage is the spirit still. Since Balblair has two spirit stills they can reach the normal output with a lower distillation speed. This allows the alcohols to separate better and produce the very smooth and fruity Balblair we like so much.

The Pot Stills of the Balblair Distillery
The Pot Stills of the Balblair Distillery

The Maltings

The Balblair distillery rarely uses any peated malt. This malt is ground in a Porteus malt mill. The mill is already in second hand at the Balbleir distillery, but has been doing reliable service for many years. 

The Mashing

Balblair has a stainless steel mash tun for both energy efficiency and environmental reasons. 4.4 tonnes of barley grist can be steeped in the mash tun in one mashing process. This is divided into three lautering processes, whereby the mashing time of over 6 hours is somewhat longer than usual. With such a long duration, one speaks of a so-called 'clear wort' at the end (the opposite of this is the 'cloudy wort'). This clear wort is fermented slightly differently in the next step. 

The Warehouses

Inside the warehouse of the Balblair Distillery.There are a lot of warehouses at Balblair. They are all kept in the old dunnage style. This has two impacts on the production. On the one hand you have to have more logistics, since a higher warehouse with pallets is much easier to handle. On the other hand the angels' share depends a lot on the place where the cask is located in the warehouse. Having a flat dunnage warehouses with only three rows of casks above each other means all casks mature very slowly with little evaporation. Storage is exclusively on the Balblair premises and in dunnage warehouses, many of which date back to 1894. The interesting thing about Balblair storage is that the Whisky is filled into the cask undiluted, which means with a much higher alcohol strength than at other distilleries. The usual alcohol strength in Scotland is 63.5%, but at Balblair it is usually around 68.5%. Many Bourbon casks and American hogsheads fill the Balblair warehouse, only up to 5% are Sherry casks (butts and puncheons).

The History

The Balblair distillery was founded in 1790 by John Ross but there are unofficial records of distilling dating back to 1749. Back then the distilling in the Highlands was illegal, so it was typical to distil off the record. The distillery was in the Ross family for three generations, and the business was passed down from grandfather to father and son.

The business really picked up when the railway was opened near the distillery. This gave the Ross family the chance to sell their Whisky to England and the rest of the world. In the years 1894 and 1895 the distillery was refurbished and all the equipment was replaced by the latest technology. Also the distillery was moved closer to the railway to get a better connection to its coal and barley source. This was carried out by the new tenant Alexander Cowan.

In the economically tough years between 1911 and 1948 (WWI and WWII) the distillery was closed down.

In 1948 Robert James 'Bertie' Cumming eventually picked up the business and produced Whisky again. Later the distillery was sold twice and in 1996 it ended up with the Inver House Distillers.

The Visitor Centre

The distillery is open for visitors all around the year. There are three kinds of distillery tours. The top tour is a personal tour through the distillery and includes a masterclass with the distillery manager.

Visitor information

Balblair Distillery
Balblair
Edderton, Tain
Ross-Shire IV19 1LB
Tel: +44 (0)1862-821273

Chronological rating history

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