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’.
In 2019 Balblair released a new botteling and label design and released their core range of age statement single malt whiskies started with their 12, 15 and 18 year old. Now there is also a 25 year old.