on the River Spey in the very heart of Speyside, the Balmenach
distillery was an illicit distillery when it started producing
in 1801. Smugglers, bothies and illicit drinking were
all prevalent in the area. It is also of interest to mention
that this is same area where in 1690 an army of Jacobites
were ambushed by Dragoon Guards. As a result, this defeat
effectively ended the Jacobite rising in the Highlands.
It was not until 1824 that James MacGregor,the original
founder and local farmer decided to licence his "peat
shed" as a distillery.
The distillery was owned and operated by the McGregor
family until it was sold in 1922 to a company that would
become Distillers Company Limited (DCL). In 1993, United
Distillers & Vinters (UDV) took the decision to mothball
Balmenach and the distillery lay silent until 1998 until
Inver House Distillers bought it making it the company's
fifth and largest distillery. The first distillate of
Balmenach for 5 years was then produced in March that
year and stored in casks in one of the three dunnage warehouses
on the site.
As is predominant of Inver House Distillers, the traditional
machinery and methods are still used to this day at the
Balmenach Distillery. This includes a cast iron mash tun
mashing slightly more than 8 tonnes every 7.5 hours. The
wash is fermented in six douglas fir washbacks for a minimum
of 50 hours before it is sent to the stillhouse for distillation.
The stillhouse comprises of three wash stills
and three spirit stills capable producing over 2 million
litres of whisky a year. This sprit travels slowly through
90 metres of copper tube coils in large tubs of cold water,
known as "worm tubs", before it enters one of
the two spirit safes in the stillhouse. There it is transferred
to one of two spirit vats. The smaller of these being
used for the filling of casks on site to then be matured
in oak casks for many years until the spirit is deemed
at its best for bottling.
The Balmenach Distillery does not offer a visitor centre
or tour guides. However, you can still call ahead and
see whether you can arrange a time to stop by and visit.
Tel: +44 (01)479 872569