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  • Writer's pictureErnie - Ernst Scheiner

Kilkerran. The Making of Whisky

Updated: Apr 1


Rebirth of Glengyle

2004 - 2024 anniversary

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Please mind WIX Software translates WHISKEY




The Glengyle Distillery, just 400 meters from Springbank, dates back to a dispute between the owners brothers John and William Mitchell in the early 1870s.



“They fought so hard over sheep farming that William founded and ran his own barley distillery in 1844," production manager Gavin McLachlan explains. They both ran Springbank together. Like many distillery families in Campbeltown, they were primarily farmers. It is reported that they fought over sheep. William then angrily left Springbank to pursue his own goals and defiantly build his own new distillery, which was in the immediate vicinity of Springbank.


Let's look back. In 1844 John Mitchell began farming and raising livestock when he leased Balliemenach Farm north of Campbeltown. He and his brother William expanded the business by leasing additional farms in the immediate vicinity, all of which belonged to the feudal Argyll Estates. The large farmers were also active as distillers and successfully cultivated 6,900 hectares of land. The dispute with his brother led to the dissolution of the Springbank partnership. In 1837, after the unexpected bankruptcy of the previous owners, "William Reid Jr. & Co Longrow st." the distillery without a name was taken over by the lenders. In November 1872 the Longrow facilities were sold. A public compulsory auction with a minimum bid of £3,500 resulted in John Mitchell and his son Archibald taking over at £5,055. Therefore, the formulated company title J. & A. Mitchell still applies today. The proceeds were William Mitchell's investment capital for his new Glengyle Distillery.



Glengyle Distillery produces Kilkerran malts


Let's look back into history

It was probably Irish settlers who gradually brought the Christian faith to the tiny townships of Kintyre, Argyll and the Highlands. Legend has it that Saint Columba and twelve followers crossed the North Channel, just a few miles wide, in curraghs - leather-clad rowing boats. Around 563, Colm Cille, his Gaelic name, came from Ballycastle to Carskey Bay and brought the gospel to the Scoti living there. To this day, the myth persists that Columba introduced the art of distillation to Scotland alongside the Christian faith. However, research suggests that it was probably the well-read Irish-born physicians of the Lord of the Isles, the MacBeathas, who brought the distillation knowledge of the Spanish Moors to Islay and thus to Scotland at the end of the 13th century. A decorative Celtic high cross in the churchyard of Kilchoman Parish Church bears witness to this assumption.


Campbeltown Cross, Curragh, Saint Columba's Footsteps


Usquebaugh

The water of life was probably distilled in Kintyre from that time onwards, for barley grew magnificently in the fields. The conditions were favorable; the six-row barley variety Bere generally found the best growing conditions: a humid Atlantic climate when sowing, mineral-rich soil and long, sunny days in summer. There was plenty of water and peat. The spring barley was malted to brew a smoky beer, which was often flavored with local spices or imported ginger.

As is well known, beer is the basis for distilling whiskey.





It was no wonder that a thriving moonshiners' guild developed in Kintyre from the 13th to the 18th centuries. The coppersmith Robert Armor counted around 70 “small vessel distillers” from 1811 to 1817. He kept a record of the number of “smuggler's kettles” he crafted. He built Springbank's first open fire pot stills. Miners mined the coal for this in the Machrihanish Coal Field, east of Campbeltown.


In 1636 Crosshill Farm paid a rent of “six quarts of aquavitae” to the community of Lochhead, now Campbeltown. Other documents describe that the Laird of Calder, Alex Campbell, received a jug filled with “Water of Life” as a rent in September 1591. The feudal landowner could not have imagined that Campbeltown would develop into a liquor center in the 19th century. One of the first legal whiskey distilleries called The Campbeltown was probably active since 1798. A second one of the same name, located in Longrow, was built by John Beith & Co. in 1815. Both were forerunners of a distillery boom: When new legislation made it easier to acquire distilling licenses in 1823, more than 30 legal distilleries were to emerge in the following years.


The location with a natural, deep harbor bay was ideal. Empty barrels of Scottish and Irish whiskey blenders as well as barley from the Lowlands, Ireland or mainland Europe could easily be landed on sailing ships. With full whiskey barrels, matured in the salty air of the mild maritime climate, the steam-powered Clyde Puffers returned to the whiskey blending centers of Glasgow and Belfast from 1850 onwards. Irish whiskey often had Scottish spirits in the bottle. The blenders in Antrim didn't take the geographical origin too seriously. The main thing is that the customers liked the whiskeys.


Campbeltown economic center

Shipbuilding, livestock farming, herring fishing, coal mining, metal and textile processing, military bases, whiskey and an overall brisk trade made Wee Town - the "little town", as its residents charmingly described it - into the prosperous economic zone in Kintyre. The rapidly growing prosperity was reflected in the architecture of town houses, public buildings and in the streets. Money didn't matter. Trendy Glasgow architects created a cityscape whose red sandstone face is reminiscent of the pulsating metropolis on the River Clyde with the ostentatious buildings of shipowners and merchants when you take a tour.


Today most of the shine has faded. Traditional businesses gave up and the city was deserted. Despite infrastructural support from the Scottish government, the detrimental changes can hardly be stopped. The renovation of the architecturally valuable Art Deco Picture House on Uferstrasse in 2016/17 is not enough. McCartney didn't donate, but the owner of Springbank Distillery did. The publicity-shy distiller Hedley G. Wright has been one of the city's honorable patrons for decades. He renovated the dilapidated houses of the "wee toon" and supports culture, club life and social projects. The Cambridge University graduate previously ran the Eaglesome delicatessen shop - also a wholesaler of Springbank products - a disco and several pubs.




When the chronicler Alfred Barnard toured the whiskey distilleries of the United Kingdom, he documented 21 producing distilleries in Campbeltown alone in July 1885. Sonorous names such as Albyn, Benmore, Dalaruan, Glen Nevis, Hazelburn, Kinloch and Lochside demonstrate the great popularity of the single malts from “Kinlochkilkerran”, which was the old town name of the Royal Borough until the 17th century.


Today, whiskey lovers look in vain for these distilleries because, like most of their Irish neighbors, they did not survive the decline of the industry that began in the 1920s with American Prohibition and the Great Depression. Years earlier, a massive overproduction of bad whiskeys had already damaged the good reputation of the Campbeltown distilleries and driven many distillers to ruin. In 1930, only the Rieclachan, Glen Scotia and Springbank distilleries remained, which sold their whiskeys under the “Highland” label. Even the whiskey crash of the 1980s, when too much Scotch whiskey flooded the world market, couldn't harm them: across Scotland, more than twenty distilleries stopped production at the time, not including Glen Scotia and Springbank.


An exemplary success story for Springbank malts gradually began in the mid-1990s. Glen Scotia only followed in 2010 with their single malts in the poppy design. The products from Campbeltown were highly valued among whiskey fans. Previously, they were only known to a limited number of people in the global whiskey scene. Whiskeys with the name Kilkerran gradually filled the shelves of spirits retailers from 2007, especially from 2009 with the “Work in Progress” bottlings.


The beginning of Glengyle

The farmer founded Glengyle in 1872. Construction work began in 1873. Matties malted the first barley on the new floor maltings in November. The distillates probably flowed from the “Common Furnace” stills shortly afterwards. According to the newspaper report, the annual capacity was 210,000 gallons of alcohol. William Mitchell shipped the first whiskey spirits - at that time there was no legally stipulated minimum maturation period of three years - to a blender in Glasgow in the spring of 1875, as the Argyll Herald wrote.


Until 1925, barley spirits bubbled up on Glebe Street from three directly heated copper gooseneck stills - two with a capacity of 3,100 gallons each - and a spirit still with 1,860 gallons. In Alfred Barnard's time in 1886, annual production was 410,000 liters. The West Highland Malt Distilleries Ltd. After purchasing it in 1919, it had to stop distilling around 1924 due to US Prohibition, the Great Depression and the resulting sales problems. Whiskey spirit from Campbeltown was not appreciated by blenders in Glasgow, Leith or Perth; it was of inferior quality, as Hedley Wright once pointed out.


The aftermath of the overproduction of the fast Campbeltown spirit at the end of the 19th century. continued to impact sales. In difficult economic times, Glengyle was up for sale, as were Glen Nevis and Ardlussa - just Warehouses and Malting Floors. An auction in 1925 soon led to the distillery being shut down because the buyers and speculators, the Glasgow whiskey blenders Maurice and Joseph Bloch - owners of Glen Scotia - were only interested in the cask stock for a cheap price of 350 pounds. Distilling took place among them for only one year. The facilities were dismantled, the distillery was shut down, the facilities were expanded and some were scrapped. Parts of the warehouse buildings were converted into a Craig Brothers workshop.


The Bloch Brothers' attempts to rebuild Glengyle in any way in 1941 failed. The intention of wine and spirits wholesaler Campbell Henderson Ltd. The attempt to build a "modern" distillery in 1957 failed due to the property owners' sales price demands. A shooting club then used the building and, from 1960, the buildings acquired from the Kintyre Farmers Cooperative. Source: Angus Martin. Campbeltown Whiskey. An Encyclopedia. Edinburgh, 2020.


The Clearing

The following rare historical photographs by Alasdair Gray, Aberdeen, show the gutted and cleaned state of the Glengyle buildings and the first steps in the restoration of the production facilities. There were no traces of the former working equipment of the disused distillery.

We thank Alasdair for providing these photos. They give us an impressive participation in the creation of Glengyle NEW and the Home of Kilkerran.


Copyright Alasdair Gray 2024



New beginning

When the property was up for sale in 1999, the otherwise thrifty Hedley Wright purchased the old, completely gutted walls of the Glengyle Distillery because he really wanted to preserve the “Campbeltown” regional appellation of origin for his whiskeys. According to the rules of the Scotch Whiskey Association, at least three working distilleries in the region were necessary. In 1998 the SWA increased the pressure and threatened to withdraw the regional status of “Campbeltown” because Glen Scotia was also temporarily not producing. Springbank's management came up with the idea of creating a new distillery.


Frank McHardy

In an emergency operation in mid-1999, Frank McHardy and his Springbank team initially temporarily restarted distillation at Glen Scotia in order to calm down the SWA. Spurred on by this, the actual owner, the Loch Lomond Distillery Co., continued production with two people from 2000. With Glengyle a new, old comrade-in-arms joined them. The regional name “Campbeltown Whiskey” was saved, especially since only three distilleries – Auchentoshan, Glenkinchie, Bladnoch – were active in the Lowlands in those years.


Home of Kilkerran

The then Springbank Production Director Frank McHardy set out to find appropriate equipment. The Glengyle buildings were in a miserable condition, reports Clerk of Works Stephen Kelly:


"There was dirt from hundreds of pigeons,
the roof was unusable, rotten.”

The Springbank team cleaned the facility piecemeal, local craftsmen concreted and bricked . The preparatory work progressed quickly. McHardy was very lucky: the Robert Boby malt mill, which had been decommissioned there, came from the Speyside distillery Craigellachie for the symbolic amount of “one pound” and the two stills, the Shell, came from the Northern Highland Distillery Ben Wyvis in Invergordon, which was closed down in 1993 and Tube Condenser and the Spirit Safe. The following historical photos show the Ben Wywis Distillery, which was founded in 1965 and, according to Misako Udo, probably distilled for the last time in November 1976 (The Scottish Whiskey Distilleries. Edinburgh 2006). The wort fermented in six Cor-Ten Steel washbacks and was double distilled in 10,000 liter pot stills. The angular shoulders of the Wash Still (see photo below) are structured by a flange on the identical Spirit Still. However, with the fine spirit still, the stillmen were able to control the strength reflux and the purification of the alcohol using a cooling water jacket around the gooseneck (identical to the still at the East Highland Distillery Fettercairn). The concrete barrel warehouse was mostly filled with sherry butts (Copyright Canmore. UK).


"The stills were in particularly good condition because of the long shutdown,"

reports McHardy. Frank had swept the yard there as a teenager and observed their installation:


“The coppersmiths at Forsyth in Rothes modified the pot stills, which are still very well preserved in copper and are only ten years old, so that we can produce a light, fruity, even floral barley brandy in Glengyle.”

The old Boby Mill came free of charge from Craigellachie on Speyside and crushes four tonnes of the malt processed on the Springbank malting floors in an hour: “10% flour, 20% husk, 70% middles”. Around 60 percent of the system is new; the lauter tun, fermenter and stills are all on one level. The annual production capacity is 750,000 liters of pure alcohol.




On March 25, 2004, the distillery - the Frank McHardy Production Building - was ceremoniously reopened in the presence of local and national notables, business partners and Springbank employees. The first distillate filled two sherry butts, a bourbon barrel and a Madeira, a port and a rum barrel. In 2014, these inaugural whiskeys came onto the market as “six packs”. They were sold out in no time.


“However, like all bottles bottled so far, they will not be labeled Glengyle Single Malt, but rather Kilkerran, as we do not have the naming rights for this.
There is already a blended whiskey called that,”

McLachlan explains the dilemma.


Frank adds: “The name Glengyle is already used for a Blended Highland Malt, so by using a different name we have avoided any possible confusion between our whiskey and this existing Blended Highland Malt. Secondly, and more importantly, Mitchell's Glengyle Ltd. very proud to continue and add to the great Campbeltown distilling tradition. The choice of name reflects this."




Kilkerran derives from the Gaelic 'Cill Chiaran', the oratory or cell of the Irish missionary Chiaran. He gave the place on the bay the name 'Ceann Loch Chille Chiarain', from which Kilkerran is derived in English. Kilkerran Whiskey shares its name with a cemetery, a former parish church and a district that spread out south of the "wee toon".


Production

Each year Glengyle operates for three months. During this time, work at Springbank is suspended, with the exception of the Malting Floors. Only two thirds of the malt used for Kilkerran Single Malt comes from there. The rest is purchased from industrial malt houses (as of 2021). The barley for the Springbank maltster was supplied by one of the leading British grain suppliers, Alexander Inglis & Sons from East Lothian. According to Scotsman, the trading company, founded in 1950, has been going through insolvency proceedings since May 2021. A source explains something. The malt comes from Blair's Malt in Inverness, are the maltsters there only Scottish? Processing barley into malt is not known.


A barley variety called Laureate is currently being distilled. As usual, it is a spring barley that was bred from the Concerto X Sanette variety. Laureate is a very powerful grain that is popularly distilled in the Scottish whiskey industry because of its high alcohol yields. It is also very productive for farmers, resists diseases such as fungus, and grows and matures quickly. Their stalk growth is low, so Atlantic winds cannot break the ears so quickly. It is an ideal grain for Scotland. NB The Franconian distillery St. Kilian near Miltenberg has been processing Laureate barley grown by a local farmer since 2020, which is malted in germination vats by the Weyermann malthouse.


The Kilkerran Single Malt is a lightly peated single malt whiskey .

“We plan on producing one week of unpeated whiskey and two weeks of heavily peated whiskey production each year.”

The green malt is smoked in the Springbank Kiln for the first six hours to produce a lightly peated malt for the Kilkerran distillates.


Campbeltown distilleries used to burn tons of local peat. It's mostly used up. Therefore they source the peat from other regions of Scotland. "We have trusted suppliers in other parts of the country who will transport it to us when required. Today our peat comes from two locations in the north of Scotland. We use both dry peat and wet peat, known as 'dross'. The dry peat is initially used to produce heat and the dross is added to produce more smoke." The peat reek rising through the kiln floor gives the malt the subtle smoky notes that appear after lautering, fermentation, Distilling the new make.



Our dry peat is brought from St Fergus Moss.
This is a designated peat cutting site between the towns of Fraserburgh and Peterhead in the North East of Scotland.
The wet peat comes from Bogbain Farm, on the outskirts of Inverness.

Source Facebook Kilkerrran, March 1st, 2021


The dried peat is sourced from St Fergus Moss, north-east of Aberdeen between the towns of Fraserburgh and Peterhead. It is one of the main mining areas of the industrial maltings in the highlands. The peat of St. Fergus Moss is very dark, almost black. in the north-east of Scotland and is characterized by a mild smoke structure. "The wet peat comes from Bogbain Farm on the edge of Inverness."


It appears that the Dross was actually made by Brian MacGregor & Sons Ltd. whose business address is Bogbain Farm. The company headquarters is Bogbain Farm. They cut the peat with Bagging Machines a few miles south of Inverness and not on the Bogbain Farm site. The flat Moy Moss is very remote to the south-east of Daviot - close to the A9 and along the B9154 - and very close to the Highland mainline just below the 511 meter high Bein Breac. Loch Moy, to the south, is not far away.



Copyright Brian McGregor

The operator, Brian McGregor, cut peat moss with a temporary permit from 1982 to 1992 and then without any license until 2019. Subsequent approval from the Highland Council gave Brian MacGregor the renewed right to cut peat in Moy Moss in large quantities of 10,000 to 20,000 tonnes (maximum 100,000 tonnes in ten years) for a further ten years. However, most of the peat is used for horticulture, but some is also used to flavor malt whisky.


The peated malted barley for a Kilkerran Single Malt has got a phenol density of around 10 to 15 ppm.
After distillation, an estimated 3 to 5 ppm remains in the New Make.



Some News from Kilkerran


"To make our range of single malts, like most other distilleries in Scotland, we have barley suppliers. Only a handful of distilleries also utilise locally grown barley, one of which is our sister distillery, Springbank Distillers.


However, at Glengyle we use barley that is grown on Scotland's East Coast and supplied by one of two companies; Alexander Inglis and Son or Baird's Malt.


The majority of the barley used to make Kilkerran will be supplied by Alexander Inglis and Son, based in Tranent near Edinburgh. Like Baird's they will contract a number of farmers to grow and harvest the crop.


Once harvested it will be analysed before being dried to 18%-25% moisture. We then will take delivery by lorry of 28 tons at a time and the malting process will be completed in Campbeltown at Springbank’s malt barns.



The exception to this are our unpeated (in maturation) and heavily peated spirits (peat in progress range). The barley used to make those will have been supplied by the Baird's Malt Inverness plant, before being delivered to us to complete the rest of the process in-house (milling to bottling). This malt accounts for 1/3 the total malt used at Glengyle Distillery.

Interestingly, Baird's Malt was established as a family business in 1823… half a century before Glengyle Distillery was originally built by our current chairman, Mr Hedley Wright’s great-great uncle.


For more information and many more barley facts check out their website: https://www.bairds-malt.co.uk/heritage/ "


Source Kilkerran Facebook, March 15th, 2021



"The vast majority of barley currently used at the distillery is a variety called "Laureate'.


Laureate is a spring malting barley which has been derived from Concerto X Sanette. This has resulted in a very high performance grain and, therefore, full MBC approval for use in the brewing and distilling industries.


It is very high yielding, has excellent disease resistance and is relatively short with stiff straw. For much more information on barley, how it is malted, the malting industry, varieties, the approval system, the history, old and new production methods and much more visit:


Source Kilkerran Facebook, July 5th, 2021



Fermentation

The fermentation of the sweet, clear wort in two wooden vats made of “Boat Skin Larch” and two more made of Douglas fir wood takes between 72 and 110 hours. Of course, the yeast selected has a significant influence on the aroma profile of the beer. At Glengyle, the Mashmen use two yeast strains from industrial yeast producers. In 2020 the pressed and chilled yeast arrived in 25kg airtight bags from Kerry in Menstrie. They provided a Yeast Strain M.


"75 kg of yeast is added to approximately 21,000L of sugary wort and the fermentation begins. We carry out a long fermentation at our distillery, with the average time being 100 hours. This allows fruity characteristics to develop that contribute to the overall character and style of our new make spirit,"

writes Kilkerran.

Distillation

The stillmen distill the whiskey spirit twice in onion-shaped swan neck pot stills. In 2012, 100,000 litres are expected to flow through the Spirit Safe (in 2020 it was 92,000 litres, 2023 about 100 000 litres). The total capacity is 750 000 litres of pure alcohol. Of these, 85% are low ppm density and the rest are heavily peated spirits. An expansion of annual production is planned for 2024. In the early years the Glengyle team carried out test runs, including quadruple-distilled barley distillates. The Ben Wywis stills were modified by the system manufacturer Forsyth according to Frank McHardy's wishes.


"There were a lot of sharp edges, everything was riveted, the Lyne Arms went downward..."

McHardy reports,


"Mr. Wright and I wanted a light spirit, so we modified the Lyne Arm. We wanted a larger return and therefore a higher cleaning effect of the distillate."

The gooseneck was shortened and the Lyne arm was shaped in such a way that it leads the alcohol-water-steam mixture to the tube condenser in a slightly upward direction, thus increasing the cleaning effect due to the resulting backflow. The first Spirit was held with great excitement in the presence of Director Hedley Wright. The result thrilled everyone present.



"The first spirit was very light, very fruity, very sweet,
it was almost floral in character,
"So we were absolutely delighted,"

Frank McHardy recalls.




Around 11,000 liters of wash or beer fill the raw spirit bubble up to the level of the man door. The liquid in the kettle is brought to the boil using steam kettles and the alcohol-water mixture is separated for the first time. At 78% ABV, the alcohol gradually rises through the gooseneck and slides into the condenser via the Lyne arm. Internal shell and tube condensers - tube coolers - condense the low wines with an alcohol concentration of 21 to 23% vol. The pot ale remains back in the kettle. The low wines are mixed with the foreshot and the aftershot from the previous distillation process of the second distillation stage of the spirit pot still and fed into the spirit pot still for further separation and strengthening of the alcohol. At the Spirit Safe, the separation into the lead, middle and tail follows. A liquid residue with approx. 1% vol alcohol remains in the kettle, the so-called stillage or Scottish Spent Lees. The middle barrel is between 72 and 60% vol. and usually reaches an average of 68% vol. If a heavily peated malt is distilled, the amount of middle flow achieved is lower than when distilling a non-smoky or slightly smoky malt.

Maturation

All Glengyle distillates and Kilkerran malt whiskeys mature in the warehouses directly next to the distillery in Campbeltown. They share aging space with Springbank's distillates in a total of nine duty-free warehouses. Five of these are traditional dunnage warehouses, four others are modern and larger racked warehouses. The first warehouse with a steel frame ever built in Campbeltown was in December 1965. The newest one from 2020 offers space for 6,800 barrels, mainly sherry butts. 50% of the barrel inventory is first-fill Bourbon Barrels, 30% Seasoned first-fill Oloroso Sherry Casks and the rest are Refill Bourbon and Sherry Casks. The barrel strength is 63.5% vol. More warehouses are being built. A new bottling hall will also be built.


Copyright Springbank Distillery

At Kilkerran they use recasking methods, in which the whiskey bottled in casks is transferred to casks with a low degree of maturity, i.e. they use second or third fill casks to mature the whisky. These 'tired' casks do not significantly change the taste or color of the whiskey they contain because they have already been used two or three times. The casks are returned to the warehouse where they spend a further six months on their “honeymoon” before being put into the Vatting Tank cask tank for a period of time to marry the whiskeys before bottling on site. Seasoned Sherry Casks came from the Miguel Martin cooperage in Bollulos (DO Condado de Huleva), which now also operates bodegas in Jerez in order to be able to issue the official certificate of origin for sherry casks. The seasoned port wine barrels (hogsheads) come from the Portuguese Toneleria J. Dias. It is located south of Porto in the town of Espinho.


Director Ranald Watson in 2023

All Kilkerran whiskeys are vatted on site and bottled at the new Springbank Bottling Line in the former Longrow Distillery Dunnage Warehouse. This meant that the former blender Ranald Watson retained control over the aromatic quality of the whiskey, particularly during filtering. Now the blending is largely done by production director Findlay Ross.



Sherry Wood Batch 2

PR "Bottled at 60.9% ABV and matured in 55% Ex-Bourbon + 45% Ex-Sherry Casks, Batch 2 is available in the UK and wider Europe (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland and Italy) from today .

Tasting notes

Nose: Opens up to reveal citrus notes, vanilla cheesecake, rhubarb and custard sweets with delicate peat smoke.

Palate: Freshly baked apple pie and sweet salted caramel. The peat is prolific yet well integrated. A fresh coastal influence evokes memories of a blustery, busy, sea sprayed harbor.

Finish: Long and creamy. Notes of toasted oak and pencil shavings give way to a lasting sweet, fruity peat smoke."


Surprise Peated Kilkerran

The first five-year-old double-distilled Kilkerran single malts hit retail stores in 2009 in the 'work in progress' range. The 46% ABV slightly smoky, fruity standard, a twelve-year-old single malt matured in 70% bourbon and 30% sherry casks, was released in small batches on international markets in 2016. The expertise and knowledge of the Sister Distillery Springbank continues in the aromatic and taste quality. Salty notes typical of Campbeltown surprise alongside a fruity complexity.



There are new 'peat in progress' releases on the shelves. The first batch, bottled at natural cask strength with 59.3% ABV in a Springbank-typical dumpy bottle in February 2019 without an age statement, matured 55% in bourbon and 45% in sherry casks. The heavily peated youngster, limited to 9,000 bottles, surprises with a strikingly fresh smoke and fruit palette. The malt, handcrafted by the maltmen on the Springbank threshing floors, was exposed to long periods of peat smoke in the drying ground.


Typically, Glengyle levels are 8 - 10 ppm, but can also range from 50 ppm up to 80 - 85 ppm. The peat is cut south of Inverness and in St. Fergus near Peterhead and gives the whiskeys a sweet, smoky tone.


“To achieve the high phenolic levels required to produce this super smoky spirit, peat is used throughout the drying process. We source our peat from the north of Scotland, which gives our whiskeys their unique sweet peat-smoke character.”

A few months later, Batch 2 was released in September 2019 with 60.9% ABV, again a vatting of 55% first fill bourbon barrels and 45% just two sherry refill hogsheads. The aromas of Batch 3 from August 2020 with 59.7% vol were determined by a vatting of 80% bourbon barrels and 20%, i.e. two refill hogsheads.


The blenders Findlay Ross and Ranald Watson blended malts aged three, four and five years from double-distilled spirits in the batches and, as is typical for Springbank, varied the recipes. The peat malt had a phenol density of 84 ppm. Storage, mash, fermentation, distillation, oak maturation and reduction water reduce this value considerably to well below 50 ppm in the glass.


For comparison, the malt of Longrow Single Malt usually has a density of 50 to 55 ppm. The Springbank team carefully and slowly distills the spirits twice before moving to the sister distillery for a few weeks.


Who is Frank McHardy?

Former Bushmills manager and long-time Springbank operations manager Frank McHardy was instrumental in preserving the Campbeltown geographical origin . The Scot not only rehabilitated Springbank, but also developed a unique, globally valued portfolio of malts among the labels



Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn. In 2004 he revived the long-closed Glengyle Distillery with stills from the Ben Wyvis Distillery in Invergordon, which closed in 1977, where Frank once began his whiskey career. In 1999, his Springbank team distilled a barley spirit at the disused Glen Scotia distillery for a few weeks. This action was necessary to ensure that the Campbeltown geographical designation of origin was not revoked by the Scottish Whiskey Association. This led to Glen Scotia's stills being operated regularly again from 2000 onwards. In 2013 the Production Director ended his professional activities at Springbank and Glengyle. For a short time he looked after the Springbank Whiskey School. Since his unexpected departure he has been working as a consultant at Craigowan Distillers Ltd. employed.



First published in Spring 2015

Updated March 2024


 

A look into the future of Springbank Distillers


The young team of directors led by Ranald Watson (appointed on August 21, 2023 after the death of Hedley Wright) is implementing new plans. The aim is to increase capacity promptly and face the challenges of the future as demand for Springbank products increases. Nationally and internationally they are currently unable to meet the brilliant demand with their releases.


Architects and technicians are working hard on the construction and production plans for the new Springbank Distillery. A modern bottling hall is being built so that larger batches of whiskeys can be processed. The current facilities in the former Longrow Dunnage Warehouse are too small due to the limited space. The small vatting tanks determine the filling quantity. As a precautionary measure, storage capacity along Glebe Street will be expanded with rack warehouses. Solar panels are installed on their roofs.


"To mark the 200th anniversary, the groundbreaking ceremony for a new distillery will take place in 2028,"

says Andrew Wallace.


“Glengyle should have its own
modern malt plant with germination drums.



Jubilee Kilkerran 20 Year Old Malt


Ranald Watson says:


We've got a special announcement for you...
Kilkerran Warehouse Tastings are now available to book on our website!
This new offering will be open to the public from Monday 27th May and will continue thereafter.
After the tasting, 35cl bottles from the casks will be available to purchase in the Springbank Distillery Shop.






 

Stroll around Glengyle Distillery at The Gateway to Distilleries and enjoy lots of photos, please click photo:

About the author

Ernie - Ernst J. Scheiner is the editor of the portal The Gateway to Distilleries www.whisky-distilleries.net He has documented over 150 distilleries from the inside and describes the production of the whiskeys in detail. Since studying at the University of Edinburgh he has been interested in the subject of whiskey and has published in specialist magazines

such as The Ireland Journal, the small distillery, Whiskey Passion and The Highland Herold . Features and stories appeared in the blogs whiskeyexperts, whiskeyfanblog and whiskeyintelligence . As head of the VHS Ingelheim, and now as a whiskey ambassador, he leads distillation colleges, study trips and whiskey culture tours to the sources of whiskey.

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