Who is it that sang ‘Summertime and the living is easy’? Nina Simone perhaps? Or Billie Holiday? Maybe both. Well, that’s certainly been true here. On the one hand we’ve just had a Shutdown on production. On the other we’ve never worked harder!
Shutdown is an essential time at Balblair. Particularly, if we’re to keep producing what we know is one of Scotland’s highest quality drams.
The official ‘To do’ list on my desk this summer was as long as the Dornoch Firth.
The Mash tun needed its plates tightening up. (This keeps the wort clearer as solids and draff don’t get through.) The Wash still and Spirit still needed to be pressure-tested for insurance purposes. And then there was the water line.
If there’s one thing a good whisky needs, it’s good water. And for good water you need good pipes. The Balblair water line had to be ‘pigged’. Don’t worry, this didn’t involve any form of porcine-based cruelty. The ‘pigs’ in question are, in fact, foam blocks that help remove build up.
Once all this was finally achieved production began again in earnest at 10pm on Sunday16th August. They say there’s no rest for the wicked and they’re right. We won’t be stopping now until the annual Christmas and New Year Shutdown.
Summer has seen a number of important visitors to Balblair, including a family of Swallows over the fields that border the lane to the distillery.
Our most welcome visitor of all, however, was an old friend. Nan Burnett (nee Cumming). Nan is the daughter of our former owner Bertie Cumming. She didn’t arrive alone, either. Archie her husband, himself a former director and her grandson were also in attendance. Nan very generously donated memorabilia from her father’s time at the distillery that are now on proud display.
While we’re on the topic of Balblair’s very own ‘hall of fame’ a deserved mention to the two John Ross’s who are operators here. Both have passed their15 year service mark. A remarkable achievement. I’d like to personally thank them both for their dedication, loyalty and friendship. Team players to a man.
Speaking of team players, in August we were invited down to Liverpool.
Or more specifically to Everton F.C, the English Premier League football team.
Chang Beer is the shirt sponsor and also part of our parent company. It was flattering to learn that at Goodison Park, Balblair is the whisky serve of choice.
Our Assistant Manager Graeme was the lucky guy who got to give the talks and tastings to staff and other sponsors. The climax of the visit, of course, was on Saturday itself and match day - the first game of the new Premiership season.
Graeme and a group VIPs settled down in their luxury Chang Executive Box for a display of footballing virtuosity. Which they duly got. But not quite in the manner they were hoping for.
The Blues got thrashed 6-1 by the relentless attack of an outstanding Arsenal. ‘It’s a funny old game’, indeed.
As for me? Well, I’ve been off on my travels to Whisky Live Paris at the Pavillon Gabriel. This is my third year in a row with Balblair and I love meeting my many friends and making some new ones. Paris is always a very pleasurable whirlwind, and, of course, it means another excuse to spread the Balblair word!