Where do you start with a distillery like Springbank? A surviving bastion of old fashioned whisky making, flagship for what was once Scotland’s most prolific distilling Campbeltown region and producer of some of the most legendary whisky ever distilled. It’s an impressive resume without question and for anyone who tastes the very best bottlings, one that translates to quite incredibly beautiful, amazingly complex whiskies. Those most desirable, now highly collectable, releases such as the ’66 Local Barley, Millenium Set, Cadenhead dumpies and even the old Springbank 21 year old botltings are ideal examples which simply must be tasted to be believed. Fear not though, you don’t have to take on a second mortgage or befriend an old millionaire with possibly dubious intentions to enjoy the distillery’s wares.
Modern Springbank is perhaps the last stronghold of truly old school mineral, sooty, difficult whisky left in Scotland, remaining beautifully characterful and densely oily. Much of this is surely down to the on-site floor maltings, direct firing and total absence of automation that still proliferates at Springbank distillery. This adherence to “the old ways”, while most of the industry moves in another direction, makes this distillery deeply important to anyone who values this style of whisky making. This is the first Springbank review to feature on the blog though, so this time round we’re tasting an oldie that could potentially be quite special. The reputation of ‘60s Springbank has already been mentioned as something rather spectacular and this ’65 bottling from Murray McDavid seems like a fitting place to begin.
Kilkerran is the name given to the current output of the Glengyle distillery in Campbeltown which was recently revamped and reopened, with its first distillations taking place in only 2004. While the region was once the very centre of the whisky industry in Scotland, it now boasts only three operating distilleries. The best known of these is, of course, Springbank and indeed it is the owners of this great distillery that are championing the revival of Glengyle, and its dedicated staff that are producing the new spirit.
This bottling is the second release in the distillery’s "Work in Progress" series which started in 2009 with a 5 year old and is now into its third yearly release, aged 7. The spirit style is broadly similar to that produced at Springbank distillery with lengthy fermentation times and a number of idiosyncratic traits leading to a style of make rarely produced today. This densely oily and quite austere whisky is increasingly uncommon, and with continued automation and time pressure throughout the industry we are unlikely to see this change. Certainly a sad thought for those of us who love it so.