Balmenach in a nutshell:
owner: Inver House Distillers (Thai Beverages plc)
location: 57° 19’ 30.5” N 03° 31’ 56.5” W
capacity: 2,800,000 litres
washbacks: 6 Oregon pine
source of water: Balmenach Burn
The distillery was legalised in 1824 by James MacGregor, but it had been operating for at least a few years prior to that date, as an extra activity on the farm, not quite seeing eye to eye with the law and regulations. It remained the property of the MacGregor family for nearly a century, until 1922 when it was sold to a consortium, only to change hands three years later and become a part of the Distillers Company Limited (DCL, later Diageo).
Balmenach was expanded in 1962, when the number of stills was increased from four to six, and two years later the malting floors were replaced with a more efficient and cost-effective Saladin box. Balmenach was one of the first Scottish whisky distilleries to employ that invention of a French engineer, Charles Saladin. Maltings were decommissioned altogether in the 1980s.
The distillery was mothballed in 1993 and five years later, in 1997 it became the property of Inver House Distillers. The transaction, however, did not include the stocks maturing in warehouses, which opened the way for Diageo to bottle their own expression of Balmenach under the Flora & Fauna series. Production resumed in 1998 and has continued ever since. Even if Inver House Distillers have changed their owner twice in the meantime – in 2001 it became a part of Pacific Spirits, which in turn was taken over by International Beverages Holdings in 2006.
In 2009 a still for gin distillation was installed at the distillery. Caorunn gin that has been produced since that time has become one of the best selling premium gins in Great Britain. In 2012 tha plant commenced distillation of highly peated whisky at 50 ppm, the Ardbeg level.
Balmenach is located in the village of Cromdale on the river Spey, slightly away from the main road, the A95, sort of hidden away. The whisky that is made here will not be crowded on the most prominent shelves in specialist whisky shops, either. In fact, it is available only from independent bottlers, and the expression closest to the official one would be either Deerstalker, a single malt whisky from Balmenach, bottled by Aberko from Glasgow, a company that has been closely associated with the distillery for years now, or the 12yo Flora & Fauna expression from Diageo, mentioned earlier. The vast majority of the spirit distilled at Balmenach ends up in blended whiskies, including notably Hankey Bannister. There is no mention – so far – of plans to release an official expression of Balmenach single malt whisky by the current owners of the distillery.
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