Ballechin – one of the rarest single malts in all of Scotland has arrived

Our 2005 Ballechin Burgundy Single Cask Single Malt Scotch is simply stunning. I knew from the moment that I stuck my nose in the glass that this needed to come home, for this is a malt quite unlike anything you have ever tasted, and for good reason, as not many people have ever heard of Ballechin. Back in 2003, Edradour owner Andrew Symington began production of a heavily peated malt at the Edradour Distillery. He called it Ballechin in honor of the original Ballechin Distillery that was in operation from 1810 to 1927. The Ballechin Distillery was one of the original seven farm distillery’s of Perthshire, of which Edradour is the only surviving example. It closed, not because of poor performance, but because of a dispute over water rights, and you need lots of water for whisky!

In 2005, when our cask was filled, Edradour was producing less than 90,000 liters of pure spirit annually, a drop in the ocean of what some big distillers produce. Of that 90,000 liters, just 10% was devoted to the production of Ballechin, meaning that somewhere between 30 and 40 casks were produced every year; it’s a minuscule number. While production has increased marginally over the years the fact is that there really is not much of any Ballechin to go around, because the tiny output for the Ballechin 10 Year Old and a few special releases is divvied up amongst many countries of the world, the U.S. included.

When I visited Edradour back in 2016 a cask of Ballechin was firmly on my list, but unfortunately there was none to be had. This time round a few casks were on offer and while all were good it was this French red beauty that stole the show. Ballechin is heavily peated (fifty parts per million of peat to be exact), however this whisky is quite unlike the more common Islay malts. A key difference is the source of the peat. The composition of Highland peat is more vegetal with much more plant matter than Islay peat, which has more crustaceans and brine as a result of its coastal location.

The result is an earthier style of smoke that permeates the malt. While it is high on the peat level it is much more savory and rounded in character, with the distillery’s short, fat copper stills helping greatly with texture. The combination of malted barley, peat smoke and fruit from the wine cask really work hand in hand. This is a whisky that oozes complexity in layers; think peanut brittle, s’mores cooked over a wood fire, smoked Highland toffee, stewed plums, and white chocolate with a rich dense palate and you will soon catch my drift. It’s a superb whisky that draws you in for much sniffing and many sampling pleasures. Whisky of this nature and style are not easily obtainable, which is why I think it will be of interest to many people.

Ballechin 12 Year Old Burgundy Cask Matured V&T Hand-picked Single Cask Single Malt Scotch – $134.99 – Limited Availability

We have opted to bottle our Ballechin in its traditional round and stubby bottle and at full cask strength, meaning no water will be added. We think that allowing you to taste the whisky straight from the cask will allow you to appreciate it all the more and dilute to your taste where necessary. In addition we opted to not chill-filter the whisky, a process used by larger whisky companies that strips the whisky of much of its texture and flavor. And lastly we chose not to add E150 (caramel color) to our cask selection, instead allowing you to fully appreciate its natural color. Why ruin a good thing?

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 Vine & Table #301