The Glengyle distillery in Campbeltown is once again producing single malt whisky, with the first ever 12 year old Kilkerran due to be unveiled later this year.
Glengyle was founded in 1872 by William Mitchell – nephew to John Mitchell, of Springbank Distillery. William eventually sold the distillery in 1919 but unfortunately it didn’t survive for very long under new ownership and finally closed down in 1925 during a massive downturn in the once thriving Campbeltown whisky industry.
Originally named Kinlochkilkerran, Campbeltown was a fishing town with it’s own shipyard and a regular steamship service to Glasgow. This, coupled with a local coal mine and plentiful supply of barley and peat combined to create conditions ripe for whisky making.
The Duke of Argyll saw potential in the town and encouraged the legal production of whisky, following the Excise Act of 1823, even commanding that Crosshill Loch be converted into a reservoir in order to provide an adequate water source. 29 distilleries opened between 1823 and 1844 and when Alfred Barnard visited in 1885 he dubbed the town ‘Whisky City’.
The good times weren’t to last however and a number of contributing factors combined to bring about a catastrophic collapse of this once booming industry, with greed playing no small part. Some distillers, more concerned with producing quantity rather than quality, earned Campbeltown an unwanted reputation for rough spirit. With the rising popularity in lighter, Speyside malts, the towns distillers found it harder and harder to market their heavier, coastal spirit.
Following the introduction in 1920 of prohibition in the US, the towns booming trade with North America shuddered to a halt and Campbeltown’s whisky industry fell to it’s knees. When the local coal mine closed in 1923, dramatically increasing fuel costs, it began to collapse completely. There were around 35 operational distilleries within the town at one time but by 1935 only two remained… Springbank and Glen Scotia.
Glengyle itself ceased production and lay dormant for decades until the distillery was bought by Springbank owners J & A Mitchell in 2000. After a complete renovation, a pair of Pot Stills were sourced from the old Ben Wyvis distillery in Invergordon and production of a new Glengyle spirit began in 2004.
This rebirth of Glengyle, coupled with recent investment in Glen Scotia and the continuing success of Springbank, perhaps confirms that there is life yet in this once proud ‘Whisky City’.
Since the rights to the Glengyle name are unfortunately held elsewhere, J & A Mitchell are to release their new malt under the name of Kilkerran and as the spirit matures, the company have been releasing annual ‘Work in Progress’ expressions, giving eager connoisseurs a sneak peek at the future of this new single malt. Bottled at 46% and matured in European Oak Sherry Casks, Kilkerran Work in Progress Volume 6 is available in the UK for around £45.
Smell: Sherry on the nose with Raisins and Sultana, Orange and Dark Chocolate with Smoke and a slight touch of Struck Matches
Taste: Orange, Cranberry and Raisins with coastal Brine and Barbecue Smoke.
Value for Money: A great little buy at a good price. Young, but of very high quality.
Score: 44 / 50.
A fascinating insight into the development of a new single malt that leaves me waiting impatiently for the arrival, later this year, of the first 12 year old. Importantly though, a very pleasant dram in it’s own right.