Blink and You’ll Miss It Balmenach.

Taste Review #68 – Balmenach 15 Master Of Malt

Balmenach. A distillery that I would wager many of the readers of this blog would not have heard of, and probably even fewer have tasted. All of this despite it being amongst the first to open legally after the 1823 Excise Act. This is a distillery I have never seen, as it is not visible while driving on the A95 road between Aberlour and Grantown On Spey; even the road sign to Balmenach doesn’t betray the fact there is a distillery nearby and only the clued up whisky geek would be any the wiser.

Situated to the south of the Speyside village of Cromdale, the distillery sits in an area known as the Haughs Of Cromdale, in the shadow of the Cromdale Hills. The battle of Cromdale took place here in 1690 when Jacobite forces were defeated by Government troops lead by Sit Thomas Livingston, commander of the Inverness Garrison. Some of the Jacobite forces took shelter in Lethendry castle, the ruin of which still exists close to the distillery.

Balmenach distillery was founded in 1824 by James Macgregor, although illicit distilling in farm buildings was probably already taking place. The Macgregor family owned the distillery until 1922 when it was sold to DCL which went on to become UDV, a forerunner of Diageo. UDV closed the distillery in 1993, and it wasn’t until 1998 when current owners Inver House Distillers bought it.

Inver House own brands you will have heard of – Knockdhu (anCnoc), Old Pulteney, Balblair and Speyburn, all four of which I have reviewed in the past but why have I not reviewed a Balmenach yet? That’s because it is not easily available as a single malt. It is seen on occasion as an independent bottle, and some old original bottlings are available, most notably the Flora & Fauna bottling, but since Inver House took over the distillery I am only aware of 2 bottlings under the Highland Selection brand – a 27 and 28 year old distilled in 1973 and 1972 respectively.

So why is it so uncommon? Balmenach is a ‘meaty’ malt, similar to whisky of a previous era. The fermentation is long, the stills are relatively small and the distillation is faster than would be normal for other similar distilleries. Coupled to the use of worm tubs to cool the still vapours, this gives a superb weighty, meaty spirit that is sought after for blending or independent casks.

Balmenach 15 Master Of Malt 5CL


RegionSpeyside Age15 years old Strength – 43% Colour Pale Straw


Malty, citrusy like lemon and lime. Dried grass / Hay. Slight sour note there too. Floral note there in the background.


quite a light mouthfeel, thin. Not sure how much of this is down to the evaporation. Very zesty. Lime, Kiwi fruit, Heather, light wood spice but again, suspecting that the evaporation has had a part in this as there is a very light wood spice.


Long. Despite the evaporation, it gave a peppery, gingery taste, without the burn associated with a whisky of 40%.

Quite pleasant though but thin mouth feel means I am not going to be adding water.

The Dram


So what do I think? Well, sadly as this dram had evaporated despite being properly stored and / or sealed, I know that I have not had the full experience this distillery has to offer. This is gutting as it was truly a lovely dram as it was and I can’t but help believe it would be a fantastic dram if drunk in the same condition as it was bottled. I guess I am going to have to keep an eye out for a good condition full sized bottle.

And that is the big problem. There isn’t a lot of Balmenach going around. The last mass produced official bottling was made by UDV when it was released as part of the Flora and Fauna range. This was only produced for around 2 years before the distillery was mothballed then sold. The Balmenach Flora and Fauna is slowly creeping up in price, often breaching the £200 per bottle level. I’ve got 2 of the first editions in storage but am often tempted to buy a drinking bottle, such as I have done with the Pittyvaich which was also closed in 1993.

Balmenach 12 Flora and Fauna 1st Edition

Best keep your eyes and ears open if you want to purchase a bottle. Keep an eye on releases from Cadenhead or That Boutiquey Whisky Company as a good tip, or search on the internet to see what comes up.

I can’t tell you how much this bottle cost, as it was part of an auction lot. I’d expect to pay around £10 – £15 at auction for it, though this will depend on whether or not you have somebody bidding against you. What I can tell you is that I recommend trying a whisky from this distillery; you will not be disappointed.

If all else fails and you want to try an alcoholic drink from Cromdale, then consider Carounn Gin. It’s made at the distillery and this does have a visitor centre, but does not allow access to the whisky production areas.

Slainte Mhath!


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It’s Mari-Time For a Dram (Pt.2)

Taste Review #47 – Old Pulteney 17

This is a slightly unusual review for me. Indeed it is a first, as it is the first time that I have reviewed a dram from a distillery that I have already reviewed. It has been sometime since I looked at the Old Pulteney 12, and I did promise to review the 17 year old, well here it is.

Reviewing distilleries reviewed before was always going to happen at some point and I tried my hardest to avoid it. However, if I leave this one much longer the price may rise enough to put it out of reach. Other distilleries we can look forward to reviewing again in the near future are Benrinnes, Glenfarclas, GlenAllachie,

I last reviewed Old Pulteney in August last year, and it was a success. Although it was the 12 year old, and it wasn’t exactly up my street, it was a dram I could recommend. You can visit the review here.

The dram I am trying today is a sample of the now discontinued 17 year old, which went out of production in 2018. It is still available in online retailers, and some specialist shops, but it is fast on its way to becoming a whisky that will rise more in price. I’ve already saved a few bottles back, as it was a popular dram when in production and I feel a lot of the existing stock will be drunk. The 17 year old was my first introduction to Old Pulteney a few years ago and I do remember it as being quite pleasant, but it was one of those things that I never really went back to. Thankfully I had presence of mind to get some when I heard it was discontinued.

Old Pulteney 17 Original Bottling

Perhaps that this is the second time that I’ve reviewed a dram from Wick, I should make an effort to visit the distillery. It has been 19 years since I was last there, but it was as a quick flying visit (literally!) to the airport. I was due to join a vessel West of Shetland, and the Super Puma Helicopter we were travelling in had to make a refuelling stop. Due to regulations, we all had to disembark off of the chopper and go into the terminal. We were told we could grab a coffee or use the toilet. Easier said than done when in a survival suit! The chopper was refuelled before I could even get as far as using the toilet! Such is the struggle with the waterproof onesie.

Yours Truly in a Survival Suit – November 2012 somewhere in the North Sea.

Looking at the photos of the tubes for bottles that I have in storage, I can see that there is an incorrect statement on the tube – it proclaims that Pulteney distillery is the most northern whisky distillery on the Scottish Mainland. While this was true at one point, I am quite sure having passed not only my O level in Geography, but a Scottish Higher in the subject, that the Thurso based Wolfburn Distillery is now holds that title. Perhaps Inver House didn’t want to change the packaging. There has been one change in packaging already, and the older bottlings have the arched writing on the tube, and a slightly lighter shade of navy blue, whereas the later tubes have much darker navy colouring, bordering on black. Its a nightmare to photograph I can tell you!

Without any further ado, let’s plough into the dram.

Old Pulteney 17 Dram – 3CL sample from Master Of Malt




17 years


46% abv


Bright Amber


Very aromatic. Once again the brine was present. Vanilla, toffee, floral, citrus,


Extremely pleasant mouthfeel that gives a good coating to your mouth. Salted Caramel, peppery, a slight sour citrus, almonds in the background – possibly marzipan? Honey definitely in the mix. The heat builds up from a mild and pleasant arrival to something a bit spicier. Nutmeg, cinnamon, while still holding a brine note.


Long, light wood note, spices, sweet, slightly peppery holding the brine to the last. A slight bitter note in the drying finish that reminded me of a plain chocolate.


This dram was very good, and I now sort of regret tasting the 12 year old first. I think if I was to compare these drams, the 12 would definitely have the more pronounced brine notes, but the 17 is definitely more refined. This bottling has been put together with 90% ex-bourbon casks and 10% Oloroso cask. The sherry influence is definitely there, but the way this has been crafted it is not overpowering.

Certainly the casks don’t seem to have overpowered the spirit, and the citrus note is easily picked out along with the floral, which can be something that sherry casks dominate with their sweetness. Indeed, with every few sips I went back to, there was a little extra note.

I would definitely recommend pouring this one out and cover it for 20 minutes or so to let the aromas build up in the glass. I didn’t but left it sitting beside me and the smells were just fantastic, leaving me with the regret of what could have been.

It is quite obvious from the mouthfeel that this has not been chill filtered. It is nicely oily and covers the mouth like velvet. It is however a bit sad that the 17 has also been artificially coloured, which is a shame, as it gets so many other things right. As it is now discontinued along with the old 21 year old due to a lack of the correct aged stock – something that owners Inver House were quite honest about, if we were to see this back again, I hope that Inver House also appreciate that whisky geeks like to see whiskies of this age and quality without colouring.

Master of Malt 3CL sample. Been waiting a long time.

While I said that this is a not quite a unicorn whisky, it will become rarer, although in the UK it is still relatively easy to get, but don’t expect to see many still on the shelves. Online retailers are your best bet, but things are starting to rise in price, and this is where I become a bit torn with my summation. Would I recommend it? Well, yes and no. For taste, I would definitely recommend it, and if it was a currently produced whisky, it would get a full thumbs up. However this was discontinued in 2018, and now supplies are starting to tighten, the price has started to rise, although I do not really know if this is retailers taking advantage.

When I bought my last full size bottle of OP, I paid £74.99 from the Speyside Whisky Shop in June last year. This would represent good value for a very solid 17 year old. However, online prices are now tipping the £100 mark, and I don’t believe this is the best value you can achieve. Certainly at this price, I hate to say it, but if you are a drinker and not a collector, unless you are desperate to have a full bottle of it, this does not represent good value and I would look at spending my money on something a bit more affordable. As per my usual recommendation, which is to look at online auctions. This bottle can be seen for around £70. Certainly the 105th Scotch Whisky Auction saw all 5 lots of this whisky go for that figure, but other auctions have been higher. Once you factor in auction fees, you are paying just a little more over the original retail price, which I would say would be better value.

If you don’t want to spend that much cash on a drink, then pay a visit to Master of Malt. You can buy a 3cl sample for £9.22, which is very dear, but you can make it a bit more worth while by adding other samples to lower the aggregate shipping price. This is how I got my sample used for this review, but it was bought over a year ago, when the price was only about £6.

Slainte Mhath!


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Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit by clicking on the link.

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All Photos – Author’s Own