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« Scotland - Day 7: The South of Islay | Main | Scotland - Day 6: Leaving Oban »
Wednesday
May162012

Scotland - Day 6: Springbank

The road to Campbeltown is lined with spotted cattle, ancient stone walls, and rolling green hills that follow the coastline down the peninsula.  We loved our visit to Springbank last year and couldn't wait to get back down for another meeting.  Purchasing casks wasn't on the table this time around, but we still wanted to get an idea of what was happening at the distillery.

We met with Jenny and Ranald at the front office before taking a walk through the malting floor.  The whisky school was in full swing at the moment, so there were numerous students preparing the barley for the upcoming malting process.  We had done a full-scale tour last year, so we mostly just chatted and discussed the current industry gossip.  We got a chance to taste some of their new bottlings, including the new limited edition Rundlets & Kilderkins.  It was fantastic, simply packed with butterscotch and sweet toffee.  

With the exception of Bowmore (who only do a small percentage themselves), Springbank is the last distillery in Scotland to make 100% of their whisky from barley malted within the building, using the old traditional floor malting method.  It's entirely inconsistent, not at all cost effective, and completely outdated, yet they soldier on in the name of their heritage.  As we all know, Springbank doesn't really care about the best way to make money.  Seeing a giant tank of barley going through a steep is something you probably won't see anywhere else.

The stills are still magnificant.  Big, fat, flame-powered stills that use a rummager to keep the barley from sticking to the bottom.  There's a little bell that rings every time the rummager makes a rotation.  If that bell stops ringing, you know you're in big trouble.

Even though we couldn't purchase a cask for K&L right now, that didn't mean we couldn't mosey on through the warehouse, pop a few casks open, and make sure our friends at Pacific Edge imports were up to speed on the latest selections.  David sniffed out a cask of 1980 hiding in the corner.  Mmmmm......

The warehouses at Springbank are a terroir of their own.  The local white mold is everywhere including all over the muddy ground floors, covering your shoes at every step.  The flavor of that earthiness often finds its way into the whisky like it does bleu cheese.  Only Springbank can have this particular flavor, which to me makes it quite special.  

This was more of a social call than a true business appointment, but we did get to stay on top of the latest news and happenings in Campbeltown.  Springbank remains one of my favorite destinations and I'm glad we were able to stop by on our way to Islay.  We both really wanted to get into the jewel rack and open the super rare Alfred Barnard book The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom, which contains the history of the 30+ Campeltown distilleries no longer in existence.  Unfortunately, it's a relic and it's completely off limits.  Right now we're in the small fishing village of Tarbert, just a few miles down the road from the ferry.  We're off at 7:45 tomorrow morning to catch the boat and cut some peat with Lagavulin.  We won't have wifi at our rental, so I'm hoping I can walk over to Bowmore and use their internet as needed.

Now it's time for some fresh fish!  We just saw the boat come in and the word on the street is that our hotel is one of the premier destinations for sea candy in all of Scotland.  I'm ready to eat.

-David Driscoll