About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

BALLINDALLOCH DISTILLERY VISIT - MAY 2014

I'll be continuing the theme from my last post with a look at another new distillery, this time in the heart of distilling country, Speyside. This time its the Ballindalloch Estate situated around the Macpherson-Grant's Ballindalloch Castle, that's starting up production on the estate again for the first time in over 100 years. Read more about the estate by following the above link.

Built next to the Ballindalloch Golf Club & Course the distillery is right off the A95 main road running through central Speyside, so this is certainly accessible if you're in Speyside and well worth a visit.

The distillery have been 3 years in the planning and although, still a building site and a hard hat had to be worn during the tour, its planned to go into production late this summer. The original buildings are early 19th Century with modern amenities added to comply with todays standards, but still you can see the old 2ft. thick walls in some places - incl. an old fireplace in the wall next to the stairs leading up to the 1st floor. This link will give you an idea of what it looked like before the conversion of the old steading began

The Ballindalloch Distillery will be a small scale operation. No 24h production cycle, no weekends and its also about having full control over every step of production from barley to bottle and also about traceability of every ingredient used. More details later...

The Estate has persuaded former Diageo manager Charlie Smith to come out of retirement to help get the distillery going. Charlie has 32 years of experience from the business so knowledgeable forces will be at work here...

But, as I mentioned earlier this was a hard hat tour and the picture below will show you why...

View from the 1st floor on to the inner yard of the distillery, May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk

As you can well imagine from the building style its going to be 'old style' through and through. This has been the plan all along as the distillery won't be a driving force in the Ballindalloch Estate business but rather a side project to compliment the already wide range of business forms run by the estate. If you haven't already, do click the link in the 3rd line from above on what the Estate offers and is all about.

The distillery will have a small visitors area -  an area that will be designed by Mrs. Russel of the Estate and will, when finished, carry what can only be described as 'homely feel' with fireplace, wood panellings, booking shelves etc. This however, is what it looked like on May 4th, but I'm sure they'll succeed in creating what they set out to do...

The wing that will eventually become the visitors area, May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk

So what will the production site and and whisky be like, I hear you ask...
Well, the goal is to set out to make a heavier style Speysider or what some would call an 'After Dinner dram'. The exact style will be experimented with and fine tuned before regular production starts, of course, but a heavier style is already decided upon.

Lay out/plans for the distillery, May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Now for a few details for the whisky anoraks out there:

  • Water will be drawn from 5-7 springs in the hills behind the distillery, depending on how much is needed
  • The barley for the distillery will all be Ballindalloch Estate barley and of the Concerto variety 
  • The barley is malted off-site at the Baird's Maltings in Inverness.
  • The distillery have been equipped with a 1 ton copper top mash tun
  • 4 x 10.000 liter wooden washbacks of Oregon Pine.
  • The distillery will use a dried yeast strain in production.
  • The wash still has a 5000 liter capacity and the spirit still a 3600 liter capacity
  • Production is anticipated to be around 100.000 liters of spirit per annum
The 1 ton capacity mash tun, May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk
4 x 10.000 liter wooden washbacks are in place, May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Tradition has it that a piece of equipment from another distillery is installed too and at Ballindalloch, it'll be an old spirit safe from nearby Cragganmore Distillery donated by owners, Diageo.

The stills had not yet been delivered when I visited. But as I write this piece they've gone in and Brian Robinson from the distillery have generously provided pictures of them for this piece.

Lifting the head - picture courtesy of Brian Robinson, Ballindalloch Distillery
The stills in place - picture courtesy of Brian Robinson, Ballindalloch Distillery

Also, the distillery is to be equipped with a pair of wormtub condensers which will probably add some of that heavier spirit character the distillery is looking for. These will, of course, be on the outside the building to the right of the still in the above picture along with an old water wheel, currently being restored.

When restored, the water wheel will go here and the wormtubs will be just beyond the fence, May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk

The Ballindalloch spirit will go into ex-bourbon and sherry casks - no experimentation with other cask types are currently planned, so pretty much very basic stuff. There will be some on site warehousing and with an output of app. 100.000 liters per year ( 350-400 casks depending on size) it will fill the on-site warehouse fast, which is why there will be a warehousing facility in the nearby village of Marypark.

A look at what will be the on-site warehouse, May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk

This is another place, I'll be stopping by next time in Speyside. You can already see its going to be a charming place and I think it'll be another new distillery worth following. Good luck to all involved there and thanks to Brian Robinson and Guy Macpherson-Grant for sharing their enthusiasm with us.

Finally, you can follow the progress of the Ballindalloch Distillery on their website http://www.ballindallochdistillery.com/
and also on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BallindallochDistillery.

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