Tag Archives: Springbank

The Glengoyne 12 vs. the Springbank 10

Aaaand in this corner….

OK, so this really is not some kind of “scotch vs. scotch” duel to a single malty death, I merely decided to share observations from a side-by-side tasting I did with expressions from two of the three distilleries I visited last summer. In practice the two distilleries are quite different: Glengoyne prides itself on the “slowest” distillation process, and Springbank has an odd two-and-a-half times distillation method. Glengoyne fervently proclaims that their malt is never peated, and Springbank produces two lines (“Springbank” and “Longrow”) that are either lightly (the former) or heavily (the latter) peated. And maybe it is also not fair to compare a twelve-year-old to a ten-year-old single malt… the more time they spend in the cask, the more the flavor matures and absorbs a greater amount of the character of the wood. But again: this is less of a side-by-side comparison than it is a celebration of the unique traits of each malt. On to the notes!

Glengoyne 12-year-old

A light yellow-amber color. The nose features a pleasant oak aroma, a good deal of pear and some light vanilla characteristics. There is a noticeable burn in the nose when the malt is first poured, this mellows a bit as the malt stays in the glass. The taste is fairly delicate, with more of the pear effect and some other notes of tropical fruit; the oak stays in the background, and the overall sensation is quite smooth. The finish is long despite a somewhat thin texture, and the lingering aftertaste is very clean.

Springbank 10-year-old

A very similar light yellow-amber color, perhaps just a shade darker. Light peat smoke is immediately present in the nose, giving way to some dark stone fruit suggestions and a touch of toffee sweetness. Very little if any alcohol burn is present when the malt is poured. The immediate sensation in the mouth is of a somewhat viscous liquid in which the toffee character becomes predominant; plum notes and a slight peatiness feature in the second layer of taste. The finish is long, and the peat/smoke character lingers considerably more than any of the other taste elements.

Summary: two excellent drams which I will enjoy for quite some time. Which one will I have? It will depend upon my mood… the peatier (Pete-ier?) I feel, the more I will go in the direction of the Bunnahabhain Cruach Mhona – definitely the smokiest of the malts currently in my possession, with the Springbank 10-year-old being perhaps the least peaty. The Glengoyne 12-year-old is quite delicious, and with its smooth texture and lack of peatiness it makes for an excellent change of pace. Sláinte!

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The Take

The collection of products that my trip to Scotland yielded…. Sadly, none of this panoply of flavorful malt beverages will accompany me back to the US as I traveled with only a carry-on – but they will be shared in good company before my return trip! I am still curious about the Icelandic birch “whisk(e)y,” bottles of which I may be able to stash in the carry-on… provided that it is good enough to purchase. The folks at the Glengoyne shop pooh-poohed the very idea of a distilled spirit from Iceland, so the gauntlet has been thrown down.

the take

back row: Drygate Ax Man (rye IPA), Drygate-Yeastie Boys Yeastenders (pale ale with kiwi)

front row: Glengyle (mixture of 10- and 11-year old), Glengoyne 18-year-old, Springbank 12-year-old (I think…)

Slàinte mhath!

The Campbeltown Day

A rainy day for distillery tours… at least they were quite informative and yielded two “miniatures” which I can take with me. The tours also included free tastings at the Cadenhead Whisky Shop in “downtown” Campbeltown afterwards, but I only took advantage of the Glenglye dram offer since I had to retrieve my suitcase from the hotel and scamper to the bus stop in order to catch the 3:00 P.M. CityLink no. 926 back to Glasgow (since this bus only runs every two hours being on time is imperative). Having already had a dram of the Longrow (which I doubt would have been the expression offered as a sample) and a tiny bottle of Springbank in hand, it did not seem that I would be missing out on much for the sake of a planned departure.

A quick history of Campbeltown as a Scottish whisky “region”: in its heyday of production, the town had about 1,900 inhabitants and 37 (legal) distilleries. During this period, Glebe Street (right behind Springbank distillery) was considered one of the richest streets in the entire U.K.; as single malt scotch was not a big money-maker at this time, pretty much all of the distilleries were simply making spirits for blending. But demand for Campbeltown spirit was so high that some of the distilleries started to make production short-cuts, leading to an inferior product – at one point a rumor circulated that Campbeltown spirit was being aged in used herring barrels, an explanation for the “off” flavors that were suddenly appearing! When Prohibition was declared in the U.S., whisky sales plummeted (blame the Americans!) and all but two of the distilleries – Springbank and Glen Scotia – went out of business. Fast forward to the early 21st century when single malt scotch has become all the rage: the Scotch Whisky Association declares that for a whisky region to be recognized, it needs to have three operating distilleries; wishing for Campbeltown to remain a distinct “region” due to its history, the owner of Springbank buys the Glengyle distillery up the road – essentially “ending” a family feud during which one of the Springbank heirs had opened up his own distillery (Glengyle) after a falling out with the rest of the family. Interestingly, when the original Glengyle distillery went out of business, the Loch Lomond distillery group (which owns the Glen Scotia distillery) bought the name “Glengyle”; the “new” distillery is called “Mitchell’s Glengyle,” and the whisky they produce is sold under the name “Kilkerran.” And only this year is Glengyle finally able to release a twelve-year-old Kilkerran, after years of experiments and limited releases. (A spirit must be aged in a wood barrel for three years and a day before it can be called “whisky.”) Glengyle is not a full production distillery just yet, as all of the maltings for Kilkerran are done at the Springbank facility – which has been owned by the same family and completed all phases of the whisky-making process (malting, mashing, fermenting, distilling, ageing, bottling) on the same site since 1828!

On to the tours! Glengyle was up first, although it began with a visit to the Springbank maltings floor (see below).

G-sign

G-courtyard

G-Boby mill

an antique “Boby” mill

G-washbacks & mash tun

washbacks; mash tun in the back

G-stills

two stills

G-spirit safe

the spirit safe – the distillery was not in operation the day of my visit

Springbank

SB-signs

SB-floor maltings

floor maltings… the grain had just been spread that morning

SB-malt turner

a malt turner – prevents the germinating barley sprouts from clumping together

SB-furnace with peat

that’s not coal next to the furnace, but peat – sourced from Inverness, it smells different than Islay peat

SB-mill

close-up view of the mill

SB-mash in

mash-in… that “antenna” (remember the Star Trek episode “Shore Leave”?) rotates in the mash and keeps doughballs from forming

SB-mash tun

it’s not a ship, it just looks like one

SB-washbacks

a total of six washbacks; they last for approximately fifty years before the wood begins to warp and leak

SB-stills

three stills: double distillation for Longrow, triple distillation for Hazelburn, and the odd, I-still-can’t-wrap-my-brain-around-it double-and-a-half distillation for Springbank

SB-spirit safe

this spirit safe was in operation

SB-warehouse

a “dunnage” warehouse, meaning that the floor is earthen – the various barrels are not arranged in any particular order on purpose (obviously this is not a German operation)

SB-barrels

barrels are waiting to be used… Springbank (Glengyle) prefers to use sherry casks in order to age all of its whisky, and no barrel is used more than three times

The Day Before

Long train trip, long bus ride… and thanks to mostly grey skies, not the most agreeable weather for soaking in the sights along the way. But all of the connections were timely, and taking the bus along Loch Lomond and along Loch Fyne brought back good memories from the trip to Islay two years ago.

Inverary

Inverary on Loch Fyne (an admittedly crude panorama)

Kennacraig

ferry arriving at Kennacraig

Campbeltown is a pretty little village (when the sun shines); lots of quaint shops and totally walkable, at least as far as the major points of interest are concerned. The harbor is quite scenic, and the view from my hotel room nods to the town’s nautical heritage – from the window the Springbank distillery and one of its warehouses are also visible.

Campbeltown harbor

hotel view

I recommend the Black Sheep Pub (inside the Royal Hotel, where I did not stay) for a good meal and atmosphere; it was here that I made my first local Campbeltown whisky discoveries. The Springbank distillery produces three basic styles in various bottlings, the eponymous Springbank (lightly peated), Longrow (heavily peated in the fashion of an Islay malt, but with a noticeable sweet pear character – pictured below, it was delicious) and Hazelburn (completely unpeated). And much to my surprise, it turns out that there is a third distillery in Campbeltown, Glen Scotia! Too bad my brief visit will only allow me to tour Springbank and Glengyle… next time? When I could add the distilleries on Arran and Jura to the mix, just to check off all (?) of southwest Scotland from the whisky list. So many drams, so little time….

Longrow

Longrow

The Return (not exactly…)

In just over two weeks another trip to Scotland gets under way… distillery tours will again be the primary focus, but this time I am unfortunately not making it all the way to Islay. During the trip two years ago I ran into some (fellow) German whisky tourists who raved about their visit to the Springbank distillery in Campbeltown; they were touring Islay (and the adjoining mainland) by van, so they were able cover a slightly wider geographic range – and also got around a little more quickly than yours truly on a bike. (They had time to take the ferry from Port Askaig across to Jura and visited the lone distillery on that island… Germans tend to be quite organized and efficient.) Even my dad is aware of the Springbank distillery: some time ago he sent me a link to an online article discussing their unique two-and-a-half-times (?!?) distillation process. Well, curious as I am, I have wanted to visit Springbank for some time and will finally do so in mid-June. A second distillery in Campbeltown – Mitchell’s Glengyle – has also recently begun producing whiskies, making the long trip (four hours by bus from Glasgow, after a four-hour train ride from London) “worth the journey.” Passing by the ferry terminal at Kennacraig will bring back fond memories… as long as I am not asleep when that stop is made.

EUS-GLC

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