Balmenach (pronounced bal-men-ack) is a single malt and gin distillery located in Speyside. The malt produced there is heavily used in several blended Scotch whisky brands. The owner has no plans to release an official single malt, although the Deerstalker 12 years old is bottled under contract. The popular Highland gin of Caorunn has also been produced there since 2009.
Balmenach is known for its robust, heavy and savoury single malt. This traditional style has made Balmenach a hugely popular ingredient for blended Scotch whiskies. The robust nature adds structure and depth. This style lends itself to ex-sherry cask maturation and for a lengthy time.
With no official bottlings available, the only way to sample Balmenach is via the Deerstalker brand or independent bottling companies. Gordon & Macphail (the Connoisseurs Choice range in particular), Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) and That Boutique-y Whisky Company have regular releases.
Balmenach has a single malt production capacity of 2.9 million litres per year. The distillery operates for five days each week and is equipped with an 8-tonne stainless steel mash tun. There are 14 mashes per week. Six wooden washbacks, made of Douglas fir, run both short and long fermentations - seven at 56 hours during the week and seven at 90 hours over the weekend when the distillery is closed.
Six stills - three wash and three spirit - are connected to worm tub condensers. This traditional condenser sees the lyne arm plunge into a vat of cold water. This forms a coil, which looks like a worm and creates extra copper contact with alcohol vapour compared to modern condensers. Water for production is taken from a spring in the Cromdale Hills.
Balmenach was founded in 1824 by James MacGregor. He purchased an official license for his stills on Balminoch Farm, which had operated illegally for several years, following the introduction of the Excise Act in 1823. He later built the current distillery on the site, which is located near the village of Cromdale in the south of Speyside.
In 1897, the MacGregors founded the Balmenach-Glenlivet Distillery Company. Their ownership ended after almost a century in 1922. The distillery was sold to a consortium headed by Peter Dawson, MacDonald Green and James Watson. Three years later, the consortium became part of Distillers Company Limited (DCL).
DCL evolved to become United Distillers in 1987 and they closed Balmenach in May 1993. The distillery was purchased by Inver House Distillers in 1997 and production recommenced a year later. They remain as owners today, albeit as part of the larger International Beverage Holdings group. They took over in 2001. The company owns four other Scottish whisky distilleries - Balblair, Knockdhu, Old Pulteney and Speyburn.