October 2016: Campbeltown Single Malt Whisky

by Jay Cary

Campbeltown was once one of the most prolific regions in Scotland. Sadly, U.S. Prohibition affected the area, and until recently there were only 2 distilleries producing whisky.

Campbeltown sits on the Mull of Kintyre, and the single malt whiskies from the region reflect this with a slight coastal character. They are known for their dryness and often for their pungency. There are also a few peated releases (Longrow, which is produced at the Springbank) with Glen Scotia and Glengyle completing the modern day complement of distilleries.

Campbeltown is a small town on the Kintyre Peninsula on the west coast of Scotland. It is affectionately known as the “Wee Toon”, and the Victorian Whisky Capital of the World. At its peak in the 1800s, there were 21 distilleries in this small town with approximately 170 distilleries operating at that time in the UK (129 of those in Scotland) Campbeltown still has 3 operating distilleries: Glen Scotia, Springbank, and Glengyle. These distilleries give a remarkable insight into the history of making whisky in this remote, once prolific, whisky making region of Scotland.

Three Distilleries:

1) Glen Scotia Distillery was founded in 1832, and has been operating for approximately 180 years. Situated in Campbeltown, one of the recognized 5 Whisky producing regions of Scotland, the distillery has a formidable pedigree.

Glen Scotia was formally known as ‘Scotia’ when it was first founded in 1837 by Stewart & Galbraith and Company. Stewart & Galbraith Co. ran the Distillery for almost 60 years. Notable industrialist Duncan MacCallum purchased the distillery in 1891 and he constructed the large frontage (Malting Floors) which run along High Street. In 2014, the distillery was bought by Loch Lomond Group who have invested heavily in the site with the majority of the engineering work planned out and managed by the distillery manager, Iain Mc Alister. Glen Scotia currently operates with a staff of just seven employees. It is believed there is one manager, one shop manager, and five distillery operators. Glen Scotia is one of the smallest in Scotland. The current annual production levels stand at around 500,000 liters and following significant investment is expected to rise above that

2) Glengyle distillery

The history of Mitchell’s Glengyle distillery is a long and colourful one, but one which begins with a man named William Mitchell. William was the son of Archibald Mitchell, the founder of nearby Springbank Distillery. In the second half of the 1800s William ran Springbank Distillery in a partnership with his brother John, while the other brothers and sister were active running the old Rieclachan Distillery across the town.  The family were not just distillers but also farmers, which was quite a common thing in those days. The growing of barley and production of farmers’ feed (a bi-product from mashing) meant that it made sense to run a distillery as well as being a farmer to keep the cost down. The farming element in the partnership with John didn’t run very smoothly – allegedly the two brothers had a quarrel about sheep – and this saw William leave the family business to start up his own venture, Glengyle Distillery on the corner of Glebe Street and Glengyle Road, just down the road from Springbank. Mitchell’s Glengyle Distillery was founded by William Mitchell in 1872 and he ran the distillery as a sole proprietor.Like the majority of Campbeltown distilleries, Glengyle suffered greatly during the economic downturn at the beginning of the 20th century. It was bought by West Highland Malt Distilleries Ltd in 1919 then sold again in 1924 for the princely sum of £300, before production finally ceased altogether in 1925. The entire spirit stock from the Glengyle Distillery was auctioned off on the 8th of April that same year.

Despite not producing any more spirit, the Mitchell’s Glengyle Distillery buildings remained in relatively constant use right up to modern days. In the 1920s the building was rented out to Campbeltown Miniature Rifle Club for a number of years and the buildings were later used a depot and sales office for an agricultural company and so it remained the best preserved of all the former Campbeltown distilleries.

Possibly because the buildings were so well preserved, a number of attempts have been made to re-open Glengyle Distillery in the past. The first was a mere 16 years after it had closed down when it was bought by the Bloch Brothers, then owners of Glen Scotia Distillery, who planned to rebuild and extend Glengyle. The war intervened however and nothing came of it. A further attempt was made in 1957 when Campbell Henderson applied for outline planning permission to undertake a £250,000 modernisation of Glengyle and re-open it but again nothing came of it. Third time lucky though as in November 2000, 75 years after Glengyle had last produced spirit, it was announced that the buildings had been bought by a new company, Mitchell’s Glengyle Limited, headed by Mr Hedley Wright, chairman of J&A Mitchell and Co Ltd, and great-great nephew of William Mitchell, original founder of Glengyle.

3) Springbank distillery was established in 1828 on the site of Archibald Mitchell’s illicit still.

The distillery is now in the hands of our current Chairman, Hedley G. Wright, Mitchell’s great, great grandson – the fifth generation of the Mitchell family to own and manage Springbank.

Being based in Campbeltown, the once proclaimed ‘whisky capital of the world’, it is no surprise that many of the methods established by our forefathers are still applied in the distillery today.

Our team use traditional production methods and are involved in each and every step of the whisky making process – meaning our whisky is the most handmade in Scotland. Unlike any other distillery in the country, 100% of this process is carried out here on one site, giving us unrivalled control over the quality of the whisky.

  • Cocktail:
    • Name: Scotch Old Fashioned
      • Springbank 10YO Scotch
      • 1dash Angostura Bitters
      • 1cube Sugar
      • 1piece Cherry
      • 1slice Orange

 Place a sugar cube in a glass and add a dash of angostura bitters.  Place a sugar cube in a short glass and add a few dashes of angostura bitters to soak. Muddle until dissolved. Use a muddler to press down on the sugar cube and dissolve it in the angostura bitters. Fill the glass with ice. Pour Springbank 10YO Scotch Whisky into the glass. Using a jigger, measure 50ml of Springbank 10YO Scotch Whisky into the glass. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.

  • Bottle 1:
    • Name: Glen Scotia Double Cask  
    • Distillery: Glen Scotia
    • Proof: 92
    • Price: $40
    • Purchase location: masterofmalt.com
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: Very sweet. Initially it is all crème caramel, caramelized fruit sugars, wood sugar, toffee and fudge before some apple and peach come through. In time a charred note of bourbon with a pleasing dusty dryness. Has some power.
      • Palate: Sweet start and quite fat and though the alcohol gives a little tongue-tingling buzz the result is a good mid-palate weight. The dry distillery character is there still, but there is now depth to counter. Water slightly dismantles the different elements, but adds some dried mint.
      • Finish: Deep and dark.
  • Bottle 2:
    • Name: Springbank 15 year old 
    • Distillery: Springbank
    • Proof: 92
    • Price: $70
    • Purchase location: masterofmalt.com
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: Demerara sugar, dark chocolate, Christmas cake, almonds, toffee, oak.
      • Palate: Creamy, raisins, dark chocolate, figs, marzipan, brazil nuts and vanilla.
      • Finish: Oak and sherry notes sustain and mingle with hints of leather.
  • Bottle 3:
    • Name: Hazelburn 10 Year Old 
    • Distillery: Springbank
    • Proof: 92
    • Price: $40
    • Purchase location:  masterofmalt.com
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: Toasted pink marshmallows spinning around fresh rhubarb and green apples. Toffee and treacle adds to the sweetness but an earthy note keeps this whisky well balanced and not overpoweringly sweet.
      • Palate: Heather honey and digestive biscuits. Creamy milk chocolate, black cherries mix with oak and wood spice. A truly complex and interesting dram.
      • Finish: Dry nutty finish with some gentle peat lingering along with some further oak notes…delicious.
  • Bottle 4:
    • Name: Longrow 18 year old 
    • Distillery: Springbank
    • Proof: 92
    • Price: $100
    • Purchase location: masterofmalt.com
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: A complex nose: Sweet fruits, citrus, peaches and orange zest at first before a gentle earthy peaty aroma reveals itself.
      • Palate: Rich and very, very tasty. Well balanced. Dark chocolate, creamy coffee and gingerbread to the fore, followed by rhubarb and vanilla custard.
      • Finish: Long and sweet, a hint of typical Longrow peat smoke combined with more chocolate and some dried fruits.

 

Gentlemen devoted to the finest.

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