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  • Writer's pictureErnie - Ernst Scheiner

Springbank's Local Barley 2024

Updated: Mar 22




The blockbuster from Campbeltown is electrifying


every year the international whiskey world.



Only 8,400 bottles of the Local Barley Release 2024 hit the shops in March.




What's special?

this series from the Springbank Distillery?



Please mind wix-software translates whisky into whiskey




Springbank Distillery in Campbeltown is a producing museum of the art of distilling. Maltsters, brewers and distillers work according to traditional methods. They malt the barley themselves on the threshing floor. The malt mill and lauter tun are driven via transmission systems. Computers only work in administration.
At Springbank they still say "...all hands on."

The new single malt type Local Barley has caused a worldwide sensation in recent years .
The editions are highly sought after among nerds. They achieve top prices at auctions.


Local Barley Edition 2024

The 2024 peated edition was distilled in June 2010 from the Spring Barley variety Belgravia and bottled in 8,400 bottles in December 2023. The vatting is made up of local barley whiskeys that have matured in 40% seasoned sherry casks (unspecified) and 60% bourbon barrels in the warehouses at the distillation site. Of course, the single malt, which is distilled two and a half times, is not chill-filtered and is not artificially colored.


The bottle strength of the 13 year old is 54.1% ABV.


The double-row spring barley was grown around four kilometers from the distillery at Glencraigs Farm near the A83. According to Springbank matties, it is difficult to process during traditional malting on the threshing floor. Belgravia used to be a common barley variety alongside Concerto in the past.


The Young Family raises Aberdeen Angus cattle on the 155 ha (383 acres) Glencraigs Farm. They grow spring barley, oats, vegetables and rhubarb north of Campbeltown. Sunflowers promote fauna and ecological balance.


"Caring for the environment is at the heart of our sustainable operations here at Glencraigs Farm,

farmer David Young says, who is the fourth generation to run the farm with his sons.




Official tasting of Springbank


“Nose

On the nose, this whisky is packed full of fruitiness, riped bananas, boiled sweets and cinnamon.


Palate

Initially, the thick, chewy and oily texture of this whiskey is evident. From there, we get a peppery and malty note, then strawberries, brandy schnapps and parma violets.


finish

Into the finish there's subtle peat smoke hiding in the background, wine gum sweetness, toasted oats, dunnage earthiness and a slight drying taste."



Local Barley 2024 Edition


 



Where does the barley in Local Barley come from?


The barley for a Springbank, Hazelburn, Longrow or Kilkerran malt now largely comes from farmers in the Aberdeen region. Former manager Stuart Robertson (2006-2011) recalls:


“The barley we…used was mainly Optic. The wholesaler Cefetra delivered them.
We also used locally grown Bere, Westminster and Belgravia, all sourced from farms around Campbeltown and Southend.

Frank revived the Local Barley whisky guy: “I continued the tradition.”



According to former Springbank manager John McDougall and former marketing director Gordon Wright, this whiskey label was invented. A local barley was sometimes malted under the guidance of manager Roy Allen, who served at Springbank in various capacities for forty years until 1986. At that time, stokers fired the three stills with coal from nearby Trodigal near Machrihanish.


1965 Local Barley Edition. Photos Courtesy of Harry Lee Whisky.


One of the 'first' Springbanks with the explicit Local Barley label, which is still published today, was distilled in January 1965 and bottled in September 2001 with the natural alcohol concentration of 51.3% vol (Cask 6). The barley previously grew in the fields of Southend's Machrimore Farm, the peat was cut from the Aros Moss near Rhoin - near the former RAF Airport -, the coal came from the Trodigal mine near Machrihanish and the production water flowed from Crosshill Loch to the lauter tun. Apart from the aging barrel, everything came from a radius of just eight miles, local.


“Apart from the maturing barrel, everything was from a radius of just eight miles, local.”

Further 1965 Vintage Local Barley batches of varying alcohol strengths followed. A 32-year-old bottling at cask strength of 56.8% vol, distilled in February 1966 and bottled in April 1998, reads on the back of the bottle:


The materials used in the manufacture of the Springbank Malt Whisky this bottle have almost all come from within a radius of eight miles of the Distillery:
the barley from Macharioch, Machrimore and Lephenstrath farms, malted at the Distillery using peat for drying from the Aros Moss at the Rhine...

At that time, the front label simply read the following in large letters:

SPRINGBANK.
A Campbeltown Single Scotch Malt Whisky
Distilled in a Pot Still from Pure Barley Malt only

This Local Barley Vintage series with an archaic label is made up of the respective 1966 individual barrels 441/442/443/474/476/477/478/486/489/498/500/504 in Springbank history. Today these precious items, lavishly packaged in wooden boxes, are among the most sought-after bottlings (1995/1997/1998). Collector prices are around and over 10,000 pounds.



Courtesy of Whiskeybase



The origins of the Local Barley were described in more detail in a brewing trade magazine from 1967. The author pointed out that most of the barley comes from Scotland, but each year the distillery malts and distills locally grown barley from Kyntyre. Of course, the peat, the coal and the production water would also come from local sources so that a "...100 per cent local whisky..." would be created:


"Over 10,000 gallons will be made and reserved for sale as a single malt when whisky has matured for twelve years."

At that time, the Springbank maltsters processed the YMER barley variety. In the 1960s, the barley variety from Scandinavia was widespread.


Other summer varieties, including the double-row MARIS BALDRIC, were sown to achieve higher yields.



Serge Valentin's Opinion at Whiskyfun from March 7th, 2023


Copyright www.whiskyfun.com

Copyright www.whiskyfun.com

 


The current Local Barley releases are blockbusters.

The Matties malted the barley varieties Prisma , Propino, Laureate or six row Bere. The soft water for steeping spring barley is the same as for mashing. It flows into the distillery from the Crosshill Loch, which was artificially created in 1868 south below the Beinn Guilean in the middle of the city. The reservoir once supplied all of Campbeltown's distilleries with the same production water. Gavin is particularly proud of the Local Barley :



Every year we change the barley variety, the barrel aging cultures and the aging age of the whiskies as well as the bottling strengths.”

As in the previous six years, the current barley comes from High Ranachan Farm, located in the hills of Campbeltown. The Bere variety harvest from September 2020 will not be malted until 2021 after a rest period. This six-row barley has been native to Scottish fields for centuries and is now grown in Orkney, Islay and Kintyre.


In the 19th century, the 90 Day Barley was distilled in large quantities at the Campbeltown Distilleries. In the Scottish west coast climate with its long sunny days, this variety only requires three months from sowing to harvest. Findlay will have Ross Bere grown again next year.


The other Westminster variety harvested this year is a double-row spring barley, which has strong stalks that defend itself well against Atlantic winds. It also promises distillers high yields because of its starch quality. It grows very well on simple soils. To dry it, the maltmen burn dark peat from Tomintoul and Peterhead. The yield per ton is between 360 and 370 liters of pure alcohol. The sixth Local Barley Limited Release 2020 from Belgravia barley is a 10-year-old with a strength of 57.2% vol., characterized by 100% Seasoned Oloroso Sherry Casks.


Director of Sales for Springbank and Kilkerran, David Allan, waxes poetic:

“Our Local Barley Ten is the most iconic Springbank. Cask strength, no alcohol burn on the nose, sweetness.
It is a heaven in the glass with orange peel and mineral gentle notes.”

 


Excursus: Where did barley come from in the past?


The Kintyre Peninsula is fertile. Barley grows splendidly in the flat fields. However, the main Scottish growing areas are in the regions of East Lothian, Berwickshire, Perthshire, North East, Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire, Angus, Argyll, Aberdeenshire and Inverness.


The barley processed by industrial malthouses today does not have to come exclusively from Scottish growing areas. It may also come from England or from mainland Europe, including Ukraine or Kazakhstan. Historical sources show that this was also the case in Campbeltown.


In the 18th century, small farmers mainly grew "oats, barley, bere, wheat, turnips, potatoes, hay and kale". It was mostly handmade. Grain harvesting with the scythe was man- and labor-intensive. The few ox, donkey and horse-drawn carts were shared and borrowed among the community for the transport of barley, oats and wheat. Tractors only came into widespread use after the Second World War. After the land reform of 1730-40, rent to the feudal tacksman was paid primarily in kind.


The first distilleries primarily process local barley on their own malting floors.


With the distillery boom in the 19th century, the demand for distilled barley rose rapidly. The Campbeltown Distilleries' supply from local farmers was not sufficient. However, the natural harbor of Campbeltown Loch allowed large quantities to be imported by ship from mainland Scotland, England and/or Ireland, but also from the European continent.


The local historian Angus Martin reports in the booklet Glen Scotia Distillery: A History (May 2019, available in the distillery's visitor center) about deliveries that the weekly newspaper Argyllshire Herald (1855-1918) reported as follows.


  • In January 1866, 300 tons of French barley arrived from Saint Malo in Brittany.

  • In 1874, autumn storms raged. A French ship landing barley for Scotia Distillery at Old Quay and taking on coal from Ardrosan was stranded on the Irish coast of County Down.

  • French barley was cheap and its quality was valued. In 1875 three shipments came to Dalintober for Scotia Distillery, around 500 tons.

  • 193 tons of barley from Denmark arrived in Kyntyre in 1879, the cargo being shared between Springbank and Scotia.

  • The largest delivery, the ship Lagonda, reached Campbeltown Bay in October 1898. Over the course of a week, dock workers lightened 3,000 tons of barley. It was harvested in Moldavia, Romania and "...said to be of better quality than a year before...". The barley went to several distilleries.


In the same year, a total of 1,172,380 gallons of whiskey (5.32 million liters) of whiskey were shipped from the port of Campbeltown. The amount was similarly high in previous years.



The Legend John McDougall

John McDougall was one of the dynamic managers who revived the cultivation of Local Barley. In 1991 he renovated the malt floors, which had not been used since the mid-1960s, and put them back into operation. The Springbank malt supply was once again partly produced in-house under him.


However, Springbank fell victim to the Scottish whisky sales crisis and closed production. In December 1979, the last two and a half times distilled oily, fruity New Make with a gentle smoky tone and an average alcohol concentration of 71 to 70% vol flowed through the safe.


Distillation was suspended until 1987. Nevertheless, whisky was distilled "...sporadicly..." during the rest period.


John McDougall recalls:


"...we carried out a little distillation run in 1987...
I believe that this was the first whisky distilled in seven years."


NB: There is data circulating on the web and in articles that appears to be only partially correct. Accordingly, Springbank would have been closed from 1979 to 1989. This information does not appear to be correct, as distillation took place until the end of December 1979 and then off and on as needed until 1986.



McDougall started in November 1986, following in the footsteps of Roy Allan, who ran the business for forty years. Under difficult conditions, with production facilities suffering from closure, the team began distilling at the end of 1987. The malt was delivered by external malsters. McDougall writes in his biography Word, Worms & Washbacks :


"The re-introduction of Springbank's Maltings helped to secure the future of the distillery's other malt."

In May 1996, John McDougall left Springbank Distillery to run his own whisky business.


Field of Barley, Springbank Malting Floor, Germination.
 

Local Barley, what is that anyway?


The Local Barley concept is actually not new, as before the floor malthouses were closed in the 1960s, the distilleries often processed barley grown in the region. The short transport routes and their importance for local agriculture were decisive factors. With the growth and increasing sales of Scotch whisky, the production conditions changed towards industrial malting. Only these could meet the increasing demand for malt, because the Matties with their limited floor maltings were unable to meet the demand. Today, industrial distilleries use the standard barley. It switches to new 'pest-resistant' varieties at different intervals.


Locally grown barley isn't just from Springbank
used to produce your own whisky.

Whisky Creator Dr. Bill Lumsden from Glenmorangie processed the barley growing in the company's fields on the Cadboll Estate (located a few miles from the distillery on the North Sea coast) into a single malt of the same name. The same happens at the Lowland Distillery Daftmill. Farmer and distiller Francis Cuthbert distills the cult whisky Daftmill himself from his own barley.


Also worth mentioning are the new Lowland Distilleries Jackton and Lochlea, which process the barley they grow on the estate into whisky. The new Arbikie distillery, located on the North Sea coast south of Montrose and operating with German distillation equipment, uses the barley grown in its fields to produce whisky.


In the Republic of Ireland, for example, the Clonakilty and Tipperary distilleries and the classic Ballykeefe farm distillery do something similar. Mark Reynier is driving forward innovative terroir methods with Waterford. And in Northern Ireland on the Ards Peninsula, the Braniff Family sows, harvests, malts, refines, ferments and distills their own barley on their Echlinville Estate for their own future malt and pot still whiskeys.

 

Germany's largest whisky distillery St. Kilian has Naturland farmer Andreas Henn growing organic barley in the neighboring town of Reichertshausen, which is malted after the harvest in the Lower Franconian malthouse Weyermann in Hassfurt and later processed in batches in Rüdenau in Upper Franconia. CTO Mario Rudolf and his team double distill the barley in Swan Neck pot stills that were manufactured by the Scottish coppersmith Forsyths.



St. Kilian's homeland of malt. Photo copyright St Kilian Distillers.


Master Blender Mario Rudolf explains “Heimat Malz”:


"Twenty percent of the malt is kilned over beech wood smoke . The mild and smoky malt is then processed separately into spirit.
After many years of aging in the barrel, it will become clear how the use of different types of malt from different regions is reflected in the St. Kilian Single Malt Whisky."



In this sense, Springbank owns the Local Barley Editions

not a unique selling point. An international trend. Homeland Malt.





The farmers harvested the Local Barley in September 2020, as in the previous six years, at High Ranachan Farm in the hills of Campbeltown near Paul McCartney's farm cottage. The barley Bere is malted and processed, this will only happen in 2021 after a rest period. This six-row barley has been native to Scottish fields for centuries and is now grown on Orkney, Islay and Kintyre.




In the 19th century it was malted and distilled in large quantities in the distilleries of Campbeltown because, in the Scottish west coast climate and long sunny days, it only took three months from sowing to harvest. The farmers sowed the 90-day barley late and harvested it early.


Findlay Ross would like to have this old variety grown again next year. Another species is the two-row spring barley Westminster, which defends itself well against Atlantic winds because of its strong stalks. It also promises distillers high yields and good starch quality. It also grows very well on simple soils.


“26 tonnes of Local Barley produce 10,000 liters of Pure Alcohol.”

The distillation yield would therefore be 385 liters per ton. In total, around 50 tons of Local Barley are processed every year (as of 2019). Director of Sales and Marketing David Allan waxes poetic:


“Local Barley Ten is the most iconic Springbank. Cask strength, no alcohol burn on the nose, sweetness. It is a heaven in the glass with orange peel and mineral gentle notes.”

Ranald Watson, whose eponymous grandfather was the last HMRC Exciseman in Campbeltown and the first tour guide at Springbank, is proud of what he has achieved:


“Germany is our largest European market, our third largest ever, after Great Britain and the USA.”




This and that about Local Barley


NB: "A few weeks ago, our 2021 crop of local barley was delivered to the distillery. With some expert driving from Dan, the young farmer at High Ranachan, each trailer load was maneuvered in via the Glebe Street entrance. Once perfectly positioned, the trailer was raised and like a waterfall, the grain started to flow in.


A series of old conveyor belts and lifts carried all 22.5 tons of it directly up to the barley loft on the second floor of the malt barns where it is now being stored.


Variety Grown: Bere Barley Farm: High Ranachan, Campbeltown Quantity: 22.5 Tons," Springbank Distillery, October 1st, 2021


NB: "Although our barley is predominantly sourced from the East of Scotland, once per year at Springbank there will be maltings of barley sourced locally from farms around Kintyre, which will go on to create a future release of the Springbank Local Barley range.


This year we have a bere barley crop which has recently been sown at High Ranachan Farm, located around 2 miles outside of Campbeltown. When harvested, this barley will be transported to Springbank to distill in 2023.


High Ranachan Farm also supplied our local barley this year, which has already been malted and is now awaiting distillation."

Springbank Distillery May 13th, 2022





Sowing new Bere barley. Crop from 2021. Edition of 2022. Photos Courtesy of Springbank Distillers.


 


The Springbank Local Barley Series NEW

Courtesy of Springbank Distillers


Barley Variety Sassy 2022


"This barley was harvested over a weekend at the end of August and was dressed by the farmer prior to delivery, giving us around 15 tonnes of barley to work with when malting of this begins in April. As local barley has a different character to the distilling variety barley we commonly use, Sassy, the malting process is altered to accommodate this.


All hands on. Malting floor. Germination starts. Photos Courtesy of Springbank Distillers

The total steeping time for local barley is around 56 hours, significantly longer than the standard 38 hours at Springbank, as more time is given between steeps to drain the barley and replenish oxygen levels. Local barley is much more water sensitive, so the steeping regime is adjusted to allow it to germinate effectively.


Smaller grains are produced by the 6 row local barley, compared to our standard 2 row variety, resulting in the milling process taking a bit longer than usual too. The 'coup' in the mill is adjusted to weigh the barley in 30kg rather than the standard 40kg batches."

Source: Springbank Distillers, Facebook February 2023



Local Barley Edition 2023


The 2023 release of Springbank's Local Barley was made exclusively from Belgravia barley grown at Glencraigs farm north of Campbeltown, 2.5 miles along the A83 just behind Kilmichael (see https://www.glencraigsfarm.co.uk ). The farm is only a five minute drive from the distillery.


The single malt was distilled in May 2011 and bottled in December 2022. Limited to 15,000 bottles only.


This lightly peated spirit was matured in a vatting of ex-Sherry (55%), ex-Bourbon (35%) and ex-Rum (10%) casks for a minimum of eleven years before bottling at 55.1% abv.


Local Barley Edition 2023



Official Tasting Notes


"Nose – Characteristically fruity from the outset, there are notes of papaya, mango and lemon on the nose, along with a subtle floral note.


Palate – The citrus element continues on the palate, combined with notes of manuka honey and pear drops. A salty, mineral note develops.


Finish – Soft peat smoke comes through in the finish to round off this dram."

Source: Springbank Distillery


Although only five different Local Barley Editions were originally planned, management continued the successful series with the eighth? Edition, December 2023, continued.


At the end of 2023, according to rumors, another bottling in the Sherry series, probably a ten-year-old bottling, will be available in a few specialist shops, as editions of 15,000 bottles per batch are simply too small for the greedy global market.


Unfortunately, the Local Barley variant, which is aromatically influenced by Palo Cortado barrels, will only please a few fans.


The hype of 'Old School Whiskies' will continue.




 

Conclusion


Ruben Luyten from whiskeyNotes.be also wrote critical comments about the ten-year Spring Edition 2022 (51.6% vol):


" A good 10 year old Springbank, definitely, even though I found the nose a little disappointing.
The release price was £90. Since the whiskey is decent but not really exceptional, I think it's well worth the original price, but not the secondary market excesses.
Unfortunately even retailers are practicing secondary market tactics these days..."

In the Facebook group ITS ALL ABOUT SPRINGBANK there is increasing criticism of the Springbank management's current national and international sales policy. According to this, long-standing local dealers are no longer supplied with goods, and the same applies to members of the Springbank Society.


Not only the local barley hype, but also the skyrocketing interest in the various releases Springbank, Longrow, Hazelburn and especially Kilkerran are a result of the increasing international presence of the Springbank portfolio not only at international whiskey trade fairs but also in advertising in the web media.


Press, bloggers, magazines and auctions are increasing demand for the overall manageable production volume of Scotland's oldest family-run distillery: in 2022, 220,000 liters of pure alcohol will be divided into 30,000 for the smoky variant Longrow and 30,000 for the triple-distilled Hazelburn Single Malt and the 'large ' remaining rest on Springbank. In the Glengyle distillery, where the Kilkerran malt is distilled, in 2022 there were only around 100,000 liters and only 15% heavily peated spirit.


Compared to fellow Scottish family distillery Glenfarclas' 2.9 million LPA in 2022, Springbank's result was just under 10%.


The relatively small production facility in Campbeltown cannot supply the huge world market with its Old Style Whiskeys .


There are currently no plans to expand the production capacity of the distillery company, which is run in the legal form of a foundation and which, by the way, may not be sold.


The importers monitor the national sales of their dealers very closely. In recent years there have been very strange excesses that have caused great displeasure among Springbank fans. In Great Britain, Springbank sales have already systematically removed from the supply list companies and [web] shops that sold their Springbank goods directly or on third markets at increased prices that were well above the RRP information.


Personal opinion on dealer sales behavior:


""When I presented Springbank whiskeys twenty years ago, only specialists knew about them; for many guests they were often not the first choice at blind tastings because they did not correspond to the mainstream...


Today the hype is basically a result of Springbank advertising and their international presence at trade fairs...of course it is something special...to appreciate a whisky that is produced in a working museum using traditional classical methods by producing a rather limited quantity...


As a foundation Springbank can cannot be swallowed by the giants...so a Springbank whisky will alway remain a rare product that will hopefully always advertised at a fair selling price by the distillery and importer.


However, the situation for the customer is rather weird. For example a prominent Bavarian Webshop turned an RRP of 129 Euro into 248 Euro per bottle which was exclusively offered only to his Whisky Club members (membership fee not included). The allocation of Local Barley 2024 did not meet orders.


Other German webshops charge a sales price of 379 Euro or 399 Euro per bottle. A Saxon dealer offers the Local Barley 2024 Edition even for 599 Euro.


The commercial and private price drivers are here and there alsoat Ebay. By no means the asked prices do not come from Campbeltown...with 8,400 bottles for the world market, purchasing them is of course like playing the lottery for whisky nerds...some dealers only received a small quota of three bottles of Local Barley 2024.


We have to bear in mind - with a few exceptions - most of Springbank standards are still advertised at a fair price compared to those of Scottish competitors."

In March 2024



Springbank's management has taken customer criticism seriously.


 

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at The Gateway to Distilleries and enjoy lots of photos,
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About the author

Ernie - Ernst J. Scheiner is the editor of the portal The Gateway to Distilleries www.whisky-distilleries.net He photographs 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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