Ballindalloch, the single estate distillery. Even if you have never heard of this place, you can’t really avoid it since you will pass it multiple times following the Speyside Malt Whisky Trail. I saw it and very legally, decided to pull into the driveway and check it out. I took a few pictures of their grain silos and then saw that you could book a private tour. I was able to get on schedule and book a time to meet with Brian, one of the four employees at the Single Estate Distillery. There were four other people that joined me on the tour later that week and these weren’t tourists. We all had some sort of passion for whisky or worked in the industry. This meant we got to geek out and geek out hard!
We met with Brian in the lounge and discussed the very interesting history of the distillery. Although it is only two years old, deeming it quite young in Scottish Distillery standards, there is a rich history of the family that owns it. Some might notice that the distillery is just down the road from the Ballindalloch Castle, next to the Ballindalloch Golf course and adjacent to the Ballindalloch shooting range. This whole estate and all of the land is owned by the Ballindalloch Family. It has been handed down for generations since 1546. As they have modernized and developed as a family and a business, they decided that adding a distillery would be their next venture. They were able to take the eyesore of a barn that stood on the golf course and begin construction on the distillery in 2012. The first spirit ran off the stills in 2014.
In regards to production they are currently running one shift per day, five days a week. The exploration phase is over and they know what kind of new make spirit they are looking for. Aging and casks however are a different story. I will get into that later. They don’t have a Porteus Mill, for obvious reasons and instead have a small AR200. The mash tuns are still run and monitored by valves and by hand. They have one mash tun and four washbacks. The washbacks were meant for Sweden, but the order was cancelled. They each hold about 10,000 liters of wort. They are running four waters in to get their wort and run fermentation periods anywhere from 66-114 hours depending on the shifts of the men. There are two stills and the wash still is at about a 5,000 liter capacity. They are using anchor yeast and right now fill casks once a week.
Now that the new make spirit is decided and running smoothly, they are left with cask choice and length of maturation. This of course is an on-going process for any distillery. All employees and family members work collectively to check and taste casks. A few of the questions are in regards to if they will have batch releases or consistent age bottlings. They are also already running out of storage space so will they stick with dunnage warehousing styles or go to racked? All of these decisions are made as they go. As of today they are using mostly 1st fill bourbon barrels and are checking them regularly. It still is to be determined if they deem some spirit ready in 6 years, 8 years and beyond. There is also talk of bringing someone in part time to act as “master blender”, but they of course are not at this stage yet with most of their oldest new make spirit at two years old.
You are probably wondering what tasting notes I would be putting down for Ballindalloch. I guess we could have tried their new make spirit, but instead they wanted to make you feel more welcomed and part of the family and the estate. The five of us on the tour were then all given three Cragganmore drams from the Ballindalloch Family Estates private casks and OH MY! I can’t even do it justice what I was tasting and the rarity of these bottles, but what an opportunity. These were all bottled 2-3 years ago and I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to try them!
There are no "expert" tasting notes to compare to, so here is what I was getting...
This included the following smells and tastes: Dandelions, honey, creamy malt, vanilla biscuit, honey, shortbread bookie, tropical fruit. Reminded me of the Hawaiian Cookies.
1985 Cragganmore Refill Bourbon/63.5% ABV
This included the following smells and tastes: Toffee biscuit, lemon cream, caramel and lemon rhine. I LOVED this one!
1987 Cragganmore/1st Fill Sherry Butt This included the following smells and tastes: Raisins, some wood, dried cranberries, cola, rich and creamy.
Ballindalloch also offers the opportunity to work with them for a day and actually be a part of production. I am not sure of the price, but for any enthusiast, this would be a great place to get real hands on experience and to say you were a part of the Ballindalloch Distillery before it was released. I think they will do great things in the luxury markets they are aiming to find success in. It’s all about the story you tell and good whisky.
Next up is The Macallan..