Just saying that Springbank is unique is an idle understatement. For a start it has been in the hands of the same distilling family for longer than any other distillery in Scotland – perhaps the world. And it is now the only distillery in Scotland to carry out the entire production process, including bottling and labeling, on the one site.
Add to this the fact that it manages to produce three distinct types of malt whisky – Springbank, which is distilled two-and-a-half times, Longrow twice and Hazelburn three times – and the term “unique” takes on a new meaning.
When Barnard visited Campbeltown there were 21 distilleries in full swing. By the time I got there one hundred years later only two distilleries were still in existence and only one of those – Springbank – was in any way operational and had in fact been closed since 1979, was running on a care and maintenance basis and did not come fully back into production until 1987. Nevertheless, I was well received by Mr. Hedley Wright, then managing director of the controlling company, J and A Mitchell & Co. Ltd, and now its chairman. He is a direct descendant of John Mitchell, who, with his brother William, purchased Springbank, in 1837 from his father-in-law who had established it in 1829.
My other host that day in 1985 was Frank McHardy, the distillery manager. He had been in that role since 1977, having entered the industry in 1964. How appropriate that a commemorative bottling of Springbank should be released to mark his 40 years in distilling.
I noted at the time that little seemed to have changed between Barnard’s description of his visit and my own. It would seem that not much has changed since then either. The maltings were got going again in 1992 and the Hazleburn make was introduced after the first production run in 1997. In the process, Springbank has become one of Scotland’s truly cult whiskies with a strong following and a more tourist friendly place to visit without compromising on its past. And so change there has been, albeit modest in nature, and all for the better.