Balblair is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, having been officially founded in 1790 (although illicit distilling is believed to have taken place on the site for some time before that).
The present distillery buildings date from the 1890s. Alexander Cowan, who had built the new distillery, was forced to close the distillery in 1911, after which time it remained silent until 1948-49, when it reopened under new management. The distillery's ownership then changed hands a few times, before finally being sold to Inver House in 1996.
Despite having moved premises more than 100 years ago, Balblair still uses the slightly peaty water from the Ault Dreag burn, which has to be tankered to the premises, and which is credited by some for the malts lightly smoked character. In 2007, Balblair was given a successful packaging re-vamp and replaced its core range with three vintage releases, 1979, 1989 and 1997. A 1975 expression has since been released to replace the 1979 which sold out quickly. Independent bottlings are relatively rare.
Every year the Distillery Manager, John MacDonald, selects the finest examples of Balblair from the maturing whiskies which he believes best exemplify Balblair Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky: rich spices; fruits and a pleasant leathery note. Of the thousands of barrels sampled each year, only a limited number are bottled as Balblair Vintage Single Malt capturing the very essence of Balblair.
Many single malt Scotch whiskies distinguish between their expressions with an age statement, rightly proud of the long maturation their distillates have undergone.
At Balblair we have pursued a Vintage statement by which to differentiate our various expressions. In doing so, we take a complementary approach between age itself and the fundamental character of the spirit that is Balblair Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
The ageing process plays a significant role in the maturation of fine single malt Scotch whiskies. The interaction of the spirit with the oak barrels and the environment in which they are matured is fundamental to the character of the final distillate. However, over and above this, is the character of the spirit itself.
Every distillery is different. Its location. Its water source. Its still shape. Its wood policy. In fact, there are a myriad of variables. With Balblair we go one step further. Our Vintage whiskies are hand“picked, specially selected 'years' that represent the very best whisky the distillery has to offer.
Every year our Distillery Manager, John MacDonald selects only those whiskies that have reached their exact point of 'optimum maturation', the absolute peak of perfection.
The casks not selected, are simply not chosen because they have not yet reached their absolute best. They are left to quietly mature further in our warehouse.
In certain cases these Vintage releases may demonstrate pure Balblair characteristics, whilst others may highlight the effects that a single cask can have on this character.