Scotland: Day 2 - Glasgow to Campbeltown
Driving from Glasgow to Campbeltown takes a little over three hours and is not a straight shot by any means. It's a curvy, meandering, often single lane trek that shoots through Loch Lomand National Park and around the lip of Loch Fyne, before turning south and hugging the coast line all the way down to the Mull of Kintyre. Visiting Springbank distillery therefore takes both courage and strong desire. Or, as Mark Watt said to us today, "It's a pilgrimage for most folks. They have to really want to come here."
We really love Springbank, Cadenhead's, and Campbeltown, so we got up early, ate a hearty breakfast, and jumped in the car. It had been two years since our last visit, so we were excited about our return. The road, however, quickly tempered our enthusiasm. You'd think with so much experience driving on winding, single lane roads that the Scots would be experts at passing slower movers. That's not the case, however. They're terrible at judging a safe distance before making their move. More than once we were forced to slam on the breaks while coming around a blind curve to find some daredevil heading right towards us at speeds not recommended. A yellow Mustang came within inches of killing us all. That being said, the beautiful scenery more than made up for the induced terror.
Once you pass Inveraray you're about halfway there. The surroundings go from mountainous to sea worthy quite quickly. The road to Campbeltown, like the Campbeltown whiskies themselves, is a combination of both Highland and Island flare.
Campbeltown itself had never looked better. A new infusion of outside money has slightly turned the economic tide in town. Buildings had been renovated and cleaned up since our last visit. The facelift was remarkable and apparent right from the moment we parked next to the Cadenhead office.
Mark Watt and Ranald Watson were right there to meet us. We didn't waste any time, and they knew what we were there to do. It was time to taste some single casks from Cadenhead's vast and available supply. There were a lot of winners and we made a quick list of condenders. While we were there, we thought, why not taste some Springbank Local Barley and a new vatting of the 21 year? I mean, the casks were just sitting right there, and we did drive all the way over. Let's just take a wee dram. Mmmm....Local Barley.
Visiting Springbank always puts your mind right when it comes to quality over economics. Nothing done by the company makes economic sense from a profit-based perspective. Everything is about continuing to support community and tradition first. It's a mindset so noble and rare-to-see in this industry that you forget there are people in the world that still care about those committments. I asked Ranald if Springbank was meeting its goals, to which he said, "We're not just paying our workers more than minimum wage, we're paying them a living wage. That's always our number one goal and I'm happy to say we're more than meeting it." Springbank still malts all their own barley and pays Campbeltown locals to do it all the old-fashioned way.
After a lenghty tasting and a quick tour around the buildings, it was time for pints and lunch. Haggis nachos? Why not? When in Campbeltown.
We headed back to Glasgow at around 1:30. I fell asleep immediately, but woke up when David honked at another passing driver hell bent on ending both his life and ours. That kept me up the rest of the way!