Balmenach (also known as Balminoch / Cromdale) was legalised
in 1824 by James McGregor, but rumour has it that it operated as
an illicit distillery for quite a while before that. Balmenach stayed
in the hands of various members of the McGregor family for over
half a century, until it was sold to a group of blenders in 1922.

Balmenach distillery
Where to find Balmenach

Water source:

Balmenach single malt whisky

Balmenach  (Pronounced: balMEHnack)
Speyside (Livet)
Braeval, Drumguish ('Speyside'), Royal Lochnagar
2,000,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Pacific Spirits > Inver House (since 1997)
Cromdale, Grantown-on-Spey, Morayshire, PH26 3PF

Balmenach Distillery Profile

In the year 2004 Balmenach produced just under 2 million litres of alcohol and they
have done so since the stills were fired up again. They produce five days a week,
from 22 PM on a Sunday night to 22 PM on a Friday night. When Inver House
bought the distillery from Diageo they did not get the maturing stocks,
so the oldest whisky they had around the year 2004 was circa 6yo.
That probably means a new 'OB' won't be released until circa 2010.

When I write this (July 2005) I've only tried three expressions of Balmenach.
drop me a line if you have another version on your shelves and would like to swap samples.

Balmenach 10yo (43.0%, Scottish Wildlife, Bottled +/- 1998, code L 1204, 70cl)
Nose: Not very much I could pick up at first. Spirity. Apples? Citrus? Soap? A little nutty.
Relatively restrained, although it does open up after five minutes, growing more interesting.
Taste: Sweet start. Coffee? Bitter chocolate. It's a bit ciderish, almost Irish in character.
The sweetness disappears, though. Bourbon dry. It has a slightly unpleasant finish.
Score: 67 points - questionable; definitely not worth seeking out if you ask me.

Balmenach 11yo 1990/2001 (43%, Chieftain's, Casks 5414-5417, 1800 bottles, 70cl)
Nose: Restrained. Polished and quite fruity. Chloride. Dusty. Pleasant but superficial.
Organics. now it almost seems like there were some sherry casks in this vatting?
Taste: Smooth start. Opens up quite nicely into a fruity center. Pleasant mouth feel.
It grows sweeter with time. A tad woody in the finish. Dry. A good, solid malt.
Score: 77 points - better than average, but nothing to go malt mad about...

Balmenach 30yo 1972 (50.1%, Hart Brothers, Port Wood, Distilled January 1972, CVI)
ose: Lots and lost of organics. Maggi and stock cubes. Rhubarb! Rubber perhaps?
Complex and absolutely wonderful - a match for any sherry casked malt. Good stuff.
Taste: Unfortunately, it didn't do too well on the palate (the nose easily scores in the 90's).
It's extremely dry and woody, although it also has moments of endearing cookie sweetness.
Score: 84 points - but I should add that opinions among the maniacs were divided for this one.
Serge and Olivier didn't like it with 70 and 72 points respectively - probably because it's finished.
Davin, Mark and Alexander liked it - just like me - with scores in the lower 80's.

Check out my Track Record for a complete and up-to-date overview of all 'siplings' I've tried.

Balmenach single malt whiskyTrack Record - overview of all single malts and scores
Balmenach Flora & Fauna

In the years that followed the Balmenach distillery repeatedly
changed hands (owners included Peter Dawson Ltd. and SMD),
but I won't bore you with all details of ownership over the years.
You can buy a copy of the 'Moss & Hume' bible if you're into that
sort of thing - it is the definitive guide for distillery researchers.

Inver House currently owns four other distilleries; Balblair, Knockdhu, Old Pulteney and Speyburn.
Looking at the distilleries they own, I think I should give the Inver House blend a try some time.
In 2001 Inver House themselves were bought by 'Pacific Spirits', part of the 'Great Oriole Group'.
This group is controlled by a wealthy businessman from Thailand; Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi.

Not to worry though; independent bottlings of Balmenach become available now and then, like
the 'Connoisseurs Choice' bottling above or the semi-official Flora & Fauna bottling at the right.
Some independent bottlings of Balmenach are sold under the name 'Deerstalker'.

Balmenach from Connoisseurs Choice

I'll pick up the thread again in the early 1960's.
In 1962 the number of stills was expanded from four to six and a so-called 'Saladin
Box' maltings was installed in 1964 - the same year they installed one at
The Saladin Box maltings stayed in use at Balmenach until the middle of the 1980's.

Isn't today's corporate whisky world an interesting one? While big players like Diageo, Macallan
and Glenmorangie all set their sights on the far east (Taiwan in particular, as a gateway to China),
an entrepreneur from the far east is investing his money in Scottish distilleries. Don't you love it?

In 1986 Balmenach was sold to United Distillers who subsequently mothballed the distillery in May 1993. Eventuallly, Balmenach was bought from Diageo (heirs to United Distillers) by Inver House Distillers in 1997. Dennis Malcolm at Inver House told me they didn't start distilling immediately after acquiring the distillery. They had to check the entire production plant before they resumed production again in March 1998.

Trivia about Balmenach: In 2005, Balmenach was one of only fourteen distilleries using 'worm tubs'. The other thirteen distilleries still using worm tubs are Benrinnes, Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Edradour, Glen Elgin, Glenkinchie , Mortlach, Oban, Pulteney, Royal Lochnagar, Speyburn, Springbank (on the wash still only) and Talisker.

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