The second distillery we visited properly was Balblair. Ever since the Twitter tastings they have done through Alembic Comms/Edinburgh Whisky Blog I love the distillery. For some reason it is one I have never picked up though. Initially I was planning on buying the distillery only there too, but with the expensive BenRiach I bought, and the Aberlour one I picked up, I couldn’t spend € 90 on a random (and untasted) whisky anymore.
Anyway, the tour itself was rather nice. Initially they said Anneke and Ot couldn’t enter the facility, but when we arrived it was not so big a problem. Only the still room was not advised since it’s fairly hot in there.
The setting of the distillery is lovely with the railroad between Inverness and Thurso right next to it. I read up on Balblair before I went in Alfred Barnard’s book from 1885, and it said the distillery used gravity instead of pumps. Everything started high up the hill and the entire process went down from there. Smart, but no longer the case since they rebuilt the entire plant in 1893 and moved it down the hill in its entirety.
The current distillery is also over 100 years old and that is ‘the new one’. Anyway, wooden washbacks, and three stills. One wash still and two spirit stills of which the second one is not used ever. It is sitting there from 1969 when it was last used, but now it is not even hooked up to piping. They probably told me, but I don’t remember whether they used it for triple distillation or just as an extra spirit still. They haven’t removed it since that would mean serious reconstruction of the still house, just to get it out.
Of the 26000 casks on site not even 20% is going to be released as single malt whisky, almost everything goes towards blenders. They do release some single malt of course and since a few years ago they work with vintages and release new ones everytime one sells out. Of course, this works more or less the same as age statements, but it gives you a bit more information. the 1997 vintage contains only whisky from 1997, instead of a 12 year old where the youngest whisky is stated.
All in all, a very lovely place to visit, close to Tain and a better experience than Glenmorangie (tour report soon). It’s a quiet place without many people visiting, since it is quite a bit of the beaten path.
Since I was driving, Julie was incredibly kind to let me pour my samples into bottles and helped by writing the labels (in a way I can’t myself: legible). Anneke couldn’t properly visit the still room and didn’t take samples so we weren’t charged for her. Superbly nice!