In June 2014 I travelled to the beautiful small town Campbeltown, South Kintyre Scotland, to attend the Whisky School at Springbank Distillery.
In this small series of posts I would like to tell you about my experiences in the Whisky School and give you a little basic information about the traditional way of producing a Single Malt Whisky.
Campbeltown is worth travelling not just because of famous and very traditional Whiskies coming from there. It offers a lot of things like stunning scenery, tasty seafood, beautifull golf courses and a diverse range of activities and interests for everyone. To get a first glimpse about Campbeltown’s attraction you can also visit Explore Campbeltown.
For me it was my second visit to Campbeltown. One year ago I was there whilst on a trip with my friend Olaf. We visited several whisky distilleries, starting at Glengoyne Distillery in the southern Highlands, then all Whisky highlights on the Isle of Islay and of course – Springbank Distillery.
Springbank was my favorite Whisky before and so my anticipation to this visit was very high. My passion for this unique and traditional Single Malt coming from Campbeltown, was born during a Master Class Tasting in Kiel (Kieler Whiskymesse) with Ranald Watson. Ranald is Sales and Marketing Manager at Springbank and a really nice guy. I was very impressed about the story behind Springbank Distillers – you will know why later.
In a small talk after the tasting he promised to give a personal tour through the distillery if I would visit Springbank once.
Well, Ranald kept the promise! When Olaf and I arrived at Springbank in May 2013 we had a very personal tour through every part of the distillery. During this amazing tour, Ranald spent three and a half hours to guide us and we learned so much about the production process and why the Springbank Malt is so unique. Considering the amount of Whisky produced at Springbank annually, there is no other Whisky Distillery with such a high effort of labour. With 45 people working in the production and 110,000 litres produced in 2013 this is very unique in the business. Of course Springbank’s total capacity is much higher – something about 750,000 litres per year. But they do not want to produce so much. They are increasing their production very carefully and always keeping in mind that time may change and the hype for Single Malt may downturn again. The owner of Springbank Distillery, Hedley G. Wright, has seen many ups and downs in the business before.
Springbank distillery does 100% of the production process on site, from malting the barley to bottling the finished product.
This is another attribute that makes Springbank Distillery so unique. There is no other distillery in Scotland which can honestly say this. Of course there are a few ones, also do all steps on site but not for 100% of production.
From the Springbank website
Springbank Distillery is unique. It is the oldest independent family owned distillery in Scotland. Founded in 1828 on the site of Archibald Mitchell’s illicit still, the Springbank Distillery is now in the hands of his great great great grand son, Hedley G. Wright.
Owned by Mr Wright’s J&A Mitchell & Co Ltd, Springbank is the only distillery in Scotland to carry out the full production process on the one site. 100% of the traditional floor malting, maturation and bottling is done at the distillery in Campbeltown.
It produces the most hand made whisky in Scotland, with traditional production methods being used throughout the process, and human involvement at each and every stage.
It is the only distillery in Scotland to have never chill-filtered, nor do we add any artificial colourings to any of our single malts.
It is the only distillery in Scotland to produce three different single malts, Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn, using three different production methods.
I really fell in love with the way how they run the distillery. IMHO the kind of market capitalism we normally see in business has become exaggerated. I believe that by focusing solely on profit, you destroy your company’s long-term growth. And I’m sure that we still will be able to enjoy Springbank for a very long time – if they continue to follow this tradition.
Ranald told us that every year there is a Whisky School, running several terms each year, where interested Whisky lovers can learn the basics of producing Whisky. Wow, that would be great to participate once.
Back at home, showing the pictures we’ve shot on our trip, I mentioned the Whisky School, not knowing what would happen.
A few month later I celebrated my 50th birthday. Opening my birthday present made me speechless. Besides other nice things (a bottle Springbank Gaja Barolo, Springbank water jug etc.) I found the confirmation for participating Springbank’s Whisky School in June 2014.
That was end of October in 2013 and I was dying to wait until June 2014.
That’s it for now….
The next posts will be:
- Back to (Whisky) School
- The Final Route
- Edinburgh to Campbeltown
- Feorlin Guest House
- Springbank Whisky School
- Safety First
- Mashing and Fermentation
- Cask Filling
- Warehousing / Maturation
so stay tuned!