Continuing my distillery visit whilst in Campbeltown the second of the day and the fourth of the trip was to the famous Springbank Distillery. For many when you talk about a Campbeltown whisky the first that pops to mind is Springbank, this is because they are one of three distillery that remain in the Campbeltown region from its past history of having over 30 active distilleries. The Springbank distillery produces three brands of whisky which vary from unpeated to peated, these three are: Hazelburn which is an unpeated and triple distilled, Springbank which is a core from the distillery and distilled two and a half times, finally the last brand is the Longrow which is their more heavily peated and follows a double distillation.
Getting back to my visit so as me and my friend got to the distillery during a tour that was taking place and we couldn’t locate the distillery shop to purchase tickets we decided to ask the tour guide where to purchase the tickets and when’s the next tour will be taking place as we didn’t want to miss out on this distillery after our 3 hour drive. We were told to head down the road to the Cadenhead shop as it’s both the distillery shop and the Cadenhead’s shop. As for tour prices they offered 2 tours one being the Springbank only tour £7.50 and the other is the Springbank & Glengyle (Kilkerran) tour £10 both accompanied with a complementary dram to conclude back at the shop. As you can probably tell I went with the dual distillery ticket as it felt like a no brainer especially as I was intrigued to learn about Glengyle (Kilkerran) and the future of their distillery.
The distillery tour started at 2pm outside the locked gate of the Springbank distillery as there was a big group of 15 people on the day, Saturday 29th July 2017. Everyone was eager to get through the gate first like a scene out of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory as soon as the gate was unlocked. The tour wasn’t split as the tour guide said he’ll take everyone through Springbank tour together and after continue on with the people who signed up to the Glengyle tour. The tour started at the rear of the distillery next to a pile of peat where we learnt the process of whisky creation as a soft drizzle of rain passed over and the peat used at Springbank for its different expressions. Springbank is also one a few remaining distilleries which malts its barley on site on its malting floor but as it needed structural repair it wasn’t open for us to see.
We then made our way to the Kiln where the peat is burn to dry the barley and on the wall tells you how the barley is dried for each expression produced at the distillery. From here we moved to the next room which has all the Malt Bins, 10 of them where the barley is kept in batches before being released onto a belt which leads into the Milling room where they have these very traditional bands which still do the job today and the good old Porteus Malt Mill before making way to the Mash Tun where the grist will be added to warm water in its unusual open top mash tun. Since the distillery wasn’t in a production phase I jumped up the ladder and grabbed a quick glance inside this monster of a Mash Tun. (5 pictures to follow below.)
Following the process past the three large copper pot stills and spirit safe to the Wash backs which they have 6 and all made from Scandinavian Boat Skin Larch which we were told is very difficult to come by and rather expensive, which they feel add its own unique character to the spirit. Next we headed back through the door we came through which had the information about the wash backs above it and made way to the famous Springbank stills. At this point we learnt about distillation of the different productions at the distillery and for those that don’t know about distillation learnt it here.
For me this is one of the exciting parts of the tour compared to many other people who just want the drink at the end, this is because distillation always fascinates me especially at how Springbank produce a double distilled whisky Longrow, two and a half time distilled Springbank and a triple distilled Hazelburn all from their stills. As to my amazement all I had to do is turn around and again on the wall was the guide to how the different distillations take place, this was the part of the tour which we were told if you take a picture don’t do home and replicate it as this literally was a very clear diagram hahahaha.
Following the distillation the whisky is ready to be put into the casks and access this area you had to walk about outside and around the corner to the Filling Store where in this room had examples about all the casks used and also the filling machine which was on display. For those of you that are Springbank fans in the picture I’ve taken you’ll also see some rather interesting casks which are chestnut casks which Springbank are experimenting to see how this will affect the whiskies maturation and flavour profile.
The final part of the Springbank tour is where we made way to the No.3 Bond warehouse where some casks are laying down with whisky maturing away until the time they are ready to be bottled and in here you get the sweet rubbery aroma in the air, its slightly warmer in here and you’ll see from the picture below that the casks are not piled up upon one another. This was also the first time I saw a Quarter Cask alongside a Pedro Ximinez Sherry cask, it’s some sight to see how one is a fraction of the size.
At this point I thought it was the end out the tour but our tour guide took us to the No.15 bond which near the carpark and it’s here where you see how large this Bond is. This is where Springbank not only keep their casks but also those from other distilleries part of the Cadenhead’s shop bottlings along with some experiment casks which are not allowed to be called whisky because of the cask type being used but I feel they are discovering more about different types of wood which can only benefit the future of whisky.
All in all to conclude this tour of Springbank before I move into the next part which will cover the tour of Glengyle, the Springbank distillery is a gem in its own respect. When you walk around this distillery it’s like you’re taking a step back in time as you get to experience how the production process was in the past and how they are continuing it on to this current day. As for recommendation, I’d recommend calling up the Cadenhead’s Shop to inquire which tours are available on the day and the times as me and my friend were lucky to catch the last one. Also you get to try a Springbank expression back at the shop after the tour. As for purchases from the distillery shop they do have a distillery cask but I have been told is does rotate so I can’t comment on that as I’d imagine it would have changed already since my visit. However you do have releases from the range and one I’d suggest would be the Springbank 12 Year Old Cask Strength as it’s my favourite from this year’s releases. I’ll speak to you all in my next post which will cover my visit to the Glengyle Distillery (Kilkerran Whisky).