The roots of whisky go deep in Easter Ross, home of fabled Ferintosh and now the location of a diverse collection of distilleries, including Glenmorangie, Dalmore and Balblair. Iain Russell outlines the region’s chequered whisky history.
Once upon a time, long before people talked of Speyside and the other famous whisky regions, there was Ferintosh.
During the 1700s, Ferintosh became the popular generic name for good Highland whisky, much as Glenlivet was to become a century later. The name disappeared from the whisky market long ago; nevertheless, the legacy of Ferintosh was to have a profound influence on the social and economic history of Easter Ross, the broad and fertile coastal plain which includes the famous Black Isle peninsula and lies to the north of Inverness. And Easter Ross remains one of the most diverse, if under-appreciated, whisky-producing regions of Scotland today.
In the 18th century, it was said that more whisky was made in the 16 distilleries on the Ferintosh Estate, near Dingwall, than in the whole of the rest of Scotland. Such was its mythical status that the 17th-century traveller Martin Martin reported:
‘The children of Ferintosh… are taught in their infancy to drink aquavitae and are never observed to be troubled with worms.’
Its praises were sung by some of the most influential figures in 18th-century Scottish culture, including Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.
The lands of Ferintosh had been virtually exempted from excise duty in 1690, as compensation to the local laird for damages done to the estate by Jacobite soldiers during the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’.
The advent of rail helped distilleries such as Glenmorangie to prosper
The exemption encouraged the development of a thriving distilling industry, and the historian Ian Mowat estimated that about 1,000 people were employed in distilling there at its peak.
The ending of the privilege in 1784 did not put a stop to whisky making – it simply encouraged distillers to continue making ‘Ferintosh’ elsewhere in the region, either with or (more usually) without an excise licence.
The growth of the illicit whisky industry in the early 19th century had serious social consequences for Easter Ross. It created a climate of lawlessness in which a large part of the population became involved in the manufacture or sale of illicit spirits.
Excise raids uncovered unlicensed stills and casks of illicit whisky hidden under beds, in middens and in privies in houses all across the region. Local newspapers regularly carried stories of violent confrontations between excisemen and whisky ‘free traders’, in towns as well as in the countryside.
Meanwhile, local landowners, including the Sheriff of Ross-shire himself, were accused of failing to punish unlicensed distillers and dealers (who were often their tenants or their customers) when they appeared in the local courts.
It was that said that more offenders were prosecuted in Dingwall than anywhere else in Scotland – and the town became home to ‘swarms of lawyers’, attracted by the plentiful demand for their services.
Those not involved in the illegal manufacture of whisky were very often engaged in its sale and consumption, and local newspapers carried startling tales of drunkenness and depravity.
Captain Hugh Munro, owner of Teaninich distillery, complained that even the public houses in Dingwall and Tain, the largest towns in the area, sold only smuggled whisky to their customers.
Illicit whisky makers easily undercut the prices of the dozens of new licensed distillers, driving the latter out of business to the extent that only two – Balblair (founded in 1790) and Teaninich (1821) – remained active by the end of the 1820s.
It took until the 1830s for the excise authorities to stamp out illicit distilling in all but the more remote parts of Easter Ross, and for entrepreneurs to invest once more in licensed distilleries. Glen Ord was founded in 1838 and Dalmore the following year – both by landowners seeking to develop the demand for their tenants’ barley.
Glenmorangie was established at Morangie Farm in 1843 by William Matheson, an experienced distiller who had learned his trade at Balblair and knew how profitable it could be to combine farming and distilling.
Initially, the licensed distillers sold their spirits primarily to local customers. In 1864, however, the forerunner of the Highland Railway connected all the distilleries in the area to Inverness and the south. Highland whisky from Easter Ross soon found its way to all parts of the UK, and was shipped to customers overseas in the US, Australia and New Zealand.
The opening of new markets led to a boom in the industry in Easter Ross in the late 19th century. Balblair was rebuilt in 1872; Dalmore doubled in size in 1874 and was extended again in 1894; Glenmorangie was rebuilt in 1887; and Glen Ord was rebuilt by new owners after 1896 to four times the size of the original.
A new distillery, Ben Wyvis (subsequently renamed Ferintosh) was founded near Dingwall in 1879, and Glenskiach, at Evanton, in 1896.
But the good times did not last
The Easter Ross distilleries suffered years of hardship in the first half of the 20th century, during two World Wars and one of the deepest worldwide recessions in history.
All were mothballed for various periods, but only Ferintosh and Glenskiach failed to reopen. The others recovered with the blended Scotch whisky boom that followed the Second World War, and with the growing interest in single malts from the 1970s.
A different kind of whisky distilling came to Easter Ross in the early 1960s, with the opening of a new grain distillery – the first in the Highlands, and the largest in Europe.
Invergordon distillery was conceived as a bold initiative to help alleviate unemployment in the town and to support the ailing farming industry of the eastern Highlands. Invergordon (which briefly included a single malt distillery, Ben Wyvis) grew rapidly to employ, at its peak, 400 men and women.
GlenWyvis is reviving the regional tradition of small-scale whisky making
The success of Invergordon encouraged the location of other industries in the area, permitting much-needed diversification in the local economy. It also provided further demand for high-quality malting barley, encouraging farmers to specialise in the crop.
Two farmer-owned co-operatives were set up – The Black Isle Grain Group, in 1977, and Easter Ross Grain, in 1988 – to develop local resources and expertise. They amalgamated in the 1990s to create Highland Grain Ltd, which has established Easter Ross’ reputation as a centre of excellence in the production and supply of this vital whisky ingredient.
Today, the industry in Easter Ross continues to grow and develop. There have been major expansion projects in recent years at Glen Ord, Teaninich and Glenmorangie. At Invergordon, owner Whyte & Mackay has announced an ambitious modernisation programme, albeit including a number of redundancies.
Meanwhile, there are signs of a revival of the ‘Ferintosh’ tradition of small-scale whisky production: Heather Nelson is building the Toulvaddie Distillery at Fearn, near Nigg, and the crowdfunded and energy self-sufficient GlenWyvis, near Dingwall, opened in 2017 and promises to become one of the leading and most innovative lights in the new wave of Scottish ‘craft’ distilleries
Edderton, Ross-shire. Licentiehouder: Balblair Distillery Ltd. Balblair is onderdeel van sw Caledonian Malt Distillers Ltd. De Malt divisie van Allied Distillers Ltd. Onderdeel de Hiram Walker Group Ltd, de wijn- en gedistilleerd divisie van Allied Lyons Pic.
Gesticht in 1790, hoewel sommige bronnen ook het jaar 1749 als stichtingsjaar aangeven, maar dit slaat waarschijnlijk op een distilleerderij, ook met de naam Balblair die was gelegen op Black Isle, een paar kilometer zuidelijker.
Balblair betekent slagveld, waarschijnlijk uit de tijd stammend dat de Vikingen dit deel van Schotland binnenvielen.
Edderton staat bekend als de 'Parish of Peat'.
Balblair werd gesticht door John Ross en de distilleerderij bleef het eigendom van de familie tot 1894, toen Alexander Cowan, een wijnhandelaar te Inverness eigenaar werd.
Cowan verplaatste Balblair naar een hoger gelegen plaats, de lagerpakhuizen bleven op de oude, iets lager gelegen plek staan.
De lagerpakhuizen hebben een aarden vloer, uitgezonderd lagerpakhuis No. 3, die een be-tonnen vloer heeft, achtergelaten door het leger, dat hier was gehuisvest in de tweede wereldoorlog.
Balblair was gesloten van 1915 - 1947.
In 1947 kocht Robert Cumming Balblair, hij was ook al de eigenaar van (Old) Pulteney.
Hij breidde de distilleerderij uit en moderniseerde Balblair.
Wegens gebrek aan bestellingen verkocht Cumming de distilleerderij aan Hiram Walker.
De mouterij werd gesloten in 1975.
In Februari 1996 doet Allied Domecq de distilleerderij in de 'mottenballen'.
In datzelfde jaar koopt Inver House Balblair.
Het water komt van de Allt Dearg Burn.
De Mash 4 ton. tun is
De zes Wash backs zijn elk 21000 liter.
Er staat één Wash still van 12000 liter en twee Spirit stills van elk 8500 liter, die met stoom worden verhit.
De capaciteit is 750.000 liter spirit per jaar.
In 1995 koopt Inver House Balblair en (Old) Pulteney van Allied Domecq.
De distilleerderij kat heet Whisky (2003).
Werd tot nu toe Balblair uitgebracht als Elements, zonder leeftijd, 10-, 16-, en Limited Editions whiskies, worden de whiskies nu uitgebracht als Vintages.
De nieuwe flessen zijn bolvormig met een verwijzing naar de opmerkelijke stills. Op fles en etiket de kerven van de unieke Pictische standing stone nabij Balblair.
Manager is (2007) John MacDonald, Master Distiller is Stuart Harvey.
Produktie nu: 1,5 miljoen liter spirit per jaar.
Current Annual Distillery Output: 1.27 litres of alcohol
Cask storage: 26.000 casks in traditional Dunnage warehouses
Water source: Allt Dearg Burn in the Struie Hills
Malt Source: Muir of Ord Maltings
Malt Storage: 300 T
Mill Type: Porteus
Grist Storage: 4,6 T x 2
Mash Tun Conxtruction: Traditional rakes, Steel
Mash Size: 4,6 T
No. of Wash Backs: 6
Wash Back Construction: Oregon Pine
Wash Back Capacity: 30.000
No. of Wash Stills: 1
Wash Still Charge: 19.600 litres
Heat Source: Steam Pans
Wash Still Shape: Traditional
No. of Spirit Stills: 2
Spirit Still Charges: 11.800 litres
Heat Source: Steam Pans
Spirit Still Shape: Traditional
1790 John Ross sticht Balblair
1824 Andrew Ross, zoon van, neemt Balblair over, vertrekt na een paar jaar naar Brora, en John Ross neemt Balblair weer over
1836 John Ross sterft en Andrew Ross, geholpen door zijn zoons neemt de distilleerderij over
1872 Een nieuwe distilleerderij wordt gebouwd, de oude wordt gebruikt als lagerpakhuis
1873 Andrew Ross sterft en zijn zoon James neemt de distilleerderij over
1894 James Ross start een nieuwe distilleerderij Balnagowan Estate sluit een nieuw contract met Alexander Cowan voor de tijd van zestig jaar.
Er wordt bepaald in het pachtcontract dat er een nieuwe distilleerderij gebouwd moet worden, ter vervanging van de bestaande. De nieuwe Balblair wordt een paar kilometer van de oude gebouwd, vlak-
bij een spoorlijn
1911 Alexander Cowan stopt met beatlen en de distilleerderij slui mtedewerkers verkopen in de volgende 20 jaar de voorraden, dit houdt op in 1932 Gedurende deze jaren is er geen produktie
1941 Balnagowan Estate gaat bankroet en Balblair staat te koop
1948 Robert Cumming, advokaat te Keith koopt de distilleerderij voor £ 48.000
1949 Balblair wordt weer opgestart
1970 Robert Cumming verkoopt Balblair aan Hiram Walker. Er wordt een derde ketel geïnstalleerd
1988 Door de overname van Allied Distillers van Hiram Walker, komt Allied Distillers in het bezit van Balblair
1996 Allied Domecq doet Balblair in de motteballen, maar hetzelfde jaar wordt Inver House de nieuwe eigenaar.
2001 Great Oriole Group neemt Inver House over
2004 Balblair 38 years is launched
2005 Balblair 12 years Peaty cask is launched
Balblair 26 years 1979 is launched
Balblair 35 years 1970 is launched
2006 International Beverage Holdings acquires Pacific Spirits U K
2007 3 new Vintages replaces the entire former range 1979, 1989, 1997
2008 Vintages 1975 and 1965 are launched
2009 Vintages 1991 and 1990 are launched
2010 Vintages 1978 and 2000 are launched
Ontstaan door een management - buy - out, onder leiding van Bill Robertson en Angus Graham, die £ 8,2 miljoen investeerden.
November 2001 werd Inver House voor £ 56 miljoen gekocht door Pacific Spirits, onderdeel van de op de Virgin Islands gevestigde Great Oriole Group van de Thaise zakenman Charoen Sirivadhanabakdi.
Manager van Pacific Spirits is Ooi Boon Aun.
Robertson en Graham ontvangen samen £ 37 miljoen en ook de 130 medewerkers ontvangen geld, sommigen £ 50.000.
Inbegrepen in de koop zijn de vijf distilleerderijen Knockdhu, Speyburn, (Old) Pulteney Balblair en Balmenach.
We, the most distant dwellersupon the earth, the last of the free, have been shielded…by our Remoteness and by the obscurity which has shrouded our name… Beyond us lies no nation, nothing but waves and rocks.
Pictish Chief Calgacus, recorded by the Roman enemy in the words of Tacitus almost 2.000 years ago.
Within sight of the Balblair Distillery, on the ancient plain of Eadar Dun, lies a great stone monument: erected over four millennia ago by a race now lost to history. This symbol stone has endured both time and season,
and is testament to the people who raised it against the brooding backdrop of the Ardross Hills
There arose a new nation, the Picts, who for a period took their place in the annals of Scottish
history and imbued the stone with their myth and legend. With singular talent and passion they
carved their sacred symbols, the salmon, a magical creature with the ability to pass safely
between fresh water, sea and air, and the double disc. Representing this world by day and the
other world by night, the sun´s two faces, benign in summer, malevolent in winter
It is this sacred stone, the ´Clach Biorach´, meaning sharp stone, which has inspired Balblair The Pictish symbols and ancient legends, ageless in a time of change, are part of the very essence of Balblair where the stone stands alone over the distillery, silent and elusive, asit has done all these ages past.
Balblair Distillery, located in the Northern Highlands of Scotland was founded by John Ross in 1790 on the shores of the Dornoch Firth in the village of Edderton.
This village takes its name from the ancient settlement of Eadar Dun, meaning ´between the forts´. It is on the very hills where these `forts´reside that the pure water of the Ault Dearg burn runs freely, supplying the distillery with the same rich source for over 200 years.
1 January 2010
The home of Balblair malt whisky at Edderton, near Tain has hosted its first wedding
Lynne Keating and Gregor Black, both police officers from East Lothian, thought The picturesque Easter Ross distillery would be a "dram"fine place to tie the knot after friends who own the nearby Carnegie Lodge Hotel recommended it
The couple visited, met distillery manager John MacDonald and were so impressed by the beautiful location that they booked it for the big day
"There's something quite special about a perfectly matured Highland single malt whisky about the essence of a VINTAGE year, captured in a bottle. About tasting it. Feeling it ".
John McDonald, Distillery Manager
Balblair Distillery is established in 1790 by local man, John Ross, although the first known records date from 1749.
THE ROSS FAMILY
John Ross is joined by his son, Andrew, and thereafter the sons and grandsons of John Ross operated the Balblair farm and distillery until the last years of the 19th century.
The Highland Railway Company build the Inverness to Ardgay line which opens on 1st June 1862.
James Ross givesup the tenancy of Balblair which is transferred to Alexander Cowan, an Inverness wine merchant. Cowan brings Balblair into the 20th Century by building the present offices, still house, mash house, kiln and barns.
Balblair Distillery & Railway Line
By now the railway had come to Balblair bringing coal for the still and boiler and barley for the malting. To take advantage of the railway line the Distillery is moved half a mile north to its current location.
Distillery closes in 1911
Tough economic times led to the distillery ceasing production.
THE LAST DROP
The last drop of whisky leaves the warehouses in 1932.
It is probably just as well that the Distillery was dry, as the next occupants were the army, who commandeered the buildings at the outbreak of the Second World War until 1945.
Balblair Workforce 1949
ROBERT JAMES “BERTIE” CUMMING
Robert James “Bertie” Cumming, a solicitor from Banff, purchases the distillery for £48,000.
Production resumes 1949
Production resumes for the first time since before the First World War.
LOCAL RAIL STATION CLOSES
The Edderton Railway Station closes in 1960.
Balblair Aerial Shot
Balblair Distillery expands with extra warehouses and the first steam boiler.
Balblair Distllery 1979
Cummings sells Balblair Distillery to Hiram Walker, the company that later becomes Allied Distillers.
Extensive development happens throughout the 1980's. A new roof is put on the mash house where two new steel grist bins are installed.
INVER HOUSE DISTILLERS
Balblair Distillery is purchased by Inver House
Distillers and so begins the newest chapter in the history
of this timeless distillery.
Balblair Cask 2007
VINTAGES TIMED TO PERFECTION
In 2007 the bold move is taken to only release Balblair
as a Vintage Whisky. Every bottle of Balblair captures
the essence of its Vintage year, the year in which it was
distilled and laid down in casks.
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1997, 1989 & 1979
Every Balblair cask is sampled, judged and hand-selected by
our Distillery Manager, John MacDonald, to find its optimum
maturation point, the point at which each Vintage says its ready.
The first Vintages released are 1997, 1989 and 1979.
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1986
Balblair Vintage 1986 is launched Exclusively for
Global Travel Retail.
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1975
Balblair Vintage 1975 is released in January 2008 as
the replacement Vintage for 1979.
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1990
Balblair Vintage 1990 is released as the Global
Travel Retail exclusive in replace of Vintage 1986.
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1965
Balblair launches its oldest offering to date, Balblair
Vintage 1965. This Single Cask was distilled on 23rd
March 1965 and matured in an American Oak ex-Sherry
butt producing only 350 bottles.
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1978
Balblair Vintage 1978 is released as the replacement
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1991
Balblair Vintage 1991 is introduced as the replacement
for Vintage 1989.
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 2000
Balblair Vintage 2000 is launched to replace Vintage 1997.
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1989 2ND RELEASE
The 2nd release of Balblair 1989 replaces Balblair 1991.
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1993
Balblair 1993 is launched as a market Exclusive
Vintage in Russia.
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1995
Balblair Vintage 1995 is launched as a Swedish
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 2000 2ND RELEASE
Balblair launches its 2nd release of Vintage 2000.
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1991 2ND RELEASE
1991 2nd releases replace 1989 2nd release.
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1995 2ND RELEASE
Balblair Vintage 1995 2nd Release is released as
a Global Travel Retail Exclusive, replacing Vintage
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 2001
Balblair Vintage 2001 replaces Vintage 2000 2nd release.
Distillery Visitor Centre
BALBLAIR OPENS ITS DOORS
Balblair opens its doors to visitors offering personal Distillery
tours, exclusive hand bottlings and shop. The 'Time Capsule'
rooms allows visitors to learn more about the history of Balblair
and experience the sights and sounds of particular past years
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1989 3RD RELEASE
Balblair Vintage 1989 3rd release is launched in place of 1991
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1975 2ND RELEASE
The 2nd release of 1975 replaces 1978 2nd release.
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1996
Balblair Vintage 1996 is launched as a Global Travel
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 2002
Balblair Vintage 2002 is launched as the replacement
Vintage for 2001.
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1997 2ND RELEASE
A 2nd release of the popular Balblair Vintage 1997 is
BALBLAIR VINTAGE 1969
Balblair Vintage 1969 is launched firstly in the States,
with globally availability rolling out later in 2013.
INTRODUCTION OF NEW VINTAGES
For the first time since 2007, 3 brand new Vintages are
introduced simultaneously; Balblair Vintage 2003,
Vintage 1990 2nd Release and Vintage 1983, as well as
the global introdcution of Balblair 1969.
travel retail whisky
NEW VINTAGES EXCLUSIVELY FOR TRAVEL
March 2014 saw Balblair release three new Vintages
exclusively in the Travel Retail channel. Balblair Vintage
2004, matured in bourbon barrels, the first release of the
Balblair Vintage 1999 and the Balblair Vintage 2004,
which is matured in sherry butts
BALBLAIR 1999 VINTAGE
This summer sees the launch of the second release of the 1999 Vintage from Balblair Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
The aim here is to produce a richly fruity new make character, meaning clear worts, long fermentation in wooden washbacks before distillation in small, stumpy stills. This produces a sulphury/meaty note to the new make. In time this does two things: the sulphur lifts to show the delicate fruits behind, while the meatiness changes to add sweet toffee notes and, after extended ageing, a notable spiciness. Like most sulphury sites, time is required for this to happen.
The first Balblair distillery was built by the Ross family near Edderton in 1790, but in 1872 production was shifted to a new site next to the (then new) railway line which linked Wick to Inverness. The Ross family ran the site for its first 100 years, before Alexander Cowan took charge, but like so many distilleries it suffered at the start of the 20th century and was closed in 1911, not reopening until after WWII when Churchill set out his edict that whisky needed to be made and sold to the US.
Robert ‘Bertie’ Cumming, the owner of Old Pulteney, bought the silent site and ran it until 1970 when Canadian distiller Hiram Walker took over – before it was absorbed into what became Allied Distillers. The latter firm sold it on to the enterprising Inver House in 1996.
Bottlings had been intermittent – Balblair Elements was released in 2000 – but in 2007, Inver House radically repackaged the single malt and, taking a leaf from Glenrothes’ book, began bottling it in ’vintage’ releases. From being a pretty much unknown malt, the new look and the quality of the liquid were both revelatory.
In 2013 Balblair acted as the distillery where the (fictitious) only extant cask of Malt Mill was auctioned in Ken Loach’s whisky caper ‘The Angel’s Share’.
Balblair distillery is founded by John Ross, whose family runs
production for 100 years
James Ross sells Balblair to Inverness wine merchant Alexander
Cowan, who builds a new still house, mash house, kiln and barns
The distillery is moved half a mile north to take advantage of the
new Inverness to Ardgay railway line
Balblair is mothballed
The last drop of whisky left in Balblair’s warehouses is sold
The distillery is commandeered by the army for the duration
of World War II
Banff solicitor and owner of Old Pulteney, Robert James
‘Bertie’ Cumming, purchases the distillery for £48,000
Production resumes at the distillery for the first time since before
Balblair distillery expands with the addition of further warehousing
and its first steam boiler
Cummings sells the distillery to Hiram Walker, which later
became Allied Distillers
Inver House Distillers purchases Balblair
Balblair decides to only release vintage bottlings, the first three
of which are a 1997, 1989 and 1979 expressions
A visitor centre is opened
Vintages are replaced throughout the years as stocks run out,
but in 2013 the distillery released three new vintages: 2003, 1990 and 1983.
Balbalir cnverted from using heavy fuel oil to gas.
CAPACITY (MLPA) i
CONDENSER TYPE i
Shell and tube
FERMENTATION TIME i
FILLING STRENGTH i
GRIST WEIGHT (T) i
HEAT SOURCE i
MALT SPECIFICATION i
MALT SUPPLIER i
Crisp, Bairds, Boort
MASH TUN MATERIAL i
MASH TUN TYPE i
NEW-MAKE PHENOL LEVEL i
NEW-MAKE STRENGTH i
SPIRIT STILL CHARGE (L) i
SPIRIT STILL SHAPE i
8 dunnage warehouses
WASH STILL CHARGE (L) i
WASH STILL SHAPE i
WASHBACK SIZE (L) i
WASHBACK TYPE i
WATER SOURCE i
Allt Dearg Burn
WORT CLARITY i
Fune, bright wort
YEAST TYPE i
Mauri MX liquid
International Beverage Holdings
2006 - present
Inver House Distillers
1996 - present
1994 - 1996
1988 - 1994
Hiram Walker & Sons
1970 - 1988
1948 - 1970
1894 - 1911
The Ross Family
1790 - 1894
BALBLAIR LAUNCHES NEW 1991 AND 2000 VINTAGES
Highland distillery Balblair has unveiled two new limited-edition single malts —
the second release of its 2000 vintage and the third release of its 1991 vintage.
Balblair 1991 and 2000 vintage
Vintage update: Balblair's two new expressions, distilled in 1991 and 2000, will be available globally
The second release of the 2000 vintage has been matured in ex-Bourbon casks for 13 years, and finished in Spanish oak butts for a further five years. Bottled at 46% abv, the release will be priced at £70.
It’s described as having a nose that’s ‘full-bodied with aromas of seasoned oak, baked red apples and fruitcake,’ and a palate that features ground spices, brighter citrus fruits and honey.
The expression follows the 2000’s first release seven years ago, at the time the youngest whisky in Balblair’s lineup.
Meanwhile the third release of the 1991 vintage has been matured for 24 years in American oak barrels before spending three additional years finishing in Spanish oak butts.
The expression, which is bottled at 46% abv and described as having Balblair’s ‘signature citrus orchard flavour profile’ followed by richer notes of creamy chocolate and Christmas pudding, will be available for £125.
Both expressions will be available globally, both online and stocked in specialist retailers.
‘At Balblair, we only release our whisky when its ready and these new vintages are no exception,’ said Matt Jamieson, Balblair global brand manager.
‘Both featuring a very different nose and palate, the 2000 and 1991 are exquisite drams which are sure to appeal to the most discerning of whisky drinkers.’
Established in 1790, Balblair is one of the oldest working distilleries in Scotland, located on the Dornoch Firth on the east coast.
The distillery is notable for never displaying traditional age statements on its labels, instead opting to use vintages to reference the year of distillation.
Balblair has always been situated on lands belonging to the Balnagowan Estate which was owned by Clan Ross from abour 1300 until 1972 when Egyptian business man Mohammed
Al - fayed previous owner of Harrod's in London until 2010, bought the estate and the castle whichis situated 15 kilometres south of Balblair.
Balblair 12, 15, 18, 25-year-old.
Balblair’s four new core range expressions, introduced this summer as a replacement for its annual vintage releases which have been hailed as representing a ‘new era’ for the Ross-shire distillery.
The range gets off to a strong start as Paskin finds a ‘weighty and bold’ Balblair 12-year-old to be a confectioner’s delight, brimming with sweets, ice cream and cookie dough. The whisky, matured in ex-Bourbon casks and double-fired American oak casks, is ‘a good value entrance,’ she says.
The Balblair 15-year-old, matured in a mixture of ex-Bourbon and first-fill Sherry casks, kicks things up a notch with deep notes of leather, dark chocolate and bramble fruits. ‘Hugely satisfying,’ Paskin remarks.
The 18-year-old, also matured in the same mixture of casks, is surprisingly lighter, bearing a more gingery, cakey and tropical persona.
The distillery’s headline act is a 25-year-old, matured in ex-Bourbon and ex-oloroso Sherry casks, which is oily, leathery and rancio-driven, but just a touch too timid.
South to Speyside now to Glenfiddich, where malt master Brian Kinsman has finished a 23-year-old single malt in French cuvée wine casks. Full of orchard fruits, brioche and buttered toast, this new permanent addition to the distillery line-up shouldn’t just be reserved for special occasions, she says.
Lastly to Glenlivet and a 14-year-old Cognac-finished malt bottled exclusively for the US. Paskin finds the Cognac accentuates the distillery’s already fruit-forward character with bushels of berries and cinnamon buns.
This week’s playlist revels in a relaxed party mood, taking in the French sounds of Rachel Portman and Jain, chilled out classics from Bill Withers and Oh Wonder, and dialling up the vibe with Florence + the Machine and Crystal Fighters. Click the links in Right Time, Right Place for a listen.
Balblair 12 Years Old
Balblair 15 Years Old
Balblair 18 Years Old
Balblair 25 Years Old
BALBLAIR 12 YEARS OLD
Fruity & Spicy
Citrusy and light yet densely sweet and fruity – plump clementines and freshly-grated lemon zest; dried apricots soaked in honey with juicy sultanas. There’s a creamy density to the nose, a rich rum and raisin ice cream. The components eventually settle together, bound by a wisp of char.
Creamy and leathery with more of the ice cream, tutti frutti this time. The honey has taken a back seat, beckoning the fruits to the fore – candied orange pieces and Jelly Tots, while damp, tannic oak dries the sides of the mouth. That double-charred cask makes itself known as dark chocolate, liquorice and cinnamon-spiced cookie dough builds toward the back.
Surprisingly dry, a little spicy, but long and creamy.
Fruity, weighty and bold, a good value entrance to Balblair’s new age-stated range.
RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME
Sneaking a lick of the cookie dough mixture as Party Preparations get underway.
BALBLAIR 15 YEARS OLD
Rich & Round
Pretty closed at first, so give it a minute to relax into the glass. It gets increasingly leathery, with rich, dark fruits moving gently, nervously forward, awakening from slumber – morello cherries, dried figs, plums, blackberries and a giant, beastly Black Forest gateaux.
Silky and decadent, and darkly rich. Liquorice blackcurrant sweets, crisp, high cocoa dark chocolate studded with dried cherries and currants, then a touch of marzipan and Demerara sugar. Some baking spice builds toward the middle but subsides gently, playfully.
Beautifully rich and drawn out.
Hugely satisfying. If cherries and chocolate are your bag, go buy this.
RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME
Sat quietly in the shed with the largest piece of the birthday cake. ‘I know that you’re Hiding.’
BALBLAIR 18 YEARS OLD
Fruity & Spicy
Ginger snaps and crispy, light, spongey madeleines. Notes of crunchy, caramel-coated popcorn, vanilla and marzipan satisfy the sweet tooth, while fragrant orange blossom and lemon barley water lift things considerably. It’s surprisingly lighter and fresher than the 15-year-old.
Juicy green apples and conference pears with a hint of tropical fruits – pineapples and yuzu – developing into toffee, vanilla and cinnamon-spiked cake mixture, Jamaica ginger cake and sugared almonds. There’s a floral element carried through, more of that fragrant orange, and rosewater.
A little dry and oaky, but zingy and pleasantly fruity.
A certain crowd-pleaser.
RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME
Strolling past the patisserie at 7am. It’s going to be a Lovely Day.
BALBLAIR 25 YEARS OLD
Rich & Round
Another shy one, offering only a hint of rancio, soft leather and sultanas. Water reveals green fruits, kiwis, Mirabelle plums and unripe banana, with an underlying tone of sticky blood orange. There’s a certain staleness that prevails.
Soft and chewy, oily and mouth-coating. It’s deep and dank, with notes of tobacco leaves, leather and milk chocolate. The fruit is timid, appearing as stewed apples and sultanas with a hint of hazelnuts. Water lightens things (just add a drop or two to retain that texture), coaxing out more of Balblair’s fruitiness – sticky orange juice from concentrate and toffee apples, which harmonises well with a gentle oak and anise spice.
Leathery and a touch sour, the rancio element bringing up the rear.
I’m yet to sample a disappointing old Balblair – with an age statement or vintage. This one is funky, fruity but shy. Give it some time in the glass.
RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME
Won’t you come out to play? All We Do is hide away.
Capacity: 1.800.000 Ltrs
Output: 160.000 Ltrs