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At the heart of Campbeltown
Campbeltown was once known as the whisky capital of the world with more than 30 distilleries in the area. Today is a very different picture, however, with just three remaining in production: Glen Scotia, Glengyle and Springbank.
Springbank distillery produces three distinct single malt brands. First is the original Springbank, then there’s triple distilled Hazelburn and finally, heavily peated Longrow.
I recently paid a visit to Campbeltown and wasted no time in booking in for a tour. It proved to be an informative and entertaining experience, taking in every aspect of the process. The only thing unavailable was the bottling hall which was out of commission at the time (there’s a pattern emerging here, the exact same thing happened to me at Bruichladdich earlier in the year). Springbank is not the most gleaming of distilleries but its healthy coating of grime simply reminds us that this is a working plant first and foremost, with tourism little more than an afterthought. To be honest, that’s kind of how it should be.
J & A Mitchell also run the Glengyle distillery next door as well as the famed independent bottler, Wm. Cadenhead’s. As a result, their warehousing is stuffed full of casks from an incredible variety of distilleries. It all seemed an opportunity too good to miss so I followed up my tour with a Cadenhead’s Warehouse Tasting, hosted by Mark Watt, the man responsible for selecting and bottling this array of barrels. I was treated to a diverse range of drams from the likes of Aultmore, Auchentoshan, Glenlivet, Highland Park and Bowmore. There was even a 42-year-old Loch Lomond at one point.
I did buy a bottle from the Cadenhead’s shop in Campbeltown but it was a Speyside malt and didn’t seem right for this review! Fortunately, I had a 12-year-old Springbank waiting to be reviewed at home!
The cask strength bottling is a limited release, bottled at cask strength with a strong sherry influence.
Smell: Burnt Toffee, Raisins & Sultanas, Cocoa and subtle Peat Smoke
Taste: Raisins & Sultanas again, Cherry, Orange and Lemon, then there’s Honey, Toffee and Brown Sugar with Peat Smoke and Dark Chocolate.
Thoughts: Springbank doesn’t produce a lot of whisky. So when they say this is a limited release, they really mean it. Each new batch seems to sell out faster than the last, so if you see one somewhere, my advice is to grab it. I paid around £50 for mine. That isn’t a lot to pay for a whisky of this quality. Springbank is not only one of the most traditional distilleries in Scotland, it’s also one of the best. They seem to produce whisky with nothing but quality in mind. You wouldn’t call this a sherry-bomb, though the presence of the wine can definitely be felt. I often find Springbank to be a sort of dirty whisky. It’s oily and sort of, grimy. Some people may find that off-putting but I think it just makes it all the more interesting. This is a fantastic whisky, as are the rest of their bottlings. Don’t pass it up if it crosses your path.