Springbank is a Scotch whisky distillery in Campbeltown. It is the only distillery founded in the 19th century still owned by its founding family. Springbank is unique in handling the entire whisky making process in-house. Everything from malting the barley to bottling takes place on-site. Three single malt whiskies are produced: Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn.
Springbank is a peated malt with an oily texture and salty, smoky character. Longrow is heavily peated with a robust smoky flavour similar to the whisky of Islay. Hazelburn is triple distilled with a sweet, malty character.
The three malts are usually matured in barrels that once held Bourbon whiskey though ex-sherry casks are also common. Sometimes a wine or rum cask is used to bring new flavours.
Springbank is one of a handful of distilleries to retain their malting floor. 100% of their grain requirements are malted on-site.
The distillery has three pot stills: wash still, intermediate still and spirit still. These are deployed in different ways depending on the product being made. Springbank is partially triple distilled. The wash still works as normal, producing low wines of around 20 - 25% abv. The strongest portion of low wines is set aside while the rest is re-distilled in the intermediate still to a strength of 30 - 35%. Both are then distilled for the final time in the spirit still. It is a complex system that produces an incredibly complex spirit.
Longrow is more traditionally produced. Made from heavily peated malt, it is double distilled using wash and intermediate stills. Hazelburn is completely triple distilled, utilising all three stills in a linear fashion.
Springbank isn’t widely recognised in global terms but has a devoted fan base. Only 170,000 litres of spirit are produced each year, exlusively for use in their three single malt brands. Little, if any, finds it way to the blended Scotch industry. Being in such short supply means limited bottling runs tend to sell out very quickly.
Springbank was established by Archibald Mitchell in 1828. When he passed away the business was taken over by his son John who formed J & A Mitchell in 1837. The company still runs the distillery today. Chairman Hedley G. Wright is the great-great-Grandson of founder Archibald.
Campbeltown grew to become known as the whisky capital of the world with more than 30 distilleries operating at one time. At the height of the boom John Mitchell’s brother William founded Glengyle distillery a short distance from Springbank but long term success was to evade him.
The early 20th century brought an industry-wide downturn. The Great War was followed by prohibition in the United States and the loss of a key export market. The knockout blow came in 1923 when the local coal mine closed, leaving distillers without access to affordable fuel. Campbeltown’s whisky industry collapsed. By 1934 only Springbank and Glen Scotia remained.
There is perhaps no distillery in Scotland more closely associated with its region than Springbank. Campbeltown held regional status thanks to its impressive history but some questioned whether a town with just two distilleries should still be considered a region. In response, J & A Mitchell took it upon themselves to create a third by reviving Glengyle. Since there was only three distilleries left in the lowlands, Campbeltown couldn’t lose its status without the same thing happening there. The bold move ensured that Campbeltown would remain a whisky region in its own right.
The same methods of production used in the old days remain in use today. Visitors to Campbeltown can book a distillery tour and see for themselves how little Springbank has changed since the 19th century. This focus on quality rather than quantity continues to define it today.