Usual cheesy picture of my two thumbs-up outside the distillery (waiting for the tour to start…)
After our visit to the Edradour distillery in May 2013 we travelled all of 3 miles back down the road into the village of Pitlochry to tour the Blair Athol distillery. The distillery tour itself was free thanks to our ‘Friends of the classic malts’ passports and another stamp was obtained. Due to Blair Athol’s location and being the spiritual home of the Bells blends it was very busy and we had a little while to wait before getting onto our tour.
The Otter Burn (water source) and guard duck
As we had a little time to kill we had a wander round the exterior of the site and took some snaps as it was a very pleasant summer day.
Guard duck at Blair Athol – you’d be quackers to mess with him!
Love this picture of a tree outside of the warehouse. The strong concentration of alcohol in the air (The Angel’s Share) promotes mass growth of a black fungus species Baudoinia compniacensis which loves using ethanol for their carbon nutrition. The fungus is completely harmless but leaves the buildings and tress looking ‘burnt’. I love the stark contrast between the black tree trunk and fresh green leaves as the tree grows away quite happily. Reminds me of eucalyptus or gum trees burnt in Australian bushfires rejuvenating like a phoenix from the ashes.
Reception and shop at Blair Athol distillery
The courtyard inside, promptly where the photography ceases due to health & safety / Diageo policy
The tour itself was the by now familiar Diageo ‘how to make whisky 101’ tour banter, though it was interesting to hear it presented in a regionally familiar (to me anyway) mid Lancashire/Yorkshire accent. So no kilts and stags and tartan on this tour (well not after you have left the reception area). Although they no longer malt at Blair Athol the old malting floors are used to display all the equipment and paraphernalia associated with this process and you get a good feel for being within the malting house/floor while you are there (if like us you wander a little away from the tour group).
One of the most memorable parts of the tour (after the usual windy stairs around the mash tuns and washbacks) is the reasonably compact still house. At the time we were there it was 40 degrees plus inside and would have made a fantastic sauna as the stills are huge and packed so close in you have to wind your way around and between them to pass through the stillhouse. We left with a good impression of how hot and hard the stillmen’s job must be in the height of summer! In winter however it was probably pretty comfortable in there.
After the whisky-making process we crossed the otter burn and were treated to a educational description of cask maturation. The spirit is piped across to the cask filling station which we got to have a good nosey at. We were shown various casks and cask staves revealing the depth of whisky penetration during maturation etc. and informed on the regime of bourbon and sherry cask maturations performed at Blair Athol. Finally we had a visit into the warehouse proper to get a good sniff of the Angel’s Share before we were led onto the tasting room and shop.
Obligatory glassware – check