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