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Distillery in Focus:           Balblair

Region: Highlands
Name: Balblair Distillery (“The Farm of the moor” or “Battlefield” or “town of the plain”).
Status: Active
Website: http://www.inverhouse.com
Telephone: 01862821273
E-Mail: john_macdonald@inverhouse.com
Address: Edderton, Tain, Ross shire, IV19 1LB
Visitor centre: Yes, but visits by appointment only.
Owner: Inverhouse Disitllers Ltd (Interbrev).
Established: 1790
Stills: 1 Wash and 2 Spirit stills (1 retired).
Percentage of single malts: 5%
Casks used for maturation are sherry and bourbon.

Contribute(d) to the following blends: Inverhouse, Catton’s, Hankey Bannister, MacArther’s, Pinwinne Royal and Glen Talloch.

Regular Bottling:
Balblair Elements 40%
Balblair 10 YO, 40%
Balblair 16 YO, 40%
Balblair 1979 Un-chillfiltrated, 46%
Balblair1970 35 YO, 44.2%
Balblair 1966 38 YO, 44%

In addition to the "standard" range, Balblair has launched a few limited editions, such as the Balblair1992 Peaty 61%.

For tasted whiskies, click here

Note: Balblair is considered as one of the most attractive of the small distilleries still existing.


History of Balblair

The history of Balblair is incomplete and might differ between the “official” Balblair story. It has been written by compiling the information provided by all the references mentioned at the end of this document.

The official establishment (foundation) date of the distillery was 1790 by John Ross, although the first known records of a Balblair distillery date of 1749 with a Mr Simson. Not much is know about the earlier years of the distillery. The distillery was the property of McKeddy in 1798 and then, John Ross took over until 1817. James Harper then owned the distillery until 1819. Between 1819 and 1824 the ownership is unknown. In 1824, John Ross and his son Andrew were its owner. In 1825 the distillery operated under the name John Ross & Co. In 1831, Andrew took over from his father and the company name was changed to Andrew Ross & Co. When Andrew left the distillery to work at Brora in 1833, John managed the distillery until Andrew came back in 1836. Andrew was joined by his son John McGhilchrist Ross and operated the distillery together until 1864. Then, John McGhilchrist left to work at Teaninich and set up his own distillery at Glenskiach in 1896. Andrew Ross and Andrew Ross Jr (the son of Andrew Ross and grandson of John Ross) operated the distillery until 1872, when the original distillery was uprooted and moved half a mile to the bedside of the newly constructed Wick-Inverness railway line. In 1873, after the death of his brother Andrew Ross Jr, James Ross joined his father Andrew in the business. Alexander Cowan takes a 60-year lease on Balblair and the distillery is rebuilt in 1894. The distillery stops production in 1911 and closed in 1915. The last whisky is taken from the Balblair warehouses in 1932. During the Second World War, Balblair distillery was used by the army commandeers and the army built a concrete floor in warehouse 4, and used it as a kitchen. All the other warehouses, except cellar 3 have beaten-earth floors. The distillery is taken over in 1948 by Robert James “Bertie” Cumming and Son, solicitors from Banff and owner of Pulteney distillery and the production is resumed in 1949. Two washbacks and a new boiler house were added in 1964 and the number of stills increased from two to three. The distillery is sold to Hiram Walker of Ballantine’s whisky in 1970. In 1978, the railway arrived, bringing coal and barley, after the floor maltings have been closed. In 1988, Hiram Walker merged with Allied Vintner to form Allied Distillers. In 1996, Inverhouse bought Balblair distillery. With the recognition of the quality of the 33 YO Balblair whisky (bottled since 2000) and 38 YO Balblair (2004), Global sales increased by 25%. On October 30, 2006, Inverhouse is bought by International Beverage Holdings (InterBev), the international arm of Thai Beverages. The capacity of production is about 1.4 mio LPA. In 2011, the visitor center was inaugurated.

The old malting floor of Balblair in used until the 1970s. The nice looking Oregon pine washbacks.
The wash still (front), the spirit still (middle) and the retired riveted wee spirit still (back). A glimpse at the warehouse.

Source: http://www.balblair.com, Distillery Visit (John MacDonald, Distillery Manager), The Scotch Whisky Book by T. Bruce-Gardyne,  The Making of Scotch Whisky and The Scotch Whisky Distilleries by Misako Udo.
©P.Brossard 09 Dec 06, updated 29 Dec 2011.

 

Tasted whiskies:

Official/original bottlings (OB)  
Age  
   
Vintages  
Balblair 1966, 38 YO, OB, 44% Rating: 16/20
Balblair 1969, 43 YO, OB, 41.4%, B: 2012 Rating: 17/20
Balblair 1975, OB, 46%, B: 2007 Rating: 13/20
Balblair 1976, OB, 46%, B:2009 Rating: 15/20
Balblair 1978, OB, 46%, B: 2010 Rating: 14/20
Balblair 1978, OB, 46%, B: 2011 Rating: 15/20
Balbair 1983 3rd Edition, OB, 46%, B: 2013 Rating: 17/20
Balblair 1987, OB, 51.4%, B: 2011, cask 0786. Rating: 13/20
Balblair 1989, OB, 46%. B: 2003 Rating: 12/20
Balblair 1989 OB, 43%, B: 2010 Rating: 12/20
Balblair 1991, OB, 43%, B: 2009 Rating: 13/20
Balblair 1997 for LMDW, OB, 56.3%, B:2017, c. 1146 Rating: 16/20
Balblair 1999, OB, 46%, B:2014 Rating: 13/20
Bablair 1999, OB, 46%, B:2016 Rating: 14/20
Balblair 1999 for The Whisky Exchange, OB, 51.9%, B:2016, cask 1713. Rating: 13/20
Balblair 2000, OB, 43%, B: 2010 Rating: 15/20
Balblair 2000 (2nd edition), OB, 43%, B: 2011 Rating: 10/20
Balblair 2000 Single Cask for The Whisky Exchange, OB, 53%, B:2014, c.1343. Rating: 16/20
Balblair 2003, OB, 46%, B:2013 Rating: 15/20

 

Independent bottlings (IB)  
Adelphi  
Balblair 1990 For Switzerland, 20 YO, Adelphi, 48%, B: 2010 Rating: 13/20
   
Bladnoch Forum  
Balblair 1990, 20 YO, Bladnoch Forum, 53.7%, B: 2010, c .166, 587 b. Rating: 16/20
   
Cadenhead's  
Bablair 1990 Small Batch, 23 YO, Cadenhead’s, 51.7%, B: 2014. Rating: 14/20
   
Gordon & MacPhail (G&M)  
Balblair 1964, 20 YO, Gordon & MacPhail, 40% Rating: 16/20
Balblair 1964, Gordon & MacPhail, 40%, B: 1999 Rating: 16/20
Balblair 1966, Gordon & MacPhail, 40%, B: 2003 Rating: 16/20