Campbeltown used to be known as the Whisky Capital of the world with well over 36 working distilleries in and around the area. Today is a very different story however, with only three remaining in production… Glen Scotia, Glengyle and Springbank. The best known of these is the latter. Springbank produce three brands of Single Malt – Springbank (lightly peated), Hazelburn (unpeated) and Longrow (heavily peated).
The Distillery itself is situated right in the heart of Campbeltown and dates back to 1828 when it was founded by Archibald Mitchell. Today it is still owned by the same family – current chairman, Hedley G. Wright is the great, great grandson of Archibald.
As part of our visit we took the full tour of the Distillery which covered all parts of the production process. Malting, Mashing, Fermenting, Distilling, Maturing and Bottling… Except it didn’t really include bottling as there was apparent maintenance work being done and we weren’t allowed in. There’s a pattern emerging here – the same thing happened to me at Bruichladdich. In any case the tour was fun and informative. It’s a nice distillery, with more than it’s fair share of grime – as it should be, I’m always a bit suspicious of distilleries that are too clean!
As well as Springbank, J & A Mitchell also own Glengyle Distillery and the well known independent bottler, Wm Cadenheads. As a result of this, there are casks from multiple Distilleries resting in their warehouses. This seemed an opportunity too good to miss so we followed up our tour with a Cadenheads Warehouse Tasting hosted by Mark Watt himself, the man responsible for selecting and bottling these casks. What followed was one of the best experiences I’ve had while visiting a Distillery. We were treated to a diverse range of drams as varied as Aultmore, Auchentoshan, Glenlivet, Highland Park and Bowmore – not to mention a 42 year old Inch Murrin from Loch Lomond Distillery. Quite a nice way to spend an afternoon I have to say!
Normally when I write up a distillery visit I review the whisky I bought on the day but on this occasion I bought a Cadenhead’s bottling of Tamdhu which I’d like to save for later. Fortunately though, I have a bottle of Springbank’s 12 year old Cask Strength on hand ready to be popped open and reviewed.
The 12 Year Old is an annual batch release, bottled at Cask Strength. It’s blended from ex Sherry and ex Bourbon Casks and with Sherry making up the majority there should be some big flavours going on here. On the nose I get Burnt Toffee, Raisins & Sultanas, Cocoa and subtle Peat Smoke while it arrives on the palate in a burst of fruits: Raisins & Sultanas again, Cherry, Orange and Lemon, then there’s Honey, Toffee and Brown Sugar with Peat Smoke and Dark Chocolate.
Smell: 18.5 / 20. Very attractive, the combination of Sherry fruit notes and subtle, coastal peat smoke is a winner.
Taste: 18.5 / 20. Bottled at 54.1% it packs a real punch but it isn’t over the top. It’s a big, bold, fully flavoured dram.
Value for Money: 9 / 10. Came in around £50, not bad at all for a 12 year old, naturally presented, cask strength whisky with a strong sherry influence.
Overall: 46 / 50. It’s a fairly limited release that only appears once a year and it doesn’t hang around long but if you can get hold of one, it’s a great purchase. As is everything from Springbank Distillers in fact. Whether that be Springbank itself, Longrow, Hazelburn or even one of the Cadenhead’s bottles, you can guarantee that you’ll get quality that justifies the cost.