Balblair

   

Balblair distillery was founded by John Ross in 1790 and now lays claim to being the oldest working distillery in the Highland region and one of the oldest in Scotland. It remained within the Ross family until the end of the 19th century was bought by Alex Cowan in 1896.

Balblair was closed between 1915 and 1947 when it was  reopened and then purchased by Robert 'Bertie' Cumming in 1949 but he retired in 1970 and sold it on to what became Allied Distillers.

Inver House bought the distillery in 1996

 
   

Balblair distillery is situated in Edderton and within sight of the Clach Biorach standing stone. In fact some of the detailed pattern in the Balblair logo takes its design from faults visible within that stone.

Balblair is one of the few distilleries to now bottle only vintage expressions and not aged statements, but thankfully, to save future confusion, the year of bottling is also declared.

"Our whisky tells us when it's ready, not the other way round" Explains Balblair Manager John MacDonald

   
 

My thanks to Alan Jamieson for permission to use the 2 distillery photos

 

More great distillery info here, thanks to Malt Madness

 

 

 

Vintages (and new make)

General whisky characteristics: Light, gentle, fruity, smooth. Sometimes light toffee or butterscotch and outdoors.

   
   

Balblair, New Make, 68% ABV

Not available for sale

Dram-atics live review and distillery visit

 
 

Glass: Glencairn

Colour: Clear, like water

Nose: Oily and fruity whilst retaining a very fresh and light background.

Palate: A very smooth new spirit, especially undiluted at 68%. It has extreme fruit and also a light and floral complexity which makes it extremely drinkable.

With 4 drops of water: Even lighter and more open with a suggestion of heather.

Finish: Long, oily and only gently fading after some minutes.

Overall impression: A wonderfully light, smooth and fruity new make. I love it!

 

   
   

Balblair, 2000, 43% ABV

A vatting of 47 2nd fill bourbon casks

Typical cost of this bottle;

Dram-atics live review and distillery visit

 
 

Glass: Glencairn

Colour: Straw left out to sunbathe.

Nose: Very fresh and fruity with apple, pear, star fruit and a hint of biscuit.

Palate: Smooth and creamy with some mango and soft banana alongside the apple which is now the only surviving fruit from the nose. It's very good, but a surprise from what was suggested in the nose.

With
3 drops of water: A lighter and softer nose give way to a more complex palate with more depth.

Finish: Long and slightly peppery.

Overall impression: Light, fresh and fruity, a really enjoyable dram!

On Wednesday 10th November John MacDonald, Manager of Balblair Distillery led an online twitter tasting of Balblair 2000 & 1989, so here it is revisited a week later, but in the comfort of my own home rather than its natural habitat: Dram-atics live twitter report.

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Light straw in the midday sunshine

Nose: Lots of fruit (apples, star fruit, a hint of pear) but also a faint hint of aromatic lavendar. In fact I have described this as picking up one of Munich's exotic fruit stalls from Viktualienmarkt and depositing it amidst heather and bracken on a Scottish hillside, with a small lavendar cushion for company.

Palate: Slightly sweeter than the nose with a rich, creamy mouth-feel. Some slightly stronger mango and banana join the apple and star fruit from the nose.

With 3 drops of water: The nose is a little more reserved and the palate is lighter, but still with plenty of fruit.

Finish: Long, even longer with water.

Overall Impression: Very light and fruity. A most enjoyable whisky!

 

   
   

Balblair, 1989 (bottled 2010), 43% ABV

2nd fill bourbon cask, Natural colour, chill-filtered

Typical cost of this bottle;

Dram-atics live review and distillery visit

 
 

Glass: Glencairn

Colour: Light (yellow) gold.

Nose: Light and floral with faint wood, in fact I'm thinking 'early morning walk on a remote Scottish hillside with bracken and heather, all before breakfast.

Palate: Once again there's lots of Scottish outdoors and countryside here, with a hint of light toffee or butterscotch. Very smooth too.

With 4 drops of water: Fresher and more complex, or more depth as it expands on the palate.

Finish: Everlasting.

Overall impression: Light, complex, all the best attributes of the Scottish outdoors and countryside. Excellent! This really has so much to offer.

On Wednesday 10th November John MacDonald, Manager of Balblair Distillery led an online twitter tasting of Balblair 2000 & 1989, so here it is revisited a week later, but in the comfort of my own home rather than its natural habitat: Dram-atics live twitter report.

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Light (yellow) gold

Nose: Light and floral with a hint of toffee or butterscotch as in my above review, but this time there's also some banana which combines well wit hthe slight 'outdoors' effect to remind me of a fruity picnic on a Scottish hillside in Autumn.

Palate: The light toffee or butterscotch is again evident but is joined by a hint of black cherry and then the banana leads into the finish.

Finish: Very long.

Overall Impression: This really reminds of selecting toffee and butterscotch delights in a childhood sweetshop, but also with a few chewy fruit salad sweets thrown in for good measure. In fact I could even imagine it being created into a new liquorice allsort; Liquorice in the middle, wrapped in banana and black cherry and then coated in dark chocolate. A very good whisky!

 

     
   

Balblair, 1989 (bottled 2010), 43% ABV

2nd fill bourbon cask, Natural colour, chill-filtered

Typical cost of this bottle;

Reviewed (blind) as part of MMA 2011

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Pale sunny yellow

Nose: Light aromatic wood alongside heather, sweet flora and lots of fresh countryside air. The floral elements expand much further with time in the glass.

Palate: Slightly herbal butterscotch and certainly not as sweet as the nose, but there is some gentle flora present on the palate. A hint of coconut leads into the finish.

Finish: Long, herbal and lots of that countryside freshness.

Overall impression: A very good whisky, I like it.

 

   
 

Balblair, 1978 (bottled 2009), 46% ABV, (one of 3000)

2nd fill bourbon cask, Natural colour, unchillfiltered

Typical cost of this bottle; to

Dram-atics live review and distillery visit

 
 

Glass: Glencairn

Colour: Rich 21ct gold, or even light amber.

Nose: Wood and fresh ginger with a hint of lime zest whilst trying to suggest savoury red pepper corns.

Palate: Rich again with pepper and ginger alongside ripe mango.

With 4 drops of water: Slightly lighter and fresher with a little more fruity pepper.

Finish: Long with sweet fruit and a touch of dark chocolate orange.

Overall impression: A delightful vintage.

 

   
   

Balblair, 1997, 43% ABV

Chill-filtered, Coloured

Typical cost of this bottle;

Dram-atics live review and distillery visit

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Dark straw, light gold.

Nose: Lots of outdoors again with hay, straw, heather, bracken and fresh air.

Palate: Fresh and lightly floral, in fact this is real partnership or twin-town concept between countrysides as the Scottish hills meet an Alpine meadow in Spring-time.

With 4 drops of water: More floral and much more intense.

Finish: Long, light and floral.

Overall impression: Anyone who can capture the Scottish countryside and an Alpine meadow in a single bottle has to be a genius.. Wonderful!

 

   

 

 

Previous expressions

     
   

Balblair, 'Elements', 40% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

This presentation is a slightly earlier one than in my notes

 
 

Nose: Very maritime; salty with hints of cream and malt.

Palate: Smooth and creamy with malt and heather. No sign of the salt.

With 4 drops of water in 4cl: Now the salt comes out, it really opens up into a very drinkable maritime-style dram.

Overall impression: Another dram from which I expected very little, but I was very pleasantly surprised, especially with the salty maritime nose which opened onto the palate with a drop or two of water. An enjoyable evening-time dram!

 

   

 

 

Some older

Balblair

Presentations

by kind permission of John MacDonald

 

 
 

     

 

  

  

 

 

 

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