July 2014 Whisky of the Month:
The one that started it off. Balblair 2000 Single Vintage Single Malt was our debut malt as selected by our members at the Club’s launch party. Join The Club now for exclusive access to more exciting drams like this each month and great member perks.
Country of Origin:
Place of Origin:
Edderton, Tain, Ross-Shire IV19 1LB, United Kingdom
Balblair, by its very name (which means battlefield), is laden with history and is the Highlands’ oldest operating distillery. Residing in the heart of Clan Ross territory and with inter-generational Ross men still working at the distillery to present day, this mystical distillery and site was officially licensed in 1790, however records have found the distillery was in existence as early as the 1740s. The last witch of Scotland was burned at the stake nearby, and looking back even earlier to the 6th century, evidence of the mythical Pictish tribes can be found on the site in the form of the “Clach Biorach” or Balblair standing stone. This is believed to have been a place of tribal community gatherings, with carvings and depictions of the mythical Pictish beast that can be seen dating back hundreds of centuries. This significant stone forms part of the Balblair’s packaging today and sees a common thread of mystery and intrigue throughout the Balblair philosophy.
The picturesque village of Edderton in Tain where the distillery resides is also known as the ”Spirit of the air” having been credited by an EU 2006 university study to boast the cleanest air in all of Scotland. Water sourced from the Allt Dearg flows by gravity from the surrounding Highland hills and is used to this day. With a dedication to Single Vintage Whisky, distillery manager John MacDonald, himself a Ross man with 17 years’ experience at the famous Glenmorangie distillery a short distance from Balblair, describes his whisky as “timed to perfection”. This is because he allows the whisky to tell him when it’s ready and not the other way around. With a rich history and heritage, the significance and importance of Balblair truly makes this distillery one of the Jewels in the crown of Scottish whisky distilleries.
About Balblair Single Vintage Whisky:
With the emphasis on unique Single Vintage Whisky, only around 10% of the 26,000 casks maturing in the eight traditional dunnages is actually reflected or earmarked as Single Malt. The remainder finds its way into world-renowned blends such as Chivas Regal, Ballantines & Hankey Bannister.
Balblair uses several varieties of barley with minimal peat levels of 1-2 PPM, and its silos have a 30 tonne collective capacity, meaning that the distillery can operate self-sufficiently under the worst winter conditions for up to 3 weeks. At Balblair, one tonne of barley produces just over 400 litres of spirit and production reaches 1.3 million litres of new make spirit annually.
Mashing (in stainless steel) takes place in three stages over a six hour timeline; firstly at 65C, secondly at 82C and finally at 92C. This slower natural drainage system assists in giving Balblair spirit its fruit driven characteristics by releasing the fatty compounds in the sugary wort of the mash. Fermentation takes place in six traditional Pine Oregon washbacks, each containing 21,500 litres of fermenting liquid at different times in the process. At 62 hours, the fermentation is one of the longest in the industry; this is to allow the micro-flora bacteria held in the wood of the washbacks to impart a secondary minor fermentation, thus adding further character to the finished ferment. Once finished, the fermented wash is in essence a fruity strong ale of around 8-9% ABV.
Distillation is done in two large stills, one wash & one spirit, which have very large, bulbous bases with thick necks to achieve the heavier, robust & oily spirit preferred by Balblair. Lyne arms run through the still-room wall to copper condensers that cool the vapour back into liquid new make spirit ready for Cask maturation. Maturation occurs in a mix of 95% American Oak ex-Bourbon casks and 5% European Oak ex-Spanish Sherry Casks.
Whilst the impression, as with wine, would be to release consecutive vintages and once released, the vintage ended, this is not the case here. Some vintages enjoy a second and even third release with some individual casks requiring longer maturation periods, meaning a single vintage whisky based on cask readiness could be released at 10YO, 18YO or 21YO over time depending when bottled. The nature of these specialised whiskies means that vintages are released at random and it is not unusual to have a 2000, 1989 & 1978 vintage all available or released simultaneously on the market. Once again this contributes to the mystery and belief at Balblair that the whisky tells it’s owner when it is ready to move to bottle and be shared.
Price including postage and GST:
Age on release:
Colour: White to rose gold
Nose: Floral & honey notes with fruits of pear, lemon & apple.
Palate: Creamy nougat and marshmallow licks of sweetness shift into vanilla cereal notes followed by hints of coconut, pear & citrus drops, a whisky that under careful examination reveals its lighter nuances and flavour profiles.
Finish: Vanilla, fruits & spice follow through with a remarkable soft ending.
American Oak first fill ex-Bourbon casks
2012 San Francisco World Spirit Challenge: GOLD MEDAL
2011 IWSC: SILVER MEDAL
2011 ISC: SILVER MEDAL