The Highland distillery Blair Athol, built in Pitlochry, Perthshire in 1798, is a charming sight to behold and one of the oldest working distilleries in Scotland.
Originally named after the local water source (Aldour), the distillery changed its name to Blair Athol in homage to the neighbouring village, in 1825. Some speculate this was an attempt of flattery towards local power players.
In 1886, Blair Athol joined Edinburgh blending house Peter Mackenzie & Co. The distillery fell victim to the economic downturn and change in whisky fortunes in the 1930s and closed its doors in 1932. By the time it was reopened in 1949, Mackenzie & Co had been purchased by blender Arthur Bell & Sons. From this date onwards, the Highland distillery became the home of Bell’s Blended Whisky. Capacity increased in the following years and Bell’s became a household name. A visitor centre was built in 1987 and regularly receives tens of thousands of visitors.
In 1985, Arthur Bell & Sons was taken over by Guinness. By 1987, Guinness was acquired by Distillers Company Ltd which subsequently became part of Diageo.
Seven miles north of Blair Athol Distillery lies Blair Castle – home to the Duke of Atholl and headquarters of the highly exclusive whisky society, the Keepers of the Quaich. Whereas the village name uses a double “l” in its spelling, the distillery favours one “l”. The Scottish word “blair” means battlefield or plain.
There have been several very aged whisky releases from independent bottlers and the distillery. The oldest bottling to date is a 30-year-old single malt. A 25-year-old Blair Athol was chosen by Diageo’s best Master Blenders to form part of its venerable Casks of Distinction series.