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Blair Athol Distillery
Picture: Blair Athol
Click to see large map in separate window   Location: Pitlochry, Perthshire PH16 5LY

Hours: Easter-end Sept. Mon - Sat. 9.00 am - 5.00 pm Sunday 12 -5.00pm October - Easter Mon - Fri 9.00 am - 5.00 pm Groups welcome, booking essential
Reception centre, shop, exhibition and coffee shop
Phone: 01796-472234   Fax: 01796-473292

Text from The Whisky Trails, Copyright © Gordon Brown 1993:

Blair Atholl, the village, is not where you find Blair Athol, the distillery (note the spellings), which in fact is on the main road that runs through the town of Pitlochry about seven miles or so to the south. Pitlochry is a comfortable little resort, always busy and popular both for overnight stops and longer stays. Birnam Wood, with King Duncan’s castle and other Macbeth associations, is just to the north. During a stay at Kinnaird Cottage near Moulin, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote some of his short stories, including The Merry Men and Thrawn Janet.

Blair Athol is another of the handful of distilleries that were founded in the 18th century, albeit in the final few years. The works set up in 1798 either did not last very long or it was an illicit operation left undocumented. Thus it was either revived or first licensed in 1825, when the new licensing laws had been passed. Blair Athol was bought, along with Dufftown distillery, by blenders Arthur Bell in 1933 but stayed out of production until 1949, when it was rebuilt.

Blair Athol has its own burn, the Allt na Dour, which runs through the distillery. Peat used to be brought from as far afield as Orkney but the malted barley is now lightly peat-smoked to Blair Athol’s specification by the group’s own central malting operations. Storage space is limited at the distillery and malt is usually delivered twice daily.

The original pair of stills was supplemented by a second pair in 1973. The standard milling machine used in distilleries is a Porteous – look out for its rich Burgundy-coloured paint as you see round – and the belt-driven model at Blair Athol was used from 1934 until recently. The distillery is highly energy-efficient, carrying out production at only 60 per cent of the power-consumption levels typical in the industry.

Spirit intended for sale as a single malt is matured in Blair Athol’s old traditional-style warehouses; spirit for blending in Bell’s blends is also matured in the other distillery warehouses; and the spirit that is sold into the open whisky market (about half) is filled into wood and tankered off to destination when required.

The Whisky
Text from The Whisky Trails, Copyright © Gordon Brown 1993:

Picture: Flow of water at Blair Athol
Well kept gates control the flow of water over a weir in the distillery grounds.
Blair Athol is fresh and gently peaty with aroma and flavour which become quite resonant and lengthy at the finish. There is a tangy, spicy-fruit quality to the core flavour. The self whisky is 12 years old and 43% vol. from Bell’s but independents offer older editions up to 25 years old. The distillery and the whisky are closely identified with Bell’s blends and the make figures prominently in them.

Source of water
Allt Dour
Of interest
Text from The Whisky Trails, Copyright © Gordon Brown 1993:

• The Fish Ladder is an artificial waterfall with glass-fronted viewing chambers, which give visitors underwater views of salmon and other fish making their way up and down the river that runs through the town.

Loch Faskally is a ‘new’ loch formed by the hydro-electric system’s dam at which there is a visitor centre.

• The Festival Theatre began in 1951 in a tent and is now a permanent theatre running repertory programmes throughout the year.

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