Balblair is one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries. The official founding of the distillery was in 1790, by a local man named John Ross. There are records though that indicate the distillery may have been operating on its original location, as far back as 1749. Built near Edderton, the original distillery was moved a half a mile north in 1895, to make better use of the Inverness to Ardgay rail line. The distillery operated until 1911 when tough economic times forced its closure. It would not reopen until 1949.
The distillery was expanded twice in the 20th century, to take advantage of the boom in demand for Scotch whisky in the 1960s and 1970s. A major expansion took place in 1964, followed by extensive improvements in the 1980s. The distillery was owned by Hiram Walker from 1970 until 1996. In 1996 the distillery was sold to Inverhouse Distillers, who already owned Old Pulteney and Knockdhu (anCnoc) Distilleries. They would later add Balmenach before that firm was itself sold to a beverage industry giant now known as Thai Beverage Inc.
Like Glenrothes, Balblair doesn’t have an age statement range, but rather it releases its whiskies in vintages. Currently we have 2005 (which we are sampling today!), 1999, 1990 and 1983 in the market with 1969 available by special order. All of the whiskies are bottled at 46%, without artificial colouring. The Balblair 2005 vintage from the calendar today has been matured in Ex-Bourbon barrels, and has been bottled at 11 years of age.
Balbalir 2005 - 46% – Ex-Bourbon - Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: waxy and buttery, creamed honey and white chocolate Hershey’s kisses; Granny Smith apples, dry grassy malt and muddled mint and sugar (like the dregs after a mojito). Palate: round, chewy and very toasty; almost a faint hint of very clean smoke? crisp citrus, white pepper, aloe and more muddled mint with sugars; white fruits and still there with a vegetal quality and toasted coconut chips; some musty earthy notes and worn old leather. Finish: medium in length, light in body, but bright and refreshing. Comment: not overly complex, but without flaws and very pleasant; a summer sipping whisky! – $90