Balblair

Balblair is a Scotch whisky distillery in the Northeast of Scotland. Founded in 1790, it is one of the oldest in the country.

Balblair is owned by Inver House Distillers. In 2013 it featured in Ken Loach’s motion picture The Angel’s Share.

Casks standing in the front of Balblair's distillery building with grey sky in the back ground
Balblair distillery

style

Balblair produces a Highland single malt whisky. The spirit is full-bodied and waxy. When mature, the whisky is rich, nutty and fruity.

Collection of various fruits
Selection of nuts flowing from bowl
Crown of whipped cream
Honey running down honeycomb

production

The whisky is distilled from unpeated barley grain that grows on the Black Isle. Process water is piped for five miles from the Allt Dearg burn.

Distillers take a patient hands-on approach to production. Fermentation takes 62 hours in wooden washbacks made from Douglas Fir.  

The wash is distilled in small, stumpy pot stills for 4 and a half hours. The shape of the stills helps to create a sulphury, meaty note in the new make spirit. This sulphur note reduces in cask and leaves behind a rich and fruity whisky. 

The spirit matures predominantly in American oak ex-bourbon hogsheads though European oak casks also feature.

Until recently, Balblair was renowned for bottling its single malt in vintages. The practice ended when a new core range was released that featured age statements instead. The new range is bottled at 46% alcohol by volume.


history

The original distillery was founded in 1790 by John Ross. In 1824, he was joined by his son Andrew. The distillery would remain in their family for more than a century.

In 1872, the entire distillery moved to a new location to take better advantage of the local railway. The new premises were designed by famed distillery architect, Charles Doig.

Despite there being water at the new location, it was decided to pipe water from the original source to avoid any change in the spirit character.

Ross family ownership came to an end in 1894 when the distillery was taken over by Alexander Cowan. The turn of the century brought difficulties for the Scotch industry, however. The Pattison Crash resulted in several distillers going out of business. Balblair lasted until 1911 before it too was forced to close.

The distillery lay dormant until 1947. The UK government were keen for distillers to return to production following World War II. They saw whisky as a crucial export that would bring in much-needed revenue. Balblair reopened under the ownership of Robert Cumming.

Cumming expanded the distillery and increased production. When he retired in 1970, Balblair was taken over by Hiram Walker. Then, in 1996, it was sold on to Inver House Distillers. The sale put the distillery in the same portfolio as Speyburn, Knockdhu, Old Pulteney and Balmenach.

Balblair has largely produced spirit for use in blended Scotch whisky. The first single malt bottling appeared in 2000. In 2007, Inver House began to release a series of vintage bottlings, produced in a single year. This ended in 2019 when a new core range of age stated releases was launched.

In 2013, Balblair featured in the film “The Angel’s Share”. It featured an unnamed distillery where a fictitious cask of lost Islay whisky “Malt Mill” was found. The film also featured a cameo from whisky writer Charles MacLean.