The original Balblair was built in 1870, but the site was moved entirely in 1872 to take advantage of the just built Inverness to Wick train line. The distillery, like many, suffered economically during the Great Wars and was closed until after WWII. Following several changes of ownership, Balblair was bought by Inverhouse (owners of Old Pulteney) in 1996. Few bottlings came for the distillery until 2007 when a total repackaging and relaunch saw Balblair bottle by vintage rather than by age, with a unique and eye-catching design. The quality of the whisky being just as good as the design is testament to the 21st rebirth of this old distillery.

Distillery Bottlings

Posted 29 June 2021

Despite incessant media and enthusiast-driven hype, increasing bottle hysteria and more than a touch of elaborate marketing and beautifying packaging, whisky is rather the humble drink. Formed from just barley, yeast and water – even your evening beer has at least one more base ingredient added at its point of creation. And yet it is the elevation, over time, of these normally unassuming components which takes whisky from its modest roots and transforms it into something which can be equally as enchanted as it is diverting.

Posted 11 September 2017

Balblair Vintage 2004 sherry matured was released for travel retail in 2014. Balblair bottle by vintage year, and not age, but you’re always free to take the distillation and bottling dates and calculate it for yourself. This Balblair was released as part of a pair, one sherry matured and one bourbon matured both in large litre bottles. The sherry matured vintage has been aged entirely in American and Spanish ex-sherry butts and is bottled at 46%.

Posted 22 February 2018

Today’s review is of a single cask Balblair that was bottled as an exclusive for the UK’s Whisky Exchange. It’s a whisky that I ended up trying several times over the course of last year – a hazard of hanging around with Exchange’s Billy Abbot too much I dare say – and one that I’ve been meaning to write proper tasting notes on for a while. Whilst it still comes in the snazzy Balblair glassware, this whisky doesn’t come with a colour that you’d expect to see within the distillery’s Vintage-based core range. It’s dark auburn, packed full of the colours of deep autumn. It’s screaming first-fill sherry cask.

Posted 02 November 2017

I’m always a little surprised that Balblair has not garnered more interest and popularity as a high quality single malt whisky. Founded in 1790 making it one of Scotland’s oldest, the distillery has been under the wings of Inver House since 1996. In 2007 a radical reimagining and redesign of Balblair moved to bottling by vintage year (rather than always having an X and Y year old permanently available) and snazzy new glassware was introduced across the range.

Posted 12 May 2021

Warehouse drams always taste better in warehouses. But this is not because tranquil, history-steeped dunnages possess any type of capability to enhance the sophistication and awareness of our olfactory systems. Indeed, with lower ambient temperatures and sometimes poor levels of lighting – on paper, you’d expect the exact opposite to be true. However, despite whisky being for all intents and purposes identical whether in a glass at home or in a glass in a warehouse, it is the experience itself – the place, the environment, the occasion, and the company that so often defines our perceptions.

Posted 25 April 2017

For those new to Balblair, you'll need to take a closer look at the bottle label (a good practice anyhow) to see the age of their malts. Balblair bottle by 'vintage', preferring, in their own words, to "select whiskies that have reached their exact point of optimum maturation". This can make things a little confusing, with very different whiskies bearing the same vintage year across the bottle. 

Posted 29 October 2018

Those new to official Balblair expressions will need to take a closer look at the labels (a good practice anyhow) to learn exactly what’s going on inside the bottles. Balblair bottle by 'vintage', preferring, in their own words, to "select whiskies that have reached their exact point of optimum maturation". In essence this means that the distillery operates a ‘floating’ core range – there’s an array of similar expressions (a young ex-bourbon, a mid-aged marriage of casks, and an older more heavily sherried number etc), but they’re not precisely the same all the time. Variety is the spice of life. But, this can make things a little confusing, with very different whiskies bearing the same vintage year on the label – but look a little closer and all will make sense.

Independent Bottlings


Posted 11 August 2017

Balblair predominantly ages their whisky in ex-bourbon American oak casks – their unpeated Highland spirit is well suited to extended aging which brings out the natural fruitiness and prominent spicing from their spirit. Whilst the distillery fills several different types of casks, I’ve often found those whose principal maturation has come from ex-bourbon to be the most successful, and the truest to the character of the distillery itself.

Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Posted 06 June 2019

With a name like this we can only be expecting a spicy little number. 9 year old Balblair drawn from the refill ex-bourbon barrel.

View on SMWS

Posted 28 February 2019

A few missing cask numbers between this refill ex-bourbon barrel Balblair and the January release of 70.29  - perhaps more to come from this underappreciated distillery over the coming months. View on SMWS

Posted 02 August 2018

An interesting cask selection for this Balblair -  9 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead with a 1 year finish in a 2nd fill coarse grain toasted French oak barrique. Spicy & Dry profile.

Posted 01 August 2019

Never one to be boxed into a single Society colour, this Balblair falls into the Spicy & Sweet profile. It’s been matured for 10 years in a refill ex-bourbon barrel.

View on SMWS

Posted 14 November 2019

A Young & Spritely Balblair that’s been matured in a refill ex-bourbon barrel for 10 years.

View on SMWS

Posted 08 November 2018

Coastal Balblair – oh go on then. An 11 year old matured in a 2nd fill hogshead. Oily & coastal profile.

Posted 03 January 2019

Over to Balblair for an 11 year old drawn from a refill ex-bourbon hogshead. Sweet, Fruity & Mellow profile.

Posted 02 May 2019

A welcome sighting of Balblair – this month’s an 11 year old drawn from a refill ex-bourbon hogshead. View on SMWS

That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Posted 10 December 2021

I write far less about Balblair than I did back in 2017. At the time I was really championing both the spirit quality and the overall proposition of the Highland distillery based 40-odd miles north of Inverness. But times really do change. And the March 2019 rebranding of the whisky was far more than just a cosmetic overhaul. To my mind it was a complete redefinition of what the distillery’s single malt was and particularly how it was believed it should be perceived within the wide whisky market. And sadly, it left me feeling like I needed to back a new horse.



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