With four batches launched recently we thought it was high time we took a closer look at the iconic Campbeltown distillery.
The Springbank distillery is just one of three surviving distilleries from the once thriving Campbeltown region that had more than 25 distilleries in its late 1800s heyday.
Springbank is built on the site of the previously illicit still used by Archibald Mitchell was officially founded in 1828 but, what else do you know about this distillery?
About the distillery
The first reference to Campbeltown whisky is recorded in 1591 and by 1814 there were 22 legal distilleries in operation in the Campbelltown area.
Springbank was officially founded in 1828, some of the buildings the distillery is housed in today date back to this time, alongside buildings that were used for the long closed distilleries of Longrow, Rieclachan, Union, Springside and Argyll.
Brothers John and William Mitchell, Archibald’s sons, take ownership of Springbank. Later, John takes his son into the business, forming the company J&A Mitchell, making Springbank the oldest independent family-owned distillery in Scotland.
Springbank do things a little differently than everybody else. It’s the only distillery in Scotland that malts it’s entire needs of barley using its own floor maltings. It also supplies all the malted barley for the neighbouring distillery Glengyle
The equipment at Springbank remains traditional: the Porteus mill dates from the 1940s, they still use an open-top cast-iron mash tun that’s around one hundred years old, and their wooden washbacks are made from boat skin larch.
Ferments are very long – in excess of 100 hours; with low-gravities which both produces a low-strength wash (circa 5%) but it has a high levels of esters. This fruity base is then distilled in three different ways, depending on the style being produced; Springbank, Longrow, and Hazelburn
The distillery is equipped with just three stills; one wash still and two spirit stills. The wash still is unique, certainly in Scotland, being both direct fired and having internal steam coils. Condensers are used on the wash still and one of the spirit stills, while a worm tub is used on the other spirit still.
Springbank accounts for 80% of their production capacity. The lightly peated (12-15 ppm) was is partially triple-distilled and is often quoted as being distilled 2.5 times. The direct fired wash still works as normal producing low wines, the strongest portion of which are directed to the spirit still charger, while the remainder is redistilled in the intermediate spirit still which has a worm tub. The low wines are put into the feints receiver along with the heads and tails from the spirit still distillation. This mix makes up 80% of the final charge, with the low wines from the wash still making up the remaining 20%.
Longrow accounts for just 10% of the distillery’s production It’s a heavier and smokier with its malted barley peated to 50-55 ppm. It runs through a slightly different process to Springbank, with just two distillations with the second distillation carried out in the spirit still which has the worm tub.
Hazelburn uses unpeated malt and accounts for another 10% of their production capacity and undergoes standard triple distillation using the three stills in sequence.
Did you know?
Financial difficulties in the 1980 resulted in the Springbank distillery was closed between 1979 and 1987
The Campbelltown region listed by the Scotch Whisky Association was almost resigned to history in the late 1990s when Springbank became the only operating distillery on the peninsular. Glen Scotia was closed in 1984 and remained closed until 1999. When the Mitchell family opened Glengyle, the region’s future was secure with three distilleries, which at the time, was the same number that were located in the Lowland region.
While the distillery is well known for being the only Scottish distillery that malts all of its requirements, during the whisky boom of the late 1950’s the maltings were actually closed in 1960. It wasn’t until 1991 that the floor maltings reopened at the distillery.
While many distilleries produce a seperate sub-range of single malts that showcase different styles of whisky these days, Springbank were the first. In 1973 they started distilling a heavily peated malt that went on to be known as Longrow. Another range was added in 2005 when the first Hazelburn single malt was announced.
Both Longrow and Hazelburn are named after long closed Campbeltown distilleries. The Longrow distillery closed in 1896, and the Hazelburn distillery in 1925. One of the surviving warehouses from the Longrow distillery is now Springbank’s bottling hall.
The Springbank distillery is the region's largest employer and was the first distillery in Scotland to become a living wage employer.
About That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s Springbank bottling(s)
We released our first batch back in 2013, it was a release of just 2746 bottles, It was very good and was awarded Gold in the Independent Bottlers Challenge that year. Batch 2 followed in shortly afterwards, with a four year gap before Batches 3 to 7 came along in 2017 - all with age statements, either 21 or 25 Year Olds oddly enough. Last year just three batches were released.
The most recent batches released since November 2018 are 10, 12, 12, and 14. You might be wondering where the intermediate release have gone? These batch numbers are reserved for US releases.
Batch 10 Tasting Notes
Nose: Fruit salad sweets and lemon drops with a touch of syrupy ginger.
Taste: A sweet entry followed by a lemon sherbet fizz. There’s more of that ginger too.
Finish: A herbaceous finish with a leafy freshness and juicy green grapes.
Batch 12 Tasting Notes
Nose: Very rich on the nose with treacle, plums and subtle honeysuckle coming through.
Taste: At first a sweet and thick mouthfeel with toast and honey, a prickle of ginger and eventually a dryness cutting through.
Finish: More of the toast, warming ginger and a touch of lemon peel
Batch 14 Tasting Notes
Nose: Grain sack and tobacco leaf combine with gentle peat and a faint hint of cherry stone
Taste: Full, oily mouthfeel carrying peat, oaky vanilla and tart cherry
Finish: Oiliness continues through the finish, perfectly delivering sweet, warm nuttiness
Batch 16 Tasting Notes
Nose: Rich and complex with oak, cocoa, juicy black cherries and toasted oats.
Taste: Smooth toffee notes to start followed by tropical fruits and warming cinnamon.
Finish: A dry finish with more oaty flavours coming through. There’s also a final hint of burnt rubber.