So I just arrived in Scotland the day before, and while the journey was rather long I’ve finally made it to Campbeltown! So after a fun night of good seafood and whisky with my dad at the Ardshiel Hotel it’s now time for the main attraction that most visitors of the white sandy shores of Campbeltown are keen to enjoy, the whisky tours! For the first venture of the day I’m going to the place where my Campbeltown fascination first began, that place being the one and only Springbank Distillery!
Getting to the distillery from our rental is rather easy, especially since we were already staying at an apartment right on Longrow. After walking a few shops up I spotted a path on the left-hand side called Well Close, which must’ve been a sign that we were close to something good! After walking down the road for another minute, seeing the backs of stores to our right and the watchful Lorne and Lowland Church to our left (the same church whose icon bears every distillery bottling of Kilkerran Single Malt Whisky), we finally make our way to the doors of the distillery shop.
The shop is quite cozy, with a bunch of archive bottlings in display cases (including some rare 60s and 70s Springbanks with the old maple leaf logo), and some memorabilia and core range bottles for sale. They also sell used cask ends to those interested in using them as decorations!
After looking around for a bit our tour guide Craig comes to meet with us for our tour. And luckily enough, we were the only two people who signed up for the 10am tour!
Unexpected private tour? Not a bad start for our Campbeltown journey!
We start at the malting floors where Springbank malts 100% of their own barley for use in its Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn single malts as well as in Glengyle’s Kilkerran single malt whiskies. The malt is turned every 4 hours during the cooler months and every 2 hours during the hot summers. Springbank’s malted barley is mostly sourced from the mainland with only 1 day a year used to malt locally sourced barley. The current batch used this year was actually from Craig’s brother-in-law’s farm where they were growing Propino barley!
We then move outside to get a good look at the worm tub from outside as well as a big pile of peat used to smoke the barley!
Now we get a quick look at the furnace of the kiln which Springbank uses to smoke it’s barley.
After the kiln we move to the malt bins which are linked into the “Springbank Computer,” essentially a blackboard where chalk marks down if the bins are full or empty or somewhere in between!
Next, we look at the malt mill Springbank uses which is a Porteus Mill that many older distilleries use due to its high quality and low need for maintenance, a big reason why Porteus went bankrupt and no longer exists! Now only 1 technician exists in the entirety of Scotland, and he’s currently in his 70s!
We now take a peek at the empty mash tun, which is currently not in use as production at this time of year is now focused at Glengyle to produce Kilkerran single malt as the two distilleries essentially share staff given how they’re under the same company! The washbacks, made in Sweden from wood, are also seen with some cool water inside to keep them moist for when Springbank goes back to production.
We now head to the three copper pot stills used at Springbank in different configurations to make the Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn styles of spirit which are laid out in diagrams posted on the opposite wall.
We then head outside to see the massive number of barrels lying outside. These barrels are out here, ready to be re-used, to dry out and keep bad things from growing inside of the barrels when they get to a certain temperature.
Next we get a look at the distillery warehouses where Springbank, Glengyle and Cadenhead’s stocks are stored here in controlled temperatures. Everything from 1988 Tomore barrels to experimental quarter casks of sherried unnamed whisky are kept in here for future uses!
Finally, we checked out the bottling hall where Springbank and Cadenhead’s do all their bottling runs for whiskies and other spirits. Unfortunately they don’t permit photographs in here anymore due to some people posting pictures of upcoming releases before their official announcements to the public. However I can say, from looking at one skid of stuff wrapped up, that the U.S.A. will be getting something very interesting that’s currently in Europe sometime soon!
And that’s the end of the tour! We’re taken back to the distillery shop to try a core range dram (either Springbank 10, Hazelburn 10 or Longrow Heavily Peated) and get a commemorative Springbank tasting glass and a sample bottle of their Distillery Visitors Cask to take home with them, so let’s review that one!
Springbank Distillery Visitors Private Bottling 2019
This sample is a private bottling given to visitors touring Springbank Distillery. This is the 2019 version which is has no age statement or an ABV count, however my tour guide Craig tells me that the private bottlings are bottled at 46% ABV and aged in bourbon casks.
Color: Very Light Gold
Nose: Very light nose, touches of heather and various floral notes, then some light caramel, vanilla bean, musty cereals, white pepper and very raw apple flesh
Taste: Very pure apple juice, almost like a Lowland until we get to some faint salty peat and building briney notes, cocoa powder, raisins, orange citrus and dry lemons
Finish: Medium with big salty brine, apple butter, oak tannins and evaporated milk
Overall it’s quite a tame Springbank with a bit of heat. There’s some nice butteriness and oiliness but this one’s not too different from a new make spirit. I’m guessing its very young, around 3 to 5 years old, but even then it’s still nice to try something younger to get a better idea of the spirit.
Overall, touring Springbank privately was a very fun first distillery experience for myself in Scotland and the amount of detailed information on the whisky-making process makes this distillery tour an absolute must-do for those who are interested in learning more about Springbank and how they make some truly wonderful whiskies!