This month we are offering something pretty special. The Balblair 1997 Vintage. Unlike aged single malts (eg 12 YO) , ‘vintage’ malts are made only from the stated year’s barley harvest (in this case 1997). There is less blending and as a result more distinct character from the master distiller is revealed. As a result, vintage whiskies are only released when the master distiller is confident that it will stand on its own without blending across years. Jim Murray says of the Balblair 1997 – “Easily the most true to character distillery bottling for the last 20 years.”
Away up North of Inverness in the Dornoch Firth there lies a wee distillery that has decided to do things a little differently. Balblair distillery was officially established in 1790, making it the 3rd oldest ‘legitimate’ distillery in Scotland. Records exist, however, that show whisky production occuring there since at least 1749. Established by John Ross, he and his family were to oversee the distillery up until the very end of the 19th century. Bought by Alexander Cowan in 1894, was moved (half a mile to take advantage of the new railway), modernised, and then in 1911, mothballed. In 1948 a solicitor named Robert ‘Bertie’ Cumming buys the dormant distilery with production resuming in ’49. A couple more changes of hands, some expansion and 50-odd years sees the current owners take over the distillery in 1970.
Balblair is now owned by the Inverhouse Distillers Group who have stable of 4 – including Old Pultney, AnCnoc and Speyburn. As a relatively small company in the world of whisky, the head distillers don’t have to follow strict corporate guidelines and aren’t bound by the need to maintain strict consistency. Recognising this, Balblair makes a vintage whisky. The one we have this month is the Balblair 2000 edition. Like wines which vary slightly from vintage to vintage, so too does the Balblair offer variations and nuances with each different vintage.