Wine Talk: Whisky of Kintyre

As you engage in raising your spirits this Purim, have a tipple of Springbank’s singular Scotch.

By
February 25, 2012 00:51
4 minute read.
Scotch whisky distillery

Scotch whisky distillery 390. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Ihave visited many Scotch whisky distilleries, but one of the most memorable was a visit to Campbeltown to see the Springbank Distillery.

Springbank is one of the most exciting distilleries in Scotland. Not because it is the biggest, most innovative or most modern, but simply because it is unique for a number of reasons.

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It is situated in Campbeltown in the Argyll region of western Scotland, at the foot of the Mull of Kintyre, immortalized in the Paul McCartney song. Though it is regarded as one of the main whisky regions, the town is small and scarcely a whisky center anymore.

Once it was the main haven of illicit stills in Scotland. In the 19th century there were 34 distilleries there, and it was referred to as the whisky capital of the world. However, disaster was around the corner. The once proud local industry was destroyed by a combination of the effects of the Depression after World War I, Prohibition in the US and chronic overproduction.

After the 1930s, only two distilleries remained.

The symbol of Campbeltown today remains Springbank, a survivor in the ebb and flow of the town’s fortune. It is also one of the most special ambassadors of the Scotch whisky today because of its uniqueness and the way it has maintained its traditions.

Springbank is one of only two Scottish distilleries to perform every step of the whisky-making process on the premises. These days, most distilleries use separate maltings, and the bottling plants are usually far away in industrial areas of the main city centers. Springbank has its own maltings and bottling plant on the premises.

Springbank not only remains a family operation, but it is also still owned by the founding family. This is extremely rare nowadays, as the large global spirit firms have steadily gobbled up most of the independents from years gone by.

Springbank was founded in 1828 on the site of an illicit still owned by Archibald Mitchell.

The parent company is now called J. & A. Mitchell, and the owner is Hedley G. Wright, who is a direct descendant of the Mitchells.

As for the distillery itself, a visit is necessary to absorb and understand the old-world atmosphere. It almost exists in a time warp, with the look and feel of 100 years ago. One almost expects the manager of the distillery to be wearing a wide pinstripe suit with a bowler hat, and the workers to be wearing brown overalls and cloth caps. It is a distillery without airs and graces. There is more wood, copper and brass on display than stainless steel and computers.

In an age when manipulation of the final product is almost the rule, it is a bonus to learn that Springbank chooses the opposite approach. Its malt whiskies are not chill filtered, and no artificial coloring is added.

Springbank produces three malt brands: Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn. The Springbank whiskies are known for their light peating and slight salty character from the sea mist. They are lighter in character and paler in color than many others. Without doubt, Springbank is the classic representative of Campbeltown.

Springbank also makes it own blended whiskies, which is unusual for a malt whisky distillery. The blends are called Campbeltown Loch and Mitchell’s 12 year old.

Longrow Whisky was first distilled in 1973. This is nearer to an Islay whisky in conception, with fuller body, a more pronounced smoky and peaty character. It is named after the Longrow Distillery that once stood alongside Springbank.

Hazelburn whisky is the newest brand addition, being produced by Springbank since 1997. It is lighter than Longrow and is made from unpeated barley.

The resulting whisky is young, fruity and spirity.

The name is taken from one of the old distillery buildings, which is no longer used but is still standing.

Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine in Israeli and international publications.

adam@carmelwines.co.il

Buy them in Israel:

The following Springbank whiskies are now available in Israel.

Springbank CV Single Malt

This is a blend of different malt whiskies specially selected by the master distiller. It has a touch of sweetness on the nose from the component of the blend aged in used sherry casks. The remainder is matured mainly in bourbon casks but also rum casks. This is an excellent introduction to Springbank.

Price: NIS 341

Longrow Malt Whisky 10 year old

This is a powerful, full-bodied dram. Quite deeply colored and very smoky. It has quite a strong peaty flavor but still less than many Islay whiskies.

Price: NIS 359

Springbank Single Malt 15 year old

This is a beautiful, silky whisky showing the elegance and complexity you would expect from a Springbank.

It is aged in sherry casks and has a certain richness in aroma, but everything is in moderation and in its place.

Price: NIS 676

The Springbank, 10 year old and Hazelburn malt whiskies may found at the duty-free shops at Ben-Gurion Airport.


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