Blair Athol

Blair Athol Distillery

  • Scotland
Phone Number
  • +441796482003
  • Perth Rd, Pitlochry PH16 5LY, United Kingdom

Ivy-covered Blair Athol Distillery building facade

History of Blair Athol Distillery

Founding and Early Developments

Blair Athol Distillery, one of Scotland’s oldest whisky distilleries, was established in 1798 by John Stewart and Robert Robertson. Originally named Aldour, after the nearby Allt Dour burn from which it draws its water, the distillery underwent a name change to Blair Athol in 1825, possibly to garner favour with the Duke of Atholl, who owned the land. The distillery’s early years were marked by challenges, including a temporary closure due to the high excise duties at the time, which made legal distilling uncompetitive against illicit operations.

Ownership and Expansion

Throughout its history, Blair Athol has seen several changes in ownership. In 1886, it was purchased by Peter Mackenzie of the Peter Mackenzie blending house. However, like many distilleries of the time, Blair Athol fell silent during the economic difficulties of the 1930s, from 1932 until 1949. During this silent period, the distillery, along with its estate which included Dufftown distillery, was bought by Arthur Bell & Sons. The resurgence of Bell’s as the UK’s top-selling blended Scotch in the 1970s led to the expansion of Blair Athol, doubling its capacity.

Modern Era under Diageo

In 1985, Guinness purchased Arthur Bell & Sons, and this conglomerate would eventually evolve into Diageo, the current owner of Blair Athol. Diageo inaugurated a visitor’s centre at the distillery in 1987, marking a significant step in opening up Blair Athol to the public and whisky enthusiasts. Despite its contribution to blends, Blair Athol has also bottled its whisky as a single malt, notably as an eight-year-old in the 1980s and more recently in the Flora & Fauna range as a 12-year-old matured in first-fill ex-Sherry casks.

Distillery Today

Blair Athol Distillery is located in Pitlochry, central Perthshire, not to be confused with the nearby village of Blair Atholl. The distillery is a working site, producing single malt Scotch whisky that is a vital component of blended whiskies, particularly Bell’s and Johnnie Walker. The distillery’s output is primarily aimed at these blends, with a small portion allocated to its 12-year-old single malt, a rarity in the market.

The distillery is also a popular visitor attraction, offering tours that showcase its rich history, production processes, and the craft behind its whisky. Despite the modernisation over the years, including the replacement of traditional washbacks with stainless steel ones, Blair Athol maintains its heritage, contributing significantly to Scotland’s whisky industry both as a producer of fine spirits and as a historical site welcoming over 80,000 visitors annually.

The history of Blair Athol Distillery is a tale of resilience, adaptation, and sustained quality, from its foundation in the late 18th century to its current status under Diageo’s stewardship. Its role in the blended Scotch whisky market, coupled with a limited but appreciated single malt production, underscores its importance in Scotland’s whisky heritage​​​​​​.

Blair Athol Distillery Tour Information and Experience

The Blair Athol Distillery offers a unique and immersive tour experience for whisky enthusiasts and visitors interested in the rich heritage of Scotch whisky production. Located at the gateway to the Scottish Highlands in Pitlochry, Perthshire, this distillery is known for its picturesque setting and the use of water from the Allt Dour burn, which contributes to the whisky’s mellow quality and smooth finish​​​​​​.

Tour Options at Blair Athol Distillery

Blair Athol Distillery provides several tour options, each designed to cater to different interests and levels of whisky appreciation:

  1. Blair Athol Signature Tour: This tour includes a guided exploration of the distillery followed by a tutored tasting of three whiskies, including the Distillery Exclusive Bottling. Participants also receive a gift as a memento of their visit​​.
  2. Blair Athol Allt Dour Tour: For those looking for a more in-depth experience, this tour offers a guided tour of the distillery and a tutored tasting of six extraordinary whiskies. This experience includes a cask strength whisky drawn directly from the cask and the Distillery Exclusive Bottling, along with a take-home gift​​.
  3. Blair Athol Cask & Cocktail Experience: Aimed at small groups, this experience combines a detailed story tour of Blair Athol with a curated tasting of 5 drams, including old and rare Cask strength and Distillery Exclusive Bottlings. The tour concludes with a bespoke cocktail in the beautiful Mash Tun Bar, tailored to your flavour preferences​​.

Visiting Blair Athol Distillery

The distillery recommends booking tours and experiences in advance to ensure availability. They welcome visitors with dogs but have specific policies in place, which are worth checking before your visit. The opening hours may vary, especially during the winter and festive periods, so it’s advisable to check the latest information before planning your visit​​​​.

Additional Information

  • Location: Blair Athol Distillery, Perth Road, Pitlochry, Perthshire, PH16 5LY, UK.
  • Contact Details: You can reach them by phone at 01796 482003 or via email at​.
  • Traveler Reviews: Blair Athol Distillery is highly rated by visitors for its tours and experiences, making it a must-visit destination for whisky lovers and those interested in Scottish heritage​​.

For those interested in exploring the production process, the distillery operates with four pot stills and sources water from the Allt Dour Burn. The malt used in production is sourced from Diageo’s suppliers, with the whisky primarily matured in Sherry casks, giving it a sweet profile that’s characteristic of the Blair Athol brand.

Flask & Barrel Review of Blair Athol Distillery

As someone who’s been on more distillery tours than I can count, I’ve got to say, Blair Athol Distillery stands out as a pretty exceptional experience. It’s not just the whisky—which, by the way, is top-notch—it’s the whole vibe of the place that left me thoroughly impressed, hence why I’m giving it a solid 4.7 out of 5.

First off, the setting is just stunning. Nestled at the gateway to the Scottish Highlands, Blair Athol offers a backdrop that could easily be off a postcard. The ancient source of water, the Allt Dour, adds a touch of magic, knowing it contributes to the unique, mellow quality of their whisky.

The tours themselves are something else. I went for the Blair Athol Signature Tour and loved every minute of it. The guide was knowledgeable and engaging, making the complex process of whisky making easy to understand and fascinating. And then there’s the tasting—getting to try the Distillery Exclusive Bottling was a highlight, showcasing the depth and richness of flavours that Blair Athol is known for.

What’s more, the small gift at the end was a classy touch, a nice memento from a memorable visit. It’s these little things that make a tour more than just a tour, turning it into an experience.

If I had to nitpick—and I mean search for something—it would be that I wish the tour dove even deeper into the nuances of whisky production. But that’s just me being a whisky nerd wanting to soak up as much information as possible.

What To Do Nearby Blair Athol Distillery

Queen’s View (7.4 miles from Blair Athol Distillery): Named for Queen Victoria, this viewpoint offers stunning vistas of Loch Tummel and is surrounded by lush forest walks. It’s a fantastic spot for photography and soaking in the serene Highland landscape​​.

Ben Vrackie (3.1 miles from Blair Athol Distillery): This well-loved hill provides a moderately challenging hike with rewarding views at the summit. Overlooking Pitlochry and beyond, Ben Vrackie is perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in Scotland’s natural beauty​​.

Faskally Wood (1.9 miles from Blair Athol Distillery): Known for the Enchanted Forest event in October, Faskally Wood offers peaceful walks around Loch Dunmore. It’s an excellent location for families looking to enjoy nature and the changing colors of autumn​​.

Killiecrankie Gorge (3.4 miles from Blair Athol Distillery): A site of historical significance and natural beauty, Killiecrankie offers walks along the gorge with views of the famous Soldier’s Leap. It’s a great place to learn about Jacobite history and enjoy Perthshire’s scenery​​.

Black Spout Wood (0.8 miles from Blair Athol Distillery): Just a short walk from the center of Pitlochry, this woodland area features a dramatic waterfall and several walking paths. The viewing platform provides an excellent view of the waterfall and the surrounding forest​​.

Frequently Asked Questions

What restaurants are near Blair Athol Distillery?

Port-na-Craig Inn & Restaurant: It has a rating of 4.3 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at +44 1796 472777. Their address is Port-Na-Craig Rd, Port na Craig, Pitlochry PH16 5ND, United Kingdom.

Cafe Biba: It has a rating of 4.1 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at +44 1796 473294. Their address is 40 Atholl Rd, Pitlochry PH16 5BX, United Kingdom.

The Coach House: It has a rating of 4.0 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at +44 1796 474045. Their address is 75-79 Atholl Rd, Pitlochry PH16 5BN, United Kingdom.

What hotels are near Blair Athol Distillery?

Atholl Palace Hotel: It has a rating of 4.4 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at +44 1796 472400. Their address is Perth Rd, Pitlochry PH16 5LX, United Kingdom.

Pine Trees Pitlochry Hotel: It has a rating of 4.4 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at +44 1796 472121. Their address is Strathview Terrace, Pitlochry PH16 5QR, United Kingdom.

The Green Park Hotel: It has a rating of 4.7 stars on Google Maps. For reservations, you can reach out to them on their phone at +44 1796 473248. Their address is Clunie Bridge Rd, Pitlochry PH16 5JY, United Kingdom.