Balblair is a great distillery which is keeping very busy. It is one of the oldest distilleries still in existence in Scotland, dating back to 1790, though there are records of distilleries on the site as far back as 1749. lt was rebuilt in the 1870s by the owners, the Ross family (four out of the nine Balblair distillery workers still have the surname Ross), and appears to have changed relatively little since then, although it was shut from 1915 to 1947. Inver House aren’t easily persuaded of the merits of change and tend to adhere to traditional methods where they can. Since 1996, the distillery has been owned by Inver House Distillers, who began with a core range called Elements. This was succeeded by a range of vintage malts in a similar style to The Glenrothes bottlings, right down to the bulbous bottle shape.
In 2008, the company took the dramatic step of not only repackaging its Balblair range, but also changing the whisky branding the malt by distillation year rather than age and boldly repositioning the distillery’s bottles in a more premium category none of the company’s distilleries is a household name, but they are all respected and are building a growing reputation under their newish owners. The typically spicy and fresh dryness of the Northern Highlands is now complemented by a richer fruit sweetness in the new Balblairs and the relatively older expressions are a real and welcome surprise. They are made using water that has flowed from the piney hillsides of Ben Dearg and over dry crumbly peat towards the river Carron and the Dornoch firth. A burn near the distillery feeds Balblair, which is amid fields at Edderton, close to the firth and the sea. The current core range consists of three vintages – 1975 (which replaced the 1978 in 2012), 1989 and 2002 (replacing the 2001 in August 2012). Most of the Balblair releases are from bourbon barrels but the 1975 vintage has been drawn from sherry butts although made of American oak. For the duty free market a new 1996 was released in 2012 and there was also a limited release of 1997 for select markets in autumn 2012. Last, but not least, if you go to the distillery you can bottle your own exclusive Balblair 1992 in the distillery shop – the only place where this will be available. The Balblair 1989 vintage was a Gold Medal winner in the 2007 international Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC) and judged “best in class” and was a big favourite of the crowd at the 2008 Edinburgh Whisky Fringe.
More info at http://www.balblair.com
What is Peat? When it comes to whisky, peat is the “terroir”, pretty much like it works for wines. Not only is aroma the bigger part of taste – the drinks and foods that arouse the appetite and the imagination are often fragrant – but these same foods are in fact frequently grilled, barbecued, roasted, toasted, or smoked: the breakfast kippers, bacon, toast, and coffee; the steak sizzling on a Charcoal grill; the chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Continue reading
Bladnoch started in 1817 and remains today one of Scotland’s last lowland distilleries. It is actually the most southerly distillery in Scotland. The distillery was bought and sold several times over the 20th century, spending long periods lying idle in between. Finally, Guinness UDV (now Diageo) sold it to Raymond Armstrong from Northern Ireland in 1994. The deal brokered was that Bladnoch would never produce whisky again but Diageo relented in 2000 and the distillery is now allowed to produce 250,000 bottles a year. Unlikely as it now seems, Armstrong planned to redevelop the buildings for housing. But the whisky gods were not to be so easily distracted and, after some time, Armstrong began to understand the cultural importance of his new baby and what the distillery meant to the local community. So he determined to start distilling again. Armstrong commenced the resurrection and in December 2000 the first distillation was made. The distillery is equipped with a stainless steel semi-lauter mash tun, six washbacks made of 0regon pine (of which only three are in use) and one pair of stills. Due to the increase in production costs (barley, casks and fuel), the owners took a decision in 2009 to cease production for the time being. According to Armstrong, the intention is to start distilling again during 2012. Of the 11 warehouses on site, Bladnoch uses only one for its own purposes while the others are rented to other distilleries. The latter is also an important contribution to finances of the business. Nearly 50,000 casks from other companies are stored at Bladnoch. The distillery is coming of age, producing its own malts to put alongside older stock bought in by proprietor Raymond Armstrong. In the process, it is also restoring pride in a remote region of the Lowlands, in the deep south-western corner of Scotland. All the signs are encouraging, and there has been a nice mix of malts, some peated, some not, but all distinctive and impressive. Bladnoch is the southernmost working distillery in Scotland. It takes its water from the river Bladnoch, which flows into the Solway Firth, which forms the border with England.
Until four years ago, all official bottling came from the previous owner’s production. These included 13 to 19 year olds but, in spring of 2010, a couple of 20 year olds were also released. In 2008 the first release from stock distilled under the current ownership appeared. Three 6 year old cask strengths were released – a bourbon matured, a sherry matured and one lightly peated from a bourbon barrel. All these have since appeared in older versions with a 70 year old lightly peated and sherry matured, as well as a 17 year old sherry matured being released in spring/summer 2012. The range has mostly been about single casks bottled but the first step to a core range was made in 2011, when Distiller’s Choice with no age statement, bottled at 46%, was launched. This was followed up in 2012 with a Peated Distiller’s Choice. The whisky is recognizable with its pale straw colour. It smells of sweet barley and cereal, fruits and a bit of smoke. The whisky is light in taste but mouth-coating. Loads of vanilla and delicate peat smoke.
More info at http://www.bladnoch.co.uk