Balblair distillery

Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

The aim here is to produce a richly fruity new make character, meaning clear worts, long fermentation in wooden washbacks before distillation in small, stumpy stills. This produces a sulphury/meaty note to the new make. In time this does two things: the sulphur lifts to show the delicate fruits behind, while the meatiness changes to add sweet toffee notes and, after extended ageing, a notable spiciness. Like most sulphury sites, time is required for this to happen.  

  • Region
  • Production type
    Single malt
  • Distillery Status

Balblair History

The first Balblair distillery was built by the Ross family near Edderton in 1790, but in 1872 production was shifted to a new site next to the (then new) railway line which linked Wick to Inverness. The Ross family ran the site for its first 100 years, before Alexander Cowan took charge, but like so many distilleries it suffered at the start of the 20th century and was closed in 1911, not reopening until after WWII when Churchill set out his edict that whisky needed to be made and sold to the US.

Robert ‘Bertie’ Cumming, the owner of Old Pulteney, bought the silent site and ran it until 1970 when Canadian distiller Hiram Walker took over – before it was absorbed into what became Allied Distillers. The latter firm sold it on to the enterprising Inver House in 1996.

Bottlings had been intermittent – Balblair Elements was released in 2000 – but in 2007, Inver House radically repackaged the single malt and, taking a leaf from Glenrothes’ book, began bottling it in ’vintage’ releases. From being a pretty much unknown malt, the new look and the quality of the liquid were both revelatory.

In 2013 Balblair acted as the distillery where the (fictitious) only extant cask of Malt Mill was auctioned in Ken Loach’s whisky caper ‘The Angel’s Share’.


  • 1790 Balblair distillery is founded by John Ross, whose family runs production for 100 years
  • 1894 James Ross sells Balblair to Inverness wine merchant Alexander Cowan, who builds a new still house, mash house, kiln and barns
  • 1895 The distillery is moved half a mile north to take advantage of the new Inverness to Ardgay railway line
  • 1911 Balblair is mothballed
  • 1932 The last drop of whisky left in Balblair’s warehouses is sold
  • 1939 The distillery is commandeered by the army for the duration of World War II
  • 1948 Banff solicitor and owner of Old Pulteney, Robert James ‘Bertie’ Cumming, purchases the distillery for £48,000
  • 1949 Production resumes at the distillery for the first time since before WWI
  • 1964 Balblair distillery expands with the addition of further warehousing and its first steam boiler
  • 1970 Cummings sells the distillery to Hiram Walker, which later became Allied Distillers
  • 1996 Inver House Distillers purchases Balblair
  • 2007 Balblair decides to only release vintage bottlings, the first three of which are a 1997, 1989 and 1979 expressions
  • 2013 Vintages are replaced throughout the years as stocks run out, but in 2013 the distillery released three new vintages: 2003, 1990 and 1983.

Balblair Facts

  • Capacity (mlpa) i
  • Condenser Type i
    Shell and tube
  • Fermentation Time i
  • Filling Strength i
  • Grist Weight (t) i
  • Heat Source i
  • Malt Specification i
  • Malt Supplier i
    Crisp, Bairds, Boort
  • Mash Tun Material i
    Stainless Steel
  • Mash Tun Type i
    Semi Lauter
  • New-make Phenol Level i
  • New-make Strength i
  • Spirit Still Charge (l) i
  • Spirit Still Shape i
  • Stills i
  • Warehousing i
    8 dunnage warehouses
  • Wash Still Charge (l) i
  • Wash Still Shape i
  • Washback Size (l) i
  • Washback Type i
  • Washbacks i
  • Water Source i
    Allt Dearg Burn
  • Wort Clarity i
    Fune, bright wort
  • Yeast Type i
    Mauri MX liquid


Parent company

Current owner

  • Inver House Distillers 1996 - present

Previous owners

  • Allied Domecq 1994 - 1996
  • Allied Lyons 1988 - 1994
  • Hiram Walker & Sons 1970 - 1988
  • Robert Cumming 1948 - 1970
  • Alexander Cowan 1894 - 1911
  • The Ross Family 1790 - 1894


Balblair Distillery
IV19 1LB
United Kingdom
Visit Website
+44 1862 821273
Visitor Opening Hours
10am to 4pm (Oct-Mar), 5pm (Apr-Sept)
10am to 4pm (Oct-Mar), 5pm (Apr-Sept)
10am to 4pm (Oct-Mar), 5pm (Apr-Sept)
10am to 4pm (Oct-Mar), 5pm (Apr-Sept)
10am to 4pm (Oct-Mar), 5pm (Apr-Sept)
10am to 4pm (Apr-Sept)


See also

  • Balmenach Balmenach Balmenach Distillery & brand


    One of Speyside’s traditional sites.

  • Knockdhu Knockdhu Knockdhu Distillery & brand


    Producer of Ancnoc single malt.

  • Pulteney Pulteney Pulteney Distillery


    Home to the Old Pulteney single malt.

  • Speyburn Speyburn Speyburn Distillery & brand


    A little-known but top-selling malt.

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