The Balblair distillery
Could there be something in the water in this region of Scotland that boasts half a dozen distilleries, stretching from Inverness to Wick at the northern-most edge of the Highlands? Balblair, located close to the small village of Edderton, is just 10 kilometres from Glenmorangie. Yet visitors to the first rarely venture up to the second.
In contrast, Skibbo Castle a few kilometres away attracts a show-biz crowd: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Robbie Williams and even Madonna and her Scottish husband dropped by for a glamorous wedding ceremony. Balblair’s single malt has never attracted high-profile publicity, pushing it even further off the tourist trail.
Yet the distillery is very appealing, with its elegant Victorian architecture and is eight traditional ‘dunnage’ warehouses. Founded at the end of the 18th century and fully rebuilt in 1872, Balblair closed its doors between the wars. Its name means ‘battlefield’ in Gaelic, a reference to the number of Viking invasions inflicted on the region. According to scientific studies, the air here is the purest in Scotland. Balbair’s other unique characteristic is that it boasts three stills despite only using two. All three are onion-shaped, broad and low-built.
Long relegated to the ranks of one of the many distilleries that produce magnificent single malts overshadowed by the blending houses, Balblair first rose to fame in 1998 thanks to the Inver House Distillers group. Since then, it has boasted a range of particularly aromatic malts and continues to add to its award-winning collection. In 2005, the 38 year-old Balblair was awarded the best single malt trophy at London’s prestigious IWSC international competition, picking up the gold medal while three other whiskies in the range took the silver.