Campbeltown Trip – Day 2

Day 2 of our Campbeltown trip – the day of the main event for most of us, given that we’re all huge Glen Scotia Fans. We kicked the day off with bacon butties, kindly cooked by John before heading out in the damp, gloomy weather.

The first stop on our itinerary was Springbank Distillery, just a short walk from our accommodation – over at the Glengyle site where we had been the day before.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by lots of other punters who were also booked onto the tour. Once everyone had gathered, we headed over to the Malt Barns where the floor was covered in germinating barley ready for the first Kilkerran mash of the year.

As we continued to tour the distillery, it was clear that traditional production methods are still every present and very much the way at Springbank. From the malt bins and the mash tun to the wooden washbacks. Springbank claims their whisky is the most handmade in Scotland and having seen the process and equipment – I’d say that’s a very fair claim.

Unlike any other distillery in the country, 100% of the whisky making process is carried out on their one site, giving them unrivalled control over the quality of their whiskies (even the malting).

Like any good distillery tour, it was wrapped up with a visit to one of the warehouses. We were taken to No. 3 Bond – a  Dunnage Warehouse which had an eclectic range of casks, from big Sherry butts to baby Bourbon barrels.

It’s hard to in-dite what it’s like to stand in a Dunnage Warehouse, it’s simply something you have to experience.

Once we were back at the visitor shop, we were offered a dram of our choice from the standard bottlings and given a mini Springbank glass complete with a Springbank 2019 Private Bottling miniature to take away.

With the Springbank tour complete, it was time to head back towards our accomodation to grab a spot of lunch in preparation for the afternoons activities at Glen Scotia!!

Photo by John Watkinson

As we headed back towards our AirBnB, we got a phone call from Ibon Mendiguren , Glen Scotia’s brand ambassador. He told us to meet him at the Royal Hotel as he knew exactly what we needed to satisfy our whisky fueled hunger.

He certainly wasn’t wrong! We had whisky in our stomachs and with the promise of plenty more to come… there was only one thing for it…. The Royal Hotels ‘World Famous Haggis Nachos’!

They were as delicious as they sound, infact; they were more delicious than you can imagine. We stuffed our faces with a selection of delicious dishes from the Royal before getting ready to wonder over to Glen Scotia.

Once we arrived at Glen Scotia, we received another exceptionally warm welcome from Distillery Manager Iain McAlister. He took us round to the courtyard, outside the mash house where he shared with us an insight into the history of Campbeltown and it’s many distilleries and all about his time at the distillery.

Iain’s a really knowledgeable and passionate gentleman – a great person to ask questions to. He’s a former engineer and has been the distillery manager for twelve years now. Campbeltown born and bred, he is fiercely proud of the people and its rich it’s rich whisky heritage. After a good natter and briefing on the history of the distillery, we started by checking out the malt bins.

Having seen the huge 50 tonne malt bins, we headed into the Milling room to admire the trusty 65 year old malt-mill (A Robert Boby) – a piece of kit that with a lot of love and care has been running for most of that time without an issue – proof that they don’t make them like they used to! From here, we headed into the mash room where a new mash was underway.

The warmth and fragrance of this fundamental part of the whisky making process was ever present, a sensation that would be present all day, with a normal mash lasting around eight and a half hours.

Leading on from the Mash Room, we entered the wash room which contained the nine large stainless steel washbacks. These have a huge capacity but Iain told us that they are usually only half filled with worts. 3 of the washbacks were actually outdoors, which gives a slower fermentation due to the reduced temperature – another unique way to create different flavour profiles.

From here, it was onto the Still Room where the two great big old copper stills dominate the space. It’s always amazing to see another key piece of kit which plays a large part in the process and has a big impact on the flavour profile of the whisky.

Giant, man made copper structures that date back to the 1970s that have helped to make hundreds of thousands of liters of whisky and the well polished brass spirit safe of which it all passes through.

We all stood around the fast spirit safe as Iain explained how the distilling process works and allowed us to sample the new make spirit. Glen Scotia new make spirit comes off the stills at around 69% ABV – a well charged spirit to interact nicely with the wood it’s going into.

From here, there was only one more part of the distillery to see… the warehouses! We peered into Warehouse C on our way past, pallets and pallets of casks, stacked high, like a great big whisky Jenga tower.

A short walk later and we arrived at the Dunnage Warehouse, where the serious whisky tasting awaited us.

As we entered, there was a number of casks laid out near the entrance, specially selected by Iain for the warehouse tasting. From Ex-Bourbon to Oloroso, right up to a fond favourite of Brian’s – Tawny Port. We were all super excited to try these specially selected cask strength whiskies… straight out of the barrels.

With the help of Ibon, the bungs were soon banged out and we started to sample the brilliant range of drams. Spotting how excited Brian was about the Tawny Port, Iain offered him the chance to open this cask and decant the samples for everyone – an opportunity not to be missed and what a great job Brian did.

The whiskies we sampled were incredible;  all sharing the Glen Scotia signature profile, with maritime notes, an oily and rich mouth feel with varying peat levels – there was something for everyone. I thoroughly enjoyed every single one.

After being well and truly spoilt in the warehouse tasting, we wondered back to the shop where continued to chat with Hector, Iain and Ibon and shared a final dram whilst whittling down our wish lists into feasible purchases, of which Iain kindly signed for us.

With our stomachs full of whisky and our souls glowing from the hospitality and generosity of Iain and the team, we set off on the 182 metre walk back to our accommodation. Having sat around chatting and reflecting on the wonderful day we’d had, we’d all worked up quite an appetite. Ibon said that he knew just the place – if it was even remotely like his lunch recommendation then we knew it would be out of this world.

We set off on the 20 minute walk over to The Ardshiel Hotel, about 10 minutes in and the heavens opened, not one of us were prepared for it – we arrived at the hotel looking like drowned rats.

If you’re ever lucky enough to visit Campbeltown then I can’t recommend enough that you visit The Ardsheil Hotel and enjoy some of their fantastic food and hospitality. You absolutely have to stop for a dram in their bar too – they have an incredible selection of drams including some of their own Glen Scotia bottlings! We had some of their single cask 144 bottling with our dinner and it was a huge hit – we all came away with a bottle or two each!

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