Distillery Visit: Blair Athol

blair athol

Click here to read more about my second (post-Covid) visit to Blair Athol Distillery?

After work on a dark Tuesday evening I took the train up to Pitlochry to meet up with my friends who were already up there after spending the day at Aberfeldy distillery. 

Cody didn’t want me to miss the wonderful whisky, got my a sample and Dewars 15yo. He’s just the best!

When I arrived we went straight to The Old Mill Inn where we tried a Barbaresco wine matured Edradour. It had a sharpness from the high alcohol, but full of smooth flavours from the wine cask. 

We were staying at McKays Hotel which is located on the main street where you get up from the train station. The beds were really comfy and the rooms clean and were a good size so it was perfect for an overnight stay. After a morning coffee in the room we went for a walk to Greggs to get some breakfast. I can really recommend their vegan sausage rolls!

Since we didn’t have anything planned until our schedule tour at Blair Athol in the afternoon we went for a walk to explore the area. We walked along the main street and ended up walking along a forest path. 

We ended up at Atholl Palace Hotel, which looks like a elegant hotel up on a hill that I would definitely consider staying in on our next stay.

I tried photobombing my friends when they tried taking a photo of the snow covered hills and they managed to snap a photo of me trying to run away. 

Behind the hotel we found a path leading to Edradour distillery through the woods. Since we had plenty of time to spare we decided to follow the path, even though we already knew the distillery was closed for tours in January and only had the shop open.

The walk was about an hour and we walked past fields and sheep. 

I’ve always wondered how they managed to hide distilleries from the excise men back in the day and on our walk realised how. We saw no sign of the actual distillery until we were just around the corner from it. It’s really tucked away between the rolling hills and the only sign of it when you get close is a wee pagoda rooftop peeking up and the smell of fermentation and barley.

It’s a really pretty distillery. Especially now when the landscape was snowy which made the white walls and snow really contrasted with the red doors. We’d definitely have to come back when they are doing tours after January but was still a nice walk and we got to see the shop which had a lot of interesting wine finished whiskies and I really had to hold on to my wallet to not buy a bottle. However if you visit the distillery in low season like us, be aware that they don’t have any bathrooms in the shop and that the walk is about 1-1.5h away from Pitlochry. 

We walked back on the road and not the path through along the fields and through the woods that had taken us there but I wouldn’t recommend walking along the road, cause there’s no path so you are just walking alongside the cars that are driving past – not very nice or scenic either. 

Just as it started raining/snowing again we arrived at Blair Athol so the timing was perfect!

We were slightly early to the distillery but the staff were really great and accommodating and let us go on an earlier tour. 

One of the things I was most excited to see was The Mash Tun Bar, which is exactly what it sounds like – a bar made our of an old mash tun, which happens to be from Clynelish. 

To warm ourselves up whilst waiting for the tour to start we all got a hot toddy. Mine was spiced with masala chai and contains Blair Athol 12yo – yum!

Blair Athol is often a less known whisky as it is part of the Flora & Fauna range from Diageo. The Flora & Fauna range are singe malts where most of the produced spirit goes straight in to blending. For example with Blair Athol there’s 99.6% of the single malt that the distillery produces that goes straight in to blended whisky and it’s only 0.4% that creates the single malt bottles for the Flora & Fauna range. 

Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take photos with my Nikon inside the distillery on the tour but you were allowed to take photos with your phone if you wanted on every part of the tour. 

You’ll quickly notice that there’s an otter representing the distillery both on the label of the bottle and we also spotted one watching over the condensers in the still room. It is because the water source of the distillery is Allt Dour which is Gaelic means “the burn of the otter”.

At the end of the tour you get to have a look at one of the warehouses where the casks are resting behind glass. 

The tasting is waiting for you in the shop building at the end of the tour. We got to sample some lovely whiskies: Blair Athol 12 andthe distillery exclusive Blair Athol which currently is mostly bourbon cask matured spirit and has a higher abv. I also Oban 14, when you got to choose between 3 different single malts (Singleton, Talisker or Oban) which was a big rediscovery for me – so sweet, juicy and delicious! Now I also really want to go to Oban.

Slainte Mhath!

Then it was time to go straight back to the bar. 

Back at the bar I tried these two beauties pictured below. Funny thing is that after I posted a photo of them on my instagram a few days later I suddenly had a delivery later that same day with the two bottles as a gift from the team at Johnnie Walker. I mean – wow – that is so so nice of them! 

The Song of Ice: Lovely tropical grain sweetness with clear and crisp notes 

The Song of Fire: Similar tropical sweet notes but with a warming hint of a fireplace

Well done!

Drinking and sharing drams with friends is the best way to enjoy a dram or two. 

Looking for more distilleries?

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Moa Nilsson

Adventurous Swede with a fondness for castles, snow and vintagesque experiences.

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